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The above examples show that the OAIS model is consistent with federation to accomplish specific objectives. However, it should also be considered that some of these objectives might be accomplished through voluntary action. This is an important dimension in the association of systems, including Archives, because it establishes the degree of autonomy for each system. At the heart of the autonomy issue is the ease with which an association may be altered by one of the participants. Some possible characterizations of autonomy levels might be:

– No interactions and therefore no association.

– Associations that maintain an association member’s autonomy. An association member may have to do certain things to participate, but can leave the association without notice or impact. An example is participation in the Internet, including operation as a domain name server. A member will need to meet certain requirements to participate, including the maintenance of a site with certain characteristics, but the member will in effect be expunged from the association if the site simply stops conforming. However, there is no penalty for this. Therefore, the members maintain full autonomy the whole time because they are free, without penalty, to do what they want.

– Associations that bind an association member by contract. To change the nature of this association, a member will have to re-negotiate the contract. The amount of autonomy retained depends on how difficult it is to negotiate the changes. The difficulty may rise as more entities become a party to the contract.

So, the autonomy dimension is a key one for interacting Archives, determining the ease with which each can effect changes in the nature of the association and the impact/penalty to each for recovering full autonomy. This dimension is different from the degree of technical homogeneity the association implements or supports, but it is not totally independent. For example, a high degree of technical homogeneity can be achieved in a broad association where each participating entity is free to leave without penalty. However, the permanence of such an association cannot be guaranteed, and may be improved by making it more difficult to re-negotiate the association, or by establishing penalties for recovering full autonomy. Also, a given degree of technical homogeneity might be achieved more rapidly and at lower cost when the contract is more binding.

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