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SEDODEL: A solution to the copyright barrier to access to information


Dominique BURGER (1), Iain MILLNS (2), Emmanuel SCHWARZ (1), Tom WESLEY (2)

(1) INSERM - Creare U483, UPMC B23, 9 Quai St Bernard, F-75005 Paris, /

(2) University of Bradford - Management Centre, Emm Lane, Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK-BD9 4JL, /


  1. Summary
  2. This paper explains why problems associated with copyrights in electronic documents are a major hurdle to more widespread a ccess to information for visually impaired people. It then scribes the approach being taken by SEDODEL, Secure Document Delivery for Blind and Partially Sighted People, to surmount this hurdle.

  3. Introduction
  4. The SEDODEL (Secure Document Delivery for Blind and Partially Sighted People) project addresses the information needs of blind and partially sighted people, who have almost no access to the vast range of information the general population takes for granted [1]. Electronic information is the key to providing these people with the greatly increased access to information they need. However, it is difficult to obtain electronic information, for creating accessible documents in forms such as braille, large print, and synthetic speech, because authors and publishers realise how easily they can lose control of their intellectual property rights (particularly copyright). Electronic documents can be copied perfectly, modified at will and distributed world wide almost instantaneously! As Burger and Miesenburger argued [2], it is necessary to create a secure document delivery service to overcome this problem.

    SEDODEL aims to create, verify, and demonstrate a pilot secure document delivery service, which will meet the information needs of blind and partially sighted people, and guarantee the rights and obligations of actors in the publishing chain. It will achieve this by integrating two key technologies: Electronic Copyright Management Systems (ECMS) and accessible electronic documents. SEDODEL will give publishers the confidence to distribute electronic copies of their publications to organisations of and for the blind and partially sighted, and to blind and partially sighted people directly. This paper explains the copyright problem, its affects on the Information Society, and the need for new European copyright legislation. It describes enabling technologies, such as the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), ECMS, and the World Wide Web (WWW). It also describes the features of SEDODEL.

  5. Access to information
  6. The key enabling technologies for increasing access to information for blind and partially sighted people are structured electronic documents, and the developing infrastructures of the Internet and WWW.

    Electronic documents can be structured with markup languages, such as the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), the HyperText Markup Language (HTML), or the Extensible Markup Language (XML). These languages separate the structure of a document from its physical layout. Structured electronic documents can be transformed into accessible formats, such as braille, large print, or synthetic speech. The Internet and WWW are of great significance to blind and partially sighted people. For the first time, it is possible to have online access to global information by using cheap off-the-shelf components. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has recognised this significance, and created the important Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) [3]

  7. Copyright and the Information Society
  8. The issues of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and copyright are affecting the development of the Information Society, as a background document [4] on Electronic Commerce in the European Commissions’ Information Technology Programme explains:

    ‘The Internet is one gigantic copying machine. … The revenue generated by Intellectual Property is threatened by this new environment. ... Besides threats on existing or emerging market applications, new innovative applications, likely to generate new markets, could be created if IPR owners were confident that their property is appropriately protected against piracy and misuse. Such novel applications will start to shape the economy of the future’.

  9. The requirement for secure document delivery


Although the developing Information Society promises much for the visually impaired, its full realisation for them will not be possible without secure document delivery systems:



  1. Intellectual Property Rights Management
  2. ECMS are used for the IPR management of electronic information. ECMS provide authors, publishers, and distributors of digital objects with tamper resistant mechanisms for identifying and tattooing copyrighted materials, and monitoring access to and usage of these materials in such a way that copyright holders can legitimately receive their royalties.

    SEDODEL uses the CopySMART ECMS [5]. CopySMART’s end user software is implemented on a standard Windows PC with a smart card reader. Individual users have their own smart cards, which contain identification and authentication of the user together with the use rights granted by the service provider.

  3. The constraints of copyright legislation
  4. SEDODEL recognises that a technology only approach is not sufficient to make real progress in the integration of visually impaired people in the information society. Therefore, in parallel with the development, evaluation and demonstration actions, SEDODEL will produce recommendations for changes in European copyright legislation which could mirror that of the law in the United States [6].

  5. The needs of SEDODEL users


SEDODEL addresses the needs of three distinct sets of users: blind and partially sighted people, publishers, and organisations of and for the blind:



  1. Features of SEDODEL


SEDODEL will pilot an innovative service for the distribution of information to blind and partially sighted people. This will be based on a set of generic applications created by the integration of existing and developing technologies. The system’s main features are:



  1. The SEDODEL pilot


The SEDODEL Project pilot implementation can be summarised in three stages:

The environment set up concerns the procedures that will be implemented to create a pilot SEDODEL system for validation. Verification will consist of system testing by experienced computer users. The wider demonstration stage will be used to further develop some aspects of the system.



The SEDODEL Project pilot will concentrate on on-line delivery using the Internet of predominately text-based books with payment being made by pre-paid credits on the End User’s smart card. Initial payment will be off-line with payment for additional credits being made off-line with on-line updating of smart cards.



  1. The DAISY Consortium
  2. The DAISY Consortium [7] founded in 1996 now has some twenty four members, who are organisations of and for the blind and partially sighted, from nineteen different countries in four continents. DAISY is developing the next generation of hybrid digital talking books and in so doing they are likely to produce the most advanced mechanisms for creating, delivering and using accessible versions of information. Furthermore, given the membership of DAISY and the financial commitments being made, it is likely that these technologies will be exploited by the organisations as major ways of meeting their strategic goals.

    It is implicit in the DAISY developments that the products could, and should, be used for the delivery of copyright material. However, there is no indication at present that any technical development work is being carried out by DAISY in the field of secure document delivery. The SEDODEL project is therefore of considerable importance, in that it could become one of the ways in which the aims of DAISY could be realised by providing the security mechanisms for the practical delivery of copyright documents in accessible forms.

  3. Conclusion


The anticipated results of SEDODEL are: the implementation and operation of a secure document delivery service for blind and partially sighted people, the extension of CopySMART to the needs of blind and partially sighted people, and recommendations for changes in European copyright legislation. The secure service should give publishers the confidence to release to organisations of and for the blind and partially sighted (and to blind and partially sighted people directly) electronic copies of their publications, thereby greatly enhancing access to information.





SEDODEL, Project DE4001, is part funded by DGXIII of the European Commission under the Disabled and Elderly Sector of the Telematics Applications Programme.




The members of the SEDODEL Consortium are: University of Bradford, Coordinator (United Kingdom), British Library (United Kingdom), EURITIS SA (France), INSERM (France), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), Open University (United Kingdom), Royal National Institute for the Blind (United Kingdom). The two year project will complete in March 2000. Up to date information can be found on the SEDODEL Web site at: Burger F., Miesenburger K. (1996). Secure Distribution System for Publications in Electronic Form – Architecture of a system to provide access to publications for visually impaired readers while guaranteeing the rights to authors and publishers. In: Interdisciplinary Aspects on Computers Helping People with Special Needs, 5th International Conference, ICCHP ’96, Linz, Austria, 16-19 July 1996, Schriftenreihe der Österreichischen Computer Gesellschaft, Band 87, Oldenbourg, Wien, ISBN 3-7029-0413-1 Web Accessibility Initiative URL: Electronic Commerce Issues: Intellectual Property Rights, Dominique Gonthier URL: CopySMART: ESPRIT Project 20517. URL: United States Public Law 104-197, section 316

[7] DAISY, Digital Talking Book URL:

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