The Digital Media Project



Martin Springer


TRU #19 of continued access





Martin Springer

Affiliation/additional information:

Active Contributor, Luebeck, Germany

Date submitted:







Name of TRU

TRU of continued access


Summary description of TRU

"As human beings, we benefit greatly from the works of others. Artists, thinkers, scholars, and performers create works that we all enjoy, learn from, and are inspired by."[...]

"With ever changing technology, in order to preserve many works we will need to constantly move them ahead, copying them to each new media form before the previous one becomes obsolete. Also, as we create new media, we need to preserve the knowledge of the methods of converting from one media to another, so we can still access the old works that have not yet been moved ahead. This is crucial. Without this information, even preserved works could be unreadable." [1]


Use records of TRU

"In medieval times, knowledge was guarded for the power it gave. The Bible was controlled by the church: as well as being encoded in Latin, bibles were often kept chained up. Secular knowledge was also guarded jealously, with medieval craft guilds using oaths of secrecy to restrict competition. Even when information leaked, it usually did not spread far enough to have a significant effect. For example, Wycliffe translated the Bible into English in 1380-1, but the Lollard movement he started was suppressed along with the Peasants' Revolt."

"But the development of moveable type printing by Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg during the latter half of the fifteenth century changed the game completely. When Tyndale translated the New Testament in 1524-5, the means were now available to spread the word so quickly that the princes and bishops could not suppress it. They had him executed, but too late; by then some 50,000 copies had been printed. These books were one of the sparks that led to the Reformation."

"Just as publication of the Bible challenged the abuses that had accreted over centuries of religious monopoly, so the spread of technical know-how destroyed the guilds. Reformation and a growing competitive artisan class led to the scientific and industrial revolutions, which have given us a better standard of living than even princes and bishops enjoyed in earlier centuries. Conversely, the societies that managed to control information to some extent became uncompetitive; and with the collapse of the Soviet empire, democratic liberal capitalism seems finally to have won the argument." [...]

"The parallel with earlier religious history is instructive. The Bible came into the public domain because once it had been printed and distributed, the sheer number of dispersed copies made it impossible for the bishops and judges and princes to gather them up for burning." [2]


Nature of TRU

Customary TRU, insufficiently supported by copyright [3] and patent law. The protection of traditional knowledge as an intellectual property right of the Public Domain is being discussed within WIPO [4]


Benefits of TRU

Mankind benefits by this TRU, since continued access to information and cultural heritage is essential for the freedom of science, the spread of knowledge, the enlightenment of society and the balance of public power.

"Unlike a printed work, a work protected by a copy protection system can only be read using a device implementing that system. It is important that some way to preserve access to such works for future reference, to implement the copyright bargain of protection for a limited time after which the work enters the public domain and is free for all to use". [5]


Possible digital support

  • Eternity Service [2]

  • Reasonable Copyright

  • Semantic data structures which would enable enhanced machine based searches. [6]



  • Organization: searchable, reliable, public accessible content archives (digital libraries), possibility to create personal collections of references to content, open access to metadata

  • Efficient search mechanisms: On the assumption that human archiving of content is continuously growing, the need for efficient search mechanisms will also grow.

  • Format and physical media: open standards for content formats, codecs and physical media, licensed under fair, reasonable and non-discrimnatory terms

  • Device (hardware, software, user interface): user's confidence that she can access content with the device of her choice (TRU to make playback device). Availability of open source software for accessing, viewing, encoding, decoding and transcoding media. Availability of hardware documentation under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms

  • Future developments: user's confidence that content will be available in the future (independently of political system, data loss, change of user's social status, technology provider, patent owner, ownership of DRM system).



[1] - Copy Protection Robs The Future, Dan Bricklin
[2] - The Eternity Service, Ross J. Anderson
[3] - Copyright Act (17 U.S.C.)
[4] - WIPO National Seminar On Intellectual Property
[5] - Copy Control Systems, Position Paper of IEEE-USA, 2002
[6] - Suggested by Nicholas Bentley ( on the public DMP reflector, April 2004