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One Solution to Copyright Problems in Cyberspace: Unique Digital Names

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

One Solution to Copyright Problems in Cyberspace: Unique Digital Names

Article excerpt

THERE IS A solution to copyright problems in cyberspace -- and newspapers should be acting now to ensure their own protection, a major computer scientist says.

"I believe you folks in the newspaper industry should be among the most interested in globally unique naming. What you want, what you should want, is that if someone reads your paper (on an online service) in Paris, you want unique naming so you can get paid," said Robert Thibadeau, director of the Imaging Systems Laboratory in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

"If you don't have unique naming, then you will be paying the IBMs of the world ... for the privilege of having your information on that service," Thibadeau added.

So what is "unique naming"?

In one sense, it's nothing new. Cash is a good example of unique naming: Each dollar bill has its own unique serial number.

Each American's Social Security card is a unique name.

Computers, however, have vastly expanded the possibilities of identifying things.

For one thing, the possibilities of naming are, for all practical purposes, endless.

Virtually anything can be given a name unique from that of any other on the entire planet.

Consider this, Thibadeau told the recent annual meeting of the Inland Press Association in Chicago: A single string of binary computer code with 64 bits -- that is, 64 1's and 0's -- can generate names for about 18 billion billion things. That's not a typo: 18 billion billion unique names.

"In other words, it can provide a unique name for everybody on earth about four billion times over," Thibadeau said.

Double that string of code to a 128-bit word, he added, and you can name 340 billion billion billion billion things. That's four billions.

However, technology right now not only can generate these fantastic numbers of names -- it can recognize them virtually instantaneously.

For instance, the Intel Pentium processor chip can process a 64-bit name in something like under one-tenth of a millionth of a second, Thibadeau said.

Even the 128-bit name is no problem: "A Pentium processor can check this name in less than a fifth of a millionth of a second," he said. …

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