MIT Libraries reports on their cancellation of access to the Society of Automotive Engineers’ web-based database of technical papers, based on the SAE's insistence on using digital rights management controls on their content. MIT will instead be provided with an electronic index of documents that may be used to access print, CD-ROM or microfiche copies of papers. Professor Wai Cheng, SAE fellow and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, was amongst the figures pushing for the cancellation, intending to bring up the topic to the SAE's Publication Board.
This does not bode well for scholarly publishers who may be planning to use DRM controls as a way of managing electronic access. As generally implemented DRM controls make it difficult, if not impossible, to use premium content for collaboration, a key factor for research and engineering. Being able to manage content reuse is a key factor for scholarly publishers but it's doubtful that DRM will be able to satisfy many of their core audiences. Instead to insisting on reinforcing a print model that is increasingly incompatible with the productivity requirements of scientific and academic audiences scholarly publishers need to focus on how best to facilitate knowledge transfer. DRM does nothing to help facilitate knowledge transfer whatsoever. Hopefully the SAE and other societies and associations can work with their memberships to come up with more productive models for licensing content.