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The Mixed Blessing That Is SAE

.: About a month ago I reported that SAE had done a "180" regarding the DRM and licencing issues surround their SAE Digital Library. I noted the following:

As a result of the concerns brought forward by some of its membership, the word is that SAE has committed to rescinding its DRM policy, and change its licencing options to allow for an unrestricted number of downloaded papers and standards per educational site. Potentially this could happen within the next few weeks.
Subsequently, DRM was removed from University/Academic customers, but it seems little else has changed. Further, the removal of DRM is a temporary suspension.

To wit, this is what appeared in an e-mail on 20 April 2007:

  1. Removal of DRM only applies to the University/Academic Digital Library Tech Paper customers. All Corporate DRM-enabled customers are not affected. Access to subscription Standards via the SAE Digital Library also requires DRM.
  2. Removal of DRM is a Temporary Suspension. SAE is convening a task force to discuss DRM policies (see Press Release below). It is important that IHS continues to indicate SAE is still planning to implement some sort of content protection strategies to uphold their corporate Intellectual Property policy. At the end of 2007, DRM could be reactivated, it could be modified or it could be removed permanently; depending upon the outcome of the special task force discussions.
  3. There is no change to the Download Pricing Model. Academic/University accounts continue to have the following download options available to them: 3,300 downloads (maximum set), 2,500 downloads, 1,800 downloads and 850 downloads.
SAE (and IHS as a partner with SAE) are committed to delivery a quality product resulting in complete customer satisfaction. Thanks to those of who provided feedback from the academic community regarding the SAE DL DRM policy.

SAE issued the following press release to coincide with the now-temporary change in DRM policy for academic institutions:

SAE Publications Board to Review Digital Rights Management Controls for Students, Faculty

DETROIT, April 19, 2007 - SAE International’s Publications Board temporarily will suspend full activation of Digital Rights Management (DRM) controls as applied on the Society’s Digital Library of technical papers for licensees at colleges, universities and other academic institutions.

Through 2007, DRM controls will be relaxed to allow students and faculty more freedom in printing and sharing SAE technical papers.

“SAE International will convene a special taskforce -- composed of university professors, staff publishing professionals, Publications Board members and librarians -- to make recommendations regarding DRM policies,” John Kinstler, out-going chair of the SAE Publications Board, said.

“SAE’s highest interest is in serving the technical information needs of all mobility professionals,” said Michael Madley, SAE’s new chair of the Publications Board. “We look forward to working in partnership with the academic community to ensure an efficient and economical flow of information while managing intellectual property rights.”

This special taskforce is a very positive development, and one can only hope that the DRM restrictions will be relaxed permanently for educational institutions, where SAE's future members and customers are studying and doing research with a nod towards entering the engineering profession and joining SAE! I was quite disappointed that the insane and completely ridiculous pricing model was not rescinded for academic institutions as well. Why a maximum of 3,300 downloads? What happens if this number is exceeded? The pricing model seems to be designed for for-profit companies and automakers who may have a good idea in advance of how much research might be conducted in a subscription year, but this is seldom the case on a campus. *sigh*

The e-mail notes that "SAE (and IHS as a partner with SAE) are committed to delivery a quality product resulting in complete customer satisfaction." So far there is little evidence of this with regards to SAE and its academic and institutional subscribers, which, at the risk of repeating myself, and teaching SAE's future customers and members. I hope the task force recognizes the need for a standard subscription pricing model, based on institution IP access and not predicted number of downloads, and that it recognizes that DRM does not work in an educational setting.

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