Public Identifiers

W. Eliot Kimber eliot at
Thu Sep 24 09:28:17 BST 1998

At 11:57 AM 9/23/98 -0400, John Cowan wrote:
>Steven R. Newcomb wrote:

>In any event, I think I understand the source of our disagreements.
>As I (and Chris Maden, apparently) read the owner-identifier in FPIs,
>it is the creator of the name, not of the thing named, that
>appears there.  Apparently you disagree:

John is correct. The owner identifier identifies the owner of the *name*,
not the resource identified. It cannot be otherwise.  This issue was hashed
out in the discussions that lead to the completion of TC 2 to ISO 8879 (I'm
not sure if this discussion is archived in any public place).  It is
probably the combination of the ambiguity of the term "owner identifier"
and the original idea that public identifiers would be used for published
things (and thus provided by publishers  for others to use) that leads to
the invalid conclusion that "owner" in "owner identifier" means "resource
owner" and not "name owner".  It is a common misconception.

When Steve DeRose and David Durrand published their book on Hytime (Making
Hypermedia Work: An Author's Guide to HyTime), they included a set of
public identifiers for a variety of notations. They used the ISBN number of
their book as the owner identifiers for these FPIs.  At the time I thought
that it was inappropriate of them to create names for things they didn't
own. I now realize that it isn't a problem: by using their owner
identifier, they simply asserted control over the names, not the things
named. In particular, they made it clear that they were *not* trying to
somehow usurp the rights of the notation owners to define their own names. 

Steve and David were simply providing a service of cataloging notations in
exactly the same way that the Library of Congress assigns names to books:
the fact that the LoC owns the names in no way implies that they own the
books named. So it is with public identifiers (or URNs of any sort).

I don't care what you call me, just don't call me late for dinner.

Think of all the people who refer to you by names they prefer rather than
the name you'd like them to use.  You may find some of the names annoying
or even offensive, but you implicitly respect their right to use whatever
name they want. (Of course, you may also respond with a "304" message to
the effect of "I'd rather you not call me that".)  "Do you mind if we call
you 'Bruce' to keep it clear?"


<Address HyTime=bibloc>
W. Eliot Kimber, Senior Consulting SGML Engineer
ISOGEN International Corp.
2200 N. Lamar St., Suite 230, Dallas, TX 75202.  214.953.0004

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