Digital Library or Digital Store:
Will There be Free Libraries in the Digital Age?

Barbara Simons
Association for Computing Machinery


A few years ago Hollywood and the music industry discovered the Internet and realized, much to their horror, that the technology now exists to make arbitrary numbers of perfect copies of a digitized object. As a result, we have seen an explosion of legislative and treaty proposals. As of this writing, a conference committee of the House and Senate is considering some legislation on intellectual property on the Net that attempts to outlaw certain devices and technologies. This legislation has several bad features, among them the unintended side effect of making some legitimate computer security research illegal. It could even criminalize some techniques that are required to correct Y2K problems.

Both the legislation that is passed and the manner in which technology is implemented will have a major impact on the rights and responsibilities of creators and users of intellectual property. How will copyright be impacted? What will happen to user rights of fair use and first sale? Are we moving from copyright protection of books and magazines on the net to contract law, and if so, what are the potential repercussions?

The manner in which these questions are resolved will have a significant impact our society.


Barbara Simons was elected President of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) in 1998. Prior to becoming president, she chaired ACM's U.S. Technology Policy Committee (USACM), which she also founded. USACM deals with technology policy issues (see Simons is a Fellow of ACM and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Simons earned her Ph.D. in computer science from U.C. Berkeley in 1981. Her dissertation solved a major open problem in scheduling theory. In 1980 she became a Research Staff Member at IBM's San Jose Research Center (now Almaden). In 1992 she joined IBM's Applications Development Technology Institute and subsequently served as Senior Technology Advisor for IBM Global Services. Her main areas of research are compiler optimization, algorithm analysis and design, and scheduling theory. Her work on clock synchronization won an IBM Research Division Award. She holds several patents and has authored or co-authored a book and numerous technical papers.

Simons is a winner of the 1998 EFF Pioneer Award. In 1995 c|net selected her as one of its 26 Internet "Visionaries"; in 1994 Open Computing named her as one of the top 100 women in computing; and in 1992 she was awarded the CPSR Norbert Wiener Award for Professional and Social Responsibility in Computing. Science Magazine featured her in a special edition on women in science in 1992.

Simons is a member of the President's Export Council's Subcommittee on Encryption. She is also a member of the Information Technology Working Group of the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion. She has testified before both the U.S. and the California legislatures and at government sponsored hearings on cryptography, medical privacy, authentication for access to on-line records, and intellectual property on the Internet.