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ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND "PUBLIC DOMAIN" IN THE POST - 'PERESTROYKA'. RUSSIA : A PARADOXAL EXPERIENCE. Ms Ekaterina Genieva Director General of All- Russia State Library for Foreign Literature, Vice president of the Russian Federation of Library Associations, Member of the Russian Federation Presidential Council for Culture and Arts, President of Open Society Institute (Soros Foundation, Moscow) Russian Federation Abstract The paper gives general information on the development of Internet in Russia wit hin the last 10 years. The issues of access to information and topology of generally valid informational resources are minutely analyzed. The most important content-projects, state and public regulation of Russian segment in Internet are cited as an example. Recommendations on the creation of an efficient system of free access to information and "public domain" support in Russia are formulated on the basis of the analysis of the problems and possibilities of international cooperation are discussed. Nothing seems simpler and more complex than the idea of free and equal access to information. This concept is among the main postulates essential for development of the modern information society. However, even in truly democratic countries its implementation is associated with the need to resolve multiple conflicts in the spheres of economic interests, copyright, national and cultural mentalities. In my talk, I would like to follow the development path of the free access to information concept in the post-reform Russia, and through analysis of advancement of Internet technologies as an example, to formulate some general wishes and recommendations to UNESCO in this regard. The Internet in Russia is still very young – it is only 8 years old. However, in the whole post-Perestroika period its impact on the society was hardly less than that of reforms in economy, legal system, science, or education. This may be explained by a number of reasons. The main of which is that the birth of the Internet coincided with the period when the Russian society was most ready for “openness”. On this path it experienced a distinct wish to use the global net and the free access to information it offered. The State and government establish their relations with the Internet in differ ent ways. In many countries the development of the net is actively supported, in others it encounters serious limitations. The developing Russia’s economy is experiencing a need for a powerful telecommunications infrastructure. This is why the government is willing to support Internet projects. On the other hand, the vast Russian territory hinders a rapid solution to this problem. 1 Nonetheless, the national network segment (referred to as “RUNET”) may today be characterized by the following statistics: The maximal Internet audience is 6.6 million users (the number of regular users is twice less – 3 million people) that constitutes 6% and 3% of the nation’s adult population, respectively; The scope of the Internet influence on the Russian society comprises 22.2 million people (20% of the adult population); The Internet is present in every region of Russia in the cities of no fewer than 100,000 residents; The Internet activity leaders are Moscow, St. Petersburg and regional centers of the Federation (89 regions); The Russian sector of the net carries 50 thousand web sites in Russian where the information is being continuously updated. Like in many other countries, the Internet emerged in Russia based on academic and research networks in science and higher education. Despite the rapid development of commercial communications, the academic networks along with the newly formed segments of culture and educational networks, represent the basal infrastructure. It provides public access to the Internet in research institutes, educational institutions, libraries, museums and archives. On these bases, over 2 million users enjoy access to the Internet each year. Now, I would like to specifically stress the role of libraries and universities as “seed-plots” of access to information in Russia. The Soviet system left behind a vast network of libraries with a well-developed infrastructure of information ties. Earlier, this system had served to support a powerful and branching network of propaganda that enjoyed unlimited funding. The paradox is that it was this very system that set the foot on a free and democratic developmental path and allowed people in the past ten years to gain a powerful access to information. In public and specialized libraries that previous ly offered traditional types of information – printed editions, audio- and video materials, - stations of free common access to digital resources are now emerging. Among new and free of charge information services many libraries are offering access to the Internet (including individual electronic mail boxes and web-pages), resources on CD-ROM carriers, legal databases, on- line full-text periodicals, distant educational programs, stocks of Russian and foreign libraries. It is also noteworthy that free consulting and mass training in work with digital resources and the Internet are offered in electronic servicing classrooms. This not only helps provide access to the information, but also skills in using new technologies. This was largely facilitated by the policy and new type of government practiced by the RF Ministry of Culture whose area of competence comprises over three fourths of all Russia’s libraries. A vast number of administrators and specialists in informatics have completed training courses in management, fund raising and new technologies under the programs by international schools and institutes of library science. This knowledge allowed them in a short period of time to develop conceptual programs of their activities and attract a vast number of international organizations and foundations to Russia. The assistance of these partners helped to initiate construction of a high-technology telecommunications infrastructure and publicly significant digital information resources. All this would not have been possible without a substantial governmental support. Why for example, the megaprojects implemented by the Soros foundation in Russia are such a 2 phenomenal success ? These activities from the very beginning were conceived as a collaborative program sealed by the Soros - Chernomyrdin agreement. It projected construction of a powerful infrastructure leaning upon 33 regional university centers and parity financial support from the “Open Society” Institute and the government represented by the Ministry of Science, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Education and regional authorities. At present the university Internet centers and corporate regional library centers of the “Pushkin library” megaproject are rendering access to information to over 1 million users around the nation. This number amounts to about a half of all the public access in the country. Among Russia’s specific traits are its vast geographical area and extensive territories outside the capitals and regional centers housing the majority of the population. Development of the Internet is a vital need for these regions: the bigger is the country the more does it benefit from development of the information network. However, governmental support of telecommunications development in these regions is dependent upon the interest of the local economy. This situation underlies the informational deficit problems in whole metropolitan districts. The most effective in this field are programs to support cultural heritage towns, whose potential is not directly associated with industrial development. The UNESCO’s idea to support cultural ranges in order to provide public access to information and preserve the cultural heritage has led in Russia to initiation of the “Small Towns” program. This program is being implemented by the “Open Society” Institute collaboratively with local municipality officials. The projects are aimed at comprehensive development of the towns including the telecommunications infrastructure. However, mere communications channels are insufficient to create an information society. A publicly meaningful “content” is also vital here. Despite the clear-cut commercialization tendency of information resources typical of many countries, the free-access resource has been developing and continues to develop in Russia. For simplicity purposes, my interpretation of the “public domain” concept is as follows. It is publicly useful information in the fields of the actual life, culture, science, education and technologies created by content-providers on the bases legally determined. It is available for public use and accessible to citizens of all countries without any additional expenses to cover its content. Not only does the “official” (created by legal providers) publicly useful information sector exists in Russia. There also are extensive publicly accessible fan resources (topical news groups, chats, etc.) and no less extensive entertainment resources (pop- music and art sites, anecdotes, horoscopes, games, hobby-resources, etc.). Analysts of user activity and development of virtual subculture will find those interesting. However, strictly speaking they may hardly be viewed as useful. Here we’ll also avoid discussing strictly commercial information that is undoubtedly useful however is of limited accessibility. Having adopted these limitations for simplicity sake, we may now add that the informational filling of the RUNET’s public sector comprises a variety of “public domain” resources. Such topical categories have shaped up in all countries and differ only by the degree of filling. In Russia these comprise: Powerful browser portals that offer actual and useful information; they maintain user-friendly navigation in the Russian Internet sector that is facilitated by browsing machines; they publish on a daily basis the ratings of all major information resources (around 10 popular systems of national significance) 3 Publicly accessible electronic mass media (including Internet-versions of leading radio and television channels) and news agencies (lenta.ru, gazeta.ru, rbc.ru, etc. – over 100 news portals, the leading ten of which are successfully competing with American and European resources by their topic mix and volumes of hourly renewed information) Electronic versions of periodicals (over 300 of Russian newspapers and magazines have electronic versions or digests accessible on-line without subscription; this resource is successfully competing with paid on-line periodical services); Sites of governmental information (over 500 sites of governmental information and statistics including federal, regional and municipality governments) Sites and systems of legal information (over 150 sites of Russian law including full-text data bases of laws and legal acts (part of these databases have limited individual access but are open for public libraries and legal information centers) Educational and popular science resources (over 200 sites) Sites and projects of cultural heritage (virtual towns, museums, collections) – more than 1,000 large- and small-scale projects at the sites of public organizations – universities, libraries, museums, archives) Publicly accessible on-line catalogues of libraries (over 150 large and medium Web-catalogues, cumulative sites of 5 biggest corporate library projects offering data search and exchange under the open systems protocol Z39.50) Information sites of publishing houses and book stores – about 30 major publishing houses and dozens of book stores (the information they publish on new editions serves as a free bibliographic resource). Publicly accessible electronic libraries (more than 150 sites of full- text resources in Russian created by both governmental organizations as well as by numbers o f enthusiasts) Publicly accessible reference resources (bases of personal data, address reference books, interactive encyclopaedias, dictionaries, translators, etc. – over 200 active projects at various sites and portals) Information sites in Russian covering activities of public organizations, international associations and foundations that implement international projects in culture, science, education and informatics (around 100 sites including 3 UNESCO sites and around 10 sites of UNESCO-associated schools and university divisions in Russia). In a brief overview it is impossible to draw a detailed classification of the whole sphere of publicly useful and accessible resources. Let me just say that of late, the most popular of them have been grouping around large informational portals and sites whose volume of text information exceeds many hundreds of gigabites (including art, sound and video information – hundreds of terabites). What are the Russia’s specificity and prob lems associated with forming of a publicly meaningful content? Publicly meaningful information resources are being produced in both commercial and public sectors. Tensions between the free-access and business information that once seemed to be global, are currently showing an obvious tendency of relaxation. Of course, purely commercial sites are providing paid access to information (major news agencies like “ITAR-TASS”, paid financial information, etc.). However, the free-of-charge publicly meaningful content is undoubtedly dominant at the sites of popular portals and network mass media that present current news, open access to the archives of full-text 4 monographs and periodical articles, analytical reviews, and other useful information. Lack of paying-off demand has rendered for-pay access to public information resources unprofitable. The income earned by content-providers on banner advertising and speculative investments is a lot more real. It increases proportionally to the popularity of the informational portal. And the latter is dependent upon the number and quality of its publicly accessible resources. Legal regulation of the Internet-associated issues leans harder and harder upon the collaboration between governmental structures and the Internet public. In mid-90s RUNET was going through a “chaos” manifested via unleashed anarchy (site burglaries by hackers, stolen information, plagiarism, and copyright infringements). However, adoption of a number of efficient regulations in computer safety and copyright, as well as then-initiated court trials caused a significant reduction in the number of gross infringements. At about the same time the government launched some unpopular programs of stringent Internet regulation (SORM - 1, SORM-2, Bill of indiscriminate licensing of Web-sites holding the electronic mass media status). On the one hand, these measures encountered a strong opposition among advocates of free dissemination of information in the Internet. On the other hand, these programs demonstrated their own ineffectiveness: informational sleuthing on the scale of a vast country turned out to be physically impossible. Paradoxically, the initiative by the Federal Agency of Presidential Information Services (FAPIS) (SORM project) in fact promoted computerization of the Internet public sector. It provided the necessary technology and Internet access channels to many public institutions, whereas the system for stringent surveillance of their work had never become instrumental. Multiple initiatives by the Internet public seem more fruitful in addressing this issue: formation of Internet-community Codes, founding of a Club of Proper sites, opening of a Russian Internet Academy, reprehension boards for copyright pirates in the RUNET and of course, further improvement of the legislation. The latter bends more toward flexible protection of program and content copyrights, as well as the user’s right to free access to information. At present we are talking about a strategic governmental policy with regards to the Internet as opposed to rigid State regulation. Among important Russia’s characteristics is large disproportion between the support provided to resource generating projects by the commercial sector (Internet- holdings) and the inadequate funding of the publicly significant RUNET sector from the State budget. Several federal and regional programs have been developed to render informational support to science, education, culture, as well as a program of electronic libraries construction. However they all concentrate more on strategies rather than on the financing issues. The real resources allocated to these programs are far behind the demands. Here non-commercial organizations are receiving certain assistance from public and charitable foundations working in Russia. However, this does not offer a comprehensive solution to the problem. At the same time the commercial Internet is experiencing an investment “boom” in the content-providing sphere: many “whirligig” sites are being acquired by Russian and mixed capital information companies hoping for instant profits. The overall investment in this sector in only the curre nt year has already exceeded 50 million dollars. The interest of international investors to the Russian content demonstrates its obvious significance. Standardization problem. A great number of digital projects in the RUNET that are not compliant with generally accepted strategies, standards and technologies leads to chaotic resources, incompleteness and incorrectness of data. Copyright protection of these resources is more challenging (here we may refer, for example, to many public electronic libraries whose constructors often ignore copyrights and open access to the works 5 without a permission of their authors or publishers). In addition we should also mention the difficulties experienced by users in their data searches in the vast ocean of information, and the problems associated with readability of various formats and data exchange. Commercial content-providers and professional communities (for example, libraries, museums and archives) are more successful in coping with these problems, whereas resources in other fields are being faced with a serious challenge. The solution seems to lie in formation of governmentally set standards of information quality oriented toward international requirements. Language problem. Even though quite a rich content has accumulated in Russia, it is poorly known internationally. It is practically unavailable in other countries, which contradicts the idea of free access to information. The main reason here is the language barrier: most resources are presented in Russian, which is inaccessible to many users abroad. Only recently the problem was quite the opposite – the Russian content was unavailable, and most Internet users in Russia read sites in English. Ever since much has been done for the national user. However, the international openness of the resources has slipped out of the focus. The English-language versions of Russian sites provide only a general outlook and practically none of the current information renewed on a daily basis. Resources in other languages are practically unavailable. Most recently a number of competitions were announced by for-profit and charitable organizations to create multilingual resources. However on the overall scale, this continues to be a serious problem. A steady tendency has emerged in Russia to development of Internet resources of public (global) interest based on international collaboration. Here we may identify the following main directions: educational resources, electronic collections, metadata, collaborative development of technologies. Let me refer to only two examples. First, the “Sound encyclopaedia” project represents a French and Russian collaborative initiative to create a multilingual educational resource – a digital archive of lectures by leading university professors from both countries on a wide spectrum of humanitarian disciplines. In Russia, besides university users (students, instructors) the archive is also accessible to users in public libraries. The second example is a collaborative effort of Russia, Netherlands, Germany, IFLA and the “Open Society” Institute to construct a site of displaced cultural treasures. It is the interest of every country affected by the Second World War to see a site that publishes comprehensive restitution materials and digital “analogues” of the displaced treasures. The value of international collaboration in information projects is extremely high. Not only does it facilitate development of a publicly significant cultural content, but also considerably improves access technologies (coding coordination to ensure correct access to data in various languages, compatibility of formats, production of metadata and compatible technologies, and a lot more). The field of education is currently going through approximation of the educational standards. Such projects also allow more adequate copyright approaches owing to their initial orientation toward reconciliation of the legislative approaches of several countries. I believe that other countries should be experiencing similar problems. Therefore, summarizing all said, I would like to formulate several recommendations to our forum on development of an effective system to ensure free access to information and support the “public domain” on the global scale: Provision of the access to information 6 The problem of physical access to information (technical means and communicational channels) boils down largely to financial issues. Even in the case of a well-developed telecommunications infrastructure, the income earned by the people is not always adequate to allow the use of computers and access to the Internet. To address this problem, the following measures may be proposed to the governments and authorities: Development of governmental programs to attract targeted investments and allocate them to the social sphere: universities, schools, libraries, municipality information servicing centers, centers for professional training and retraining, penitentiary institutions. They will serve to establish stations of collective access to electronic information; Governmental support of the private sector providing favorable terms of access to the Internet (low service tariffs) to the public sector. To encourage service providers to decrease the tariffs, they may be offered preferential service contracts or tax benefits in recognition of their charitable social activities; Comprehensive support of collaboration between academic and public networks (universities, libraries) of various countries on the basis of multilateral agreements involving communicational service providers. Development of publicly significant informational resources The main issues in the field of the content of publicly useful electronic information are as follows: publicly useful themes, volume, quality, and accuracy (in various senses) of the information. To achieve the most effective presentation of resources to the global community, the following measures may be recommended to the governments: Determination of national priorities in the field of “public domain” in each individual country based on national specificity and publicly significant values; coordination of strategic programs with for-profit information services and charitable foundations, attraction of investors to development of publicly useful information; Development of State programs to create (digitize) the publicly significant national electronic stock of cultural heritage and open access to it; Comprehensive support of international programs and projects toward creation of open-access actual resources in science, culture, and education, constructed in various languages; Support of commercial content-providers creating publicly significant content and opening free access to it in network mass media; Support of a flexible publishing policy that would offer libraries, museums, and archives benefits in using electronic editions and interactive databases of full-text resources to expand servicing of users in collective access zones; Development of national quality standards for informational resources of publicly accessible content (state certification of databases, compliance with international standards). Legal aspects Solutions to legal problems of the global information society are rendered by co llaborative efforts in the frameworks of national and international legal systems via harmonization of views and reaching reasonable compromises. Legal problems associated with publicly useful information resources - the “public domain”- represent a novel legal reality. 7 Recommendations to governments in this area may only involve some general strategic directions: Content providers in the “public domain”, like those of others, must enjoy legal protection on the basis of the general legislation that regulates all public activities. Otherwise, electronic resource production in the national sector loses effective motivation. Special caution is required for development of an international legislation to regulate translocations of electronic intellectual property across national borders. Deficit of such legal bases in this field poses limitations to global utilization of these resources; Governmental measures in the field of information protection must not transform into rigid regulation of the Internet content and police censorship of any types of verbal output. This may infringe users’ rights to Freedom of Speech, access to information, and confidentiality. This, in turn, will impair their adequate participation in the information exchange and construction of the publicly useful resource. Conclusion Of course, new technologies constitute the cornerstone of the information society. However this concept is not confined only to computers, the Internet and digital information. Over a third of the people affluent enough to afford the Internet, do not know that antibiotics won’t cure cancer and that humans did not live in the Dynasaur age. Are these “well-offs” rich in the way of information? Will they be able to find their way to the “useful knowledge” in the world wide web, or set their preferences on mass entertainment resources? Of course, 24% of Internet users are ready to sacrifice their sleep and meals to it, and 12% will completely give up outdoor walks. However, today we do not yet have enough reasons to infer that electronic libraries, web mass media and virtual chats will universally and for good replace book volumes, traditional libraries and the warmth of real- life communications. Even though the number of web users keeps growing, chances are that this growth may stop. Even today, many of those who have an opportunity to use electronic resources are not planning to do so in the nearest future. Will they want to entrust themselves to a new Lord (of devil) who may once hit wrong keys and rob them of the “memory”, and their long-stagnant brain will not be able to find solutions? The information society is in the first place a publicly useful humanitarian information content in any shape it takes. It buds from the real human world inhabited by living people. It is my wish that despite all the problems, we always remember this. 8