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A digital object is
|“||a unit of information such as a story, a movie, an image, a videogame, a computer program, or any other digital work, that is encrypted and then "wrapped" inside a software "envelope."||”|
|“||[a] conceptual term that describes an aggregated unit of digital content comprised of one or more related digital files. These related files might include metadata, derivative versions and/or a wrapper to bind the pieces together.||”|
Anyone receiving a copy of a digital object would be able to read the "wrapper." Access to the encrypted contents would, however, be conditioned on acceptance of terms specified in the wrapper, such as payment of a royalty fee.
A digital object therefore has two parts: a wrapper, and contents. Of course, the words "wrapper" and "contents" are used metaphorically here: inside the computer, the whole package is a string of bits. It is convenient to talk about digital objects at a higher, more conceptual level.
Digital objects could be distributed widely, or posted on Web server computers that would function like digital retail stores. Users would find these objects through browsing, using online indexes, and the like — much as people find books or software in stores or catalogs today. Once users found an object of interest, they would read the wrapper to learn more about the contents and the terms on which they might access those contents.
A built-in mechanism would also exist for users to make the necessary payment for obtaining access to the contents. Under a typical scenario, a service would be available on the Internet that provides bookstore or library-type access to digital objects. A user uses a common Web browser software package, with a special “plug-in” designed for the purpose, to access this site and to browse through or search with indexing systems the site’s holdings. When encountering an object of interest, the user sees the information from the object’s wrapper displayed on the screen. This display contains a summary of the contents and a price for accessing those contents.