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Rights Management and
Payment Technologies
A Railway Archive Registration and Micropayments
A specialist archive holds a unique collection of railway paraphernalia, including archi-
tectural blueprints, engineering documents, and old photographs. Metadata about these
documents are stored in a database which is searchable online via the archive's Web site.
The Web site receives a high proportion of traffic directed from other archives, libraries,
and museums holding related collections. An analysis of Web statistics shows that many
users starting their searches from other institutions follow up their interest by browsing
this archive's online catalogue.
The archive receives frequent requests from individuals seeking high-quality digital
and print copies of the items it holds. However, much of this interest comes from over-
seas. Postal charges make it expensive to provide quality printouts to these customers.
Another difficulty is that only a small proportion of the collection currently exists in
digital form, which means that to deliver the material new imaging work must be
carried out
The archivist recognises the financial potential of the collection, and sees the demand for
access to content as a way of raising new funds that could potentially be used to digitise
other items. He decides that it would be worthwhile to make both low- and high-quality
digital copies of some objects available online.
Informally, he contacts some of the individuals and organisations that make frequent
use of the online catalogue to measure their enthusiasm for enhanced access to the col-
lection, and in particular to establish how willing they would be to pay for high-quality
digital copies of items. Most of the users would be happy to pay a small amount for this
access, but do not have sufficient budget to purchase individual digitised items.The
archivist decides that an ideal solution would be to link small, low-resolution images of
each item in the collection to the catalogue, enabling users to browse the digital objects
online. If a user is particularly interested in an item, s/he has the option to purchase a
digital copy of that item. If a document has not yet been digitised, the archivist can
arrange this for an additional fee.The archivist discusses his idea with peers and technical
contacts, one of whom mentions using a micropayments system for downloading multi-
media from the Internet. After investigating various companies who facilitate micropay-
ments, the archivist chooses a solution that will enable him to charge a very small amount
of money each time a low-quality version of an item is accessed, while at the same time
allowing the setting of higher rates for the purchase of high-quality reproductions or
specialised services.
The archivist is aware of the importance of safeguarding the valuable images against
unauthorised downloading and reproduction, and he must be convinced that the rights
governing the collection are also protected. In order to preserve security for the high-
quality images, the archive purchases specialised encoding software from the micropay-
ments system vendor; this allows any virtual visitor to download the encoded file, but
only users who `buy' the item are given a key to decode it.
Browsing the collection requires the user to register with the micropayments provider,
therefore the archivist spends some time encouraging both his customers and organisations
with similar collections to register. He organises e-mail publicity, and traditional print
press releases to promote the new service. Once an institution has registered, all of its
users can browse the catalogue under a generic username. However, if an individual
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