This weekend's work finds yet another oddball use for "own". In the world of BPEL and BPMN the "owner" of a task is the person who is currently working on it. Another way to spread confusion.
John asked about an "XML schema" for privacy. There are two answers to this.
- I think a consent structure similar to the Creative Commons copyright licenses is feasible.
- A general XML encoding for privacy, consent, or copyright remains a matter for research and exploration. The translation of law and decisions into a structured form has been a matter of legal research since the mid 1970's or earlier. It's still research. There is also ongoing research into forms of license and contract. None of these are ready for routine use.
A bit of history
While I think that common consents are feasible, it will take a lot of time. The history of work that led up to the the Creative Commons licenses shows how much time it can take:
- 1974 - The CONTN commission recommends that copyright law be extended to software.
- 1980 - Copyright is extended to include software
- 1988 - The Emacs General Public License is written. This is the first effort to formalize a publicly usable license. It is a reaction to the serious problems resulting from inadequacy of the Gosling license for early emacs work.
- 1991 - GPLv2 issued. This became a major influence on copyright and public domain thinking.
- 2002 - The Creative Commons is established. The needs for open culture, open publications, etc. are not met by the GPL and similar variants.
- 2009 - The Creative Commons licenses reach version 3.0 (the current version).
Creative Commons is now to the point where there are about a dozen standard copyright licenses. For a very large number of people it meets their needs. You answer a few questions and get a recommended license. You also get an HTML code snippet that identifies the license, and provides links for further information, attribution, etc.
This has reached the same level of ease of use as the typical publisher's copyright assignment forms, with substantially better commonality. Every publisher, etc. has their own standard assignment forms, with their own terms, etc. They all have lawyers who customize things to maximum advantage of the publisher. Common Criteria took the perspective of the authors, and after a few years experience with actual author preferences, has a set of common licenses for the open culture authors.
A Creative Commons for Consents
There have been occasional discussions of whether privacy rules could be managed like copyright. Zittrain has written on this, and there was a recent seminar on the topic at the Berkman Center. These make clear that the larger issue of privacy remains extremely complex. But in a much narrower domain like patient privacy consents, there is a better chance for success.
I can see a situation where a group defines a set of patient oriented consents. These consents would differ from much of what I've seen in current work by being patient perspective rather than provider perspective. Rules like the HIPAA rule are impenetrable to the typical patient. They deal with the many issues that are visible to the provider, rather than the issues that are visible to the typical patient.
I expect that getting this right will probably take a decade, given that it took two decades for the copyright licenses to evolve a public oriented set. We can learn much from that effort, but one of the things that you learn is that real experience was crucial to the evolution of these licenses. Real experience takes time.