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Keeping the Promises Associated with Your Digital Assets: Is it Possible?
The Profiles in Science Web site features digital reproductions of historical papers, photographs, audios and videos selected from the archival collections of the National Library of Medicine as well as collaborating institutions. The Web site's digital items are derivatives of high quality digital masters residing in a repository designed for long term survival. The need for significant infrastructure to guarantee the persistence of these digital files was expected, and our desire to ensure their persistence influenced our choices and system design decisions from the start. Choosing file formats carefully, making certain that our digital assets were not lost due to media degradation or obsolescence, and planning for maximum flexibility in order to take advantage of rapidly changing technology were among the strategies we employed from the beginning. However, the items selected for Profiles in Science include both public domain materials and materials restricted for copyright or other reasons. The need for additional infrastructure to keep copyright and restriction-related promises associated with individual digital assets became apparent. Situations that called for sharing items from our repository required different strategies for different cases depending on the recipients and their intended use of the items. In all cases, we decided to prominently associate the property rights information with the digital artifacts in order to protect all stakeholders. Rights information embedded in digital items can be overlooked or ignored. Rights information stored separately from digital items can be forgotten or lost. In this paper we share our experiences and examine linking property rights information with digital items.