I just video-recorded a lecture on rights expression languages (RELs) that I’m giving as part of a mini-course at MIT on Computational Law. The MIT Media Lab is involved in the Open Music Initiative, and I met Dazza Greenwood, the MIT Media Lab researcher who runs the class, at an Open Music meeting last fall. Dazza decided to include some content about music and copyright in his class in order to look at computational law application possibilities for Open Music. This led to an invitation to me to give a talk about RELs — which are ways of expression rights and licensing terms in machine-readable code.
The course is being given in “flipped classroom” style: lectures are pre-recorded, students are expected to have viewed them and done the assignments before coming to class , and classes are discussions of the material.
The presentation covers the history of rights expression languages — starting with their use in DRM systems such as Xerox’s ContentGuard, then evolving into their uses for automation of licensing in B2B settings such as ODRL, PLUS, and the news industry’s RightsML, as well as Creative Commons and the Creative Commons Rights Expression Language (ccREL). It covers the legal context of the copyright law “rights bundle,” first sale, fair use, and the treatment of digital content as opposed to physical products. We finish by looking at the Music Modernization Act and posing some exercises for the students to express music rights for streaming music services in ODRL, which could potentially be useful for Open Music in the future.