Getting it Right on Rights
|This project launched on April 14, 2016. Learn more at rightsstatements.org.|
Large-scale collections like the Digital Public Library of America, Europeana, Trove (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. This project will bring together these important collections to harmonize and evangelize a simpler rights structure, one that includes ways for works of all types, including works with unclear or no known rights, to be put online and made available to the public.
Our project will begin with two international summits, one in the United States and one in Europe, involving domain experts who have a deep understanding of both the legal and content sides of this burgeoning field, including library and museum leaders, intellectual property lawyers, copyright officers, policy advisors, metadata specialists, and web technologists. At these key stakeholders will analyze different national, international, and project-based rights work. One focus will be on the issue of items with “no known rights,” and guidance around that important and widespread category—orphan works of all kinds, from books to archival materials. We will also address fair use on the web, and the uneven application (and applicability) of that principle worldwide.
We will then work with these partners to set up a neutral namespace with an agreed-upon set of rights designations. Other projects will be able to link to those designations, e.g., http://[rightsnamespace].org/no-known-rights-1.0. We will translate the language of these designations into the multiple languages of the partners in this project, and encourage other translations as well. Our goal is to make these designations an internationally recognized standard, which will encourage widespread adoption. They will complement the similarly recognized Creative Commons designations, which very well may function as a subset of the digital library rights strata.
Finally, we will produce best practices guides, which we know from talking to contributing institutions to projects like the Digital Public Library of America are extremely important, often representing the only way past legal and institutional barriers. We will disseminate these guides widely to enable broader global education over rights on the web, and will work with our already robust and large partner networks, who can hold workshops and bring this rights work to thousands of other institutions and stakeholders.
For more information about this project, contact Emily Gore (firstname.lastname@example.org).