Recently proposed peer-based content distribution schemes lack flexible, interoperable methods for packaging digitally instantiated content to be transacted via the distributed network. Additionally, current peer-to-peer file sharing mechanisms like Gnutella employ ad-hoc metadata schemes (typically long file names) for describing the contents of shared files within the peer network.
For these reasons, a new XML-based scheme for the packaging of peer-distributed electronic content is proposed. This packaging scheme defines a highly flexible XML instance structure (a "Manifest") that allows detailed descriptions of the packaged content. Such packaging is especially useful when the digital content described and referenced by the manifest document is composed of multiple separate -- but interrelated -- files of various types. A given package may include various types of metadata (e.g. RDF, MPEG-7, etc.), employed for various purposes including describing and identifying the content, associating digital rights declarations with the content, and specifying digital signatures for the content. The proposed manifest scheme additionally permits the representation of author-specified choices for delivery or render-time configuration of the content. Finally, manifest annotations permit the association of notations and enhancements to content without altering the original work.
It is anticipated that package manifests will enable the use of highly descriptive metadata, permitting sophisticated search techniques to be utilized by in-network clients in the tasks of finding and acquiring digital content in both end-user and e-commerce applications.