Digital contracts: USI expertise serving the Web

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The web today is with no doubt an essential part of our lives, but how it works is perhaps less obvious: it involves technology, such as servers and telecommunications networks, and above all rules, or rather technical standards (protocols) for communication between servers and user devices. Since 1994, these standards have been developed by the international non-governmental organisation W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). The consortium includes, of course, large technology companies and network operators, but also public bodies and, last but not least, universities and scientific research institutes. Dr Nicoletta Fornara , lecturer-researcher at the USI Institute of Digital Technologies for Communication (ITDxC, Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society), provides us with a few insights.

"For some time now, due to my research interests, I have been collaborating with the Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL) Community Group, which at the W3C deals with proposing a language for the specification of policies regulating the use of digital resources", explains Dr Fornara. "More specifically, I am working on the semantics of this language and was recently invited to co-chair the ODRL community group. As with all the community groups that make up the W3C, this one deals with the ODRL language with the aim of formulating recommendations at a higher level, the so-called ’Working Groups’, where the various technical standards take a more concrete form and are subsequently implemented for the web".

With the development and increasing use of the Internet, the exchange of digital resources is becoming more widespread and the problem of regulating their use is increasingly relevant, if not fundamental, for the protection of content creators (audio, video, text, etc.) and for the safeguarding of personal and strategic data. "The Open Digital Rights Language is a language to specify in a ’machine readable’ way the rules that govern the actions that can, cannot, or must be performed in relation to digital resources exchanged by various parties. The current challenge is to be able to automatically reason about the meaning of these rules, and it is on these aspects that I am working, both in my research and in the W3C working group", concludes Dr Fornara.

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