« Dana Roth Celebrates 40 Years of Service at CalTech | Main | The Four Evolutionary Stages of Nanotechnology »

SAE and Digital Rights Management - Commentary by Larry Thompson, Virginia Tech

.: What follows is a commentary by Larry Thompson, Engineering Librarian at Virginia Tech, regarding the sever restrictions SAE is imposing on accessing its Digital Library. This is especially frustrating for those who have subscribed to the hard copy of the SAE Handbook, no longer available in print, requiring subscribers to either purchase online access to the Ground Vehicle J-Standards, or buy it on CD-ROM. CD-ROM? That is SO last century. Seriously, I have zero interest in buying reference tools in CD-ROM anymore, it's not a sustainable media, requires maintenance and updating, and unless networked, restricts the user to a single station. Completely ineffective in 2006. My take on this is that SAE has little interest in its educational and institutional customers, suchg as academic libraries. This is unfortunate, because it is we who are teaching SAE's future customers. - Randy

Larry Thompson writes:

During the past few months the new SAE DRM has caused me some concern. I've been peppering SAE with questions, and I think I've gotten the final word on most of the issues, although some are still hanging.

I have attached documents explaining the SAE position, which SAE has said are OK to release.

A conference call between librarians and SAE took place on June 20th. I was supposed to take part in the call, but wasn't available because I was at the ASEE conference. I was given a transcript of the conversation, although I don't include it here because SAE asked me not to release it.

I can say that many of the issues I was concerned with were raised by librarians during the call, such as:

  • the difference in research methodology between corporate and academic users
  • the annoyance of not being able to save SAE documents to a computer; online access is necessary to view
  • the difficulty, or impossibility, some institutions have of excluding walk-in traffic from accessing SAE
  • the concern about the license with respect to limits on the number of downloads
Here at Virginia Tech, our license will come up for renewal in October, and we're beginning to wrestle with what to do.

Do we want to spend thousands of dollars on digital format papers that users can't save to their computers? The professor who wants to read an SAE paper while jetting to Europe for a conference will need to print out the paper. He can't save it and read it on his laptop. If one publisher does this, it may not be too bad. But what if every publisher adopts this policy, and the professor wants to take 50 papers to read during the flights? It quickly becomes burdensome.

Do we want to pay roughly double the cost for a corporate license, in order to legally cover the walk-ins who might use the product, because as a land-grant university our library computers are open to the public? Many other publishers have a clause in their licenses which gives walk-ins access to material. SAE has chosen to take the opposite approach, and say that if you can't guarantee that walk-ins will be excluded, then you should get the higher priced corporate license.

Do we want to go through the hassle of loading the plug-in on computers? It's not just the ones in the library, but it will be necessary for every computer in every lab in the university that the engineering students might use. We'll also need to get the engineering faculty machines updated.

I'm still waiting to see what's happening with the SAE CD-ROM product. Up until 2002 we used that, and were quite happy with it. I was told that the CD would use something called Hexalock for DRM. I don't know what this is, or how restrictive it is.

One other observation. Elsevier tried this same technology a while back with their reference collection, and got so many complaints that they abandoned the idea. Why is it that Elsevier "gets it", and SAE doesn't? And, if SAE succeeds in implementing it with not much objection from libraries, will Elsevier (and others) be looking at the possibility of implementing the same thing?

Have fun.

Larry Thompson 540-231-8693 (Voice)
Engineering Librarian 540-231-7808 (Fax)
Virginia Tech larrytATvt.edu

The documents of which Larry writes are:

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)