The initiative of standardization of MPEG Query Format (MPQF) has refueled the research around the definition of a unified query language for digital content. The goal is to provide a standardized interface to multimedia document repositories, including but not limited to multimedia databases, documental databases, digital libraries, spatio-temporal databases and geographical information systems. The initiative is being led by MPEG (i.e. ISO/IEC JTC1/SC29/WG11). This paper presents MPQF as a new approach for retrieving multimedia document instances from very large document databases, and its particular application to scholarly literature search and retrieval. The paper also explores how MPQF can be used in combination with the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) to deploy advanced distributed search and retrieval services. Finally, the issue of rights preservation is discussed.