Getting it Right on Rights

Large-scale collections like the Digital Public Library of America, EuropeanaTrove (Australia), and DigitalNZ (New Zealand) have enriched the free web by making openly available tens of millions of items from libraries, archives, museums, and cultural heritage sites from their respective countries or continents. This incredible, burgeoning public commons of the full range of human expression from the past several millennia is weakened, however, by a lack of common agreement over rights statements on these items. Because of inconsistent international copyright law, risk aversion among many nonprofit institutions, and the grey area that many scanned materials fall into—unclear provenance or ownership, especially as materials recede into the past—these collections have too wide a variety of rights assigned to them and no clear pathway toward maximal openness and reusability.

As a result, members of the Europeana network and the Digital Public Library of America network worked together to build what is now known as RightsStatements.org. RightsStatements.org provides 12 standardized rights statements, meant to be used in conjunction with Creative Commons licenses, that describe rights status for an international audience. This project, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Europeana Foundation, has been completed, but work to develop RightsStatements.org continues. A new governance structure for RightsStatements.org has been established and numerous additional countries have joined including Canada, India, Australia and New Zealand.

For more information on the use and implementation of RightsStatements.org statements at DPLA, see Hub Working Groups. For more information about the governance, the statements and related whitepapers, and countries involved, please visit RightsStatements.org.