Digital Public Library of America wins Knight News Challenge award, receives $300,000 to develop simplified rights structure for digital materials alongside international partners

By DPLA, June 23, 2014.

BOSTON The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) announced today that it has received $300,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as part of its Knight News Challenge, an open contest seeking ideas that strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation. Selected from more than 650 applicants, DPLA’s “Getting it Right on Rights” project will create a simplified and more coherent rights structure for digital items, making access to, and use of, items found in large-scale digital collections like DPLA easier and more straightforward for users.

“This work allows us to establish a framework for rights for cultural heritage materials.  At the project’s end, we hope that our partners will have a greater understanding of rights and that users of our content will have a clearer understanding about what they can do with the cultural heritage content they find on the web,” said Emily Gore, DPLA’s Director for Content, who will be leading the project.

“By creating a simplified rights structure for large content collections from libraries, museums and other institutions the project will be a great resource for knowledge seekers,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism and media innovation. “It will support free flow of information through the Internet and open new avenues for innovators.”

The project will involve international meetings, led by DPLA and Europeana, the pan-European digital library, 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. DPLA will then work with these partners to set up a neutral namespace with an agreed-upon set of rights designations that will serve as complement to the similarly recognized Creative Commons designations. The goal is to make these designations an internationally recognized standard, which will encourage widespread adoption. Finally, DPLA and its project partners will produce a best practices guide that institutions around the world can use to safely make more content available to the public.

The grant is premised on the notion that freely accessible collections of content from libraries, museums, archives and other sources lack consistency on usage rights and are further weakened by inconsistent copyright law and aversion to risk by nonprofit institutions. While the public commons from the past several millennia has never been more available online, the absence of a common agreement over rights statements has made use of these items unclear.“Getting it Right on Rights” 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. The project will enhance the open web by significantly expanding the content available, and permissively reusable, in our critical digital public space.

The Knight News Challenge, an open call for ideas launched in late February 2014, asked applicants to answer the question, “How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation?”

From the Knight News Challenge brief:

 We want to discover projects that make the Internet better. We believe that access to information is key to vibrant and successful communities, and we want the Internet to remain an open, equitable platform for free expression, commerce and learning. We want an Internet that fuels innovation through the creation and sharing of ideas.

We don’t have specific projects in mind that we’re hoping to see in response to our question. Instead, we want this challenge to attract a range of approaches. In addition to technologies, we’re open to ideas focused on journalism, policy, research, education– any innovative project that results in a stronger Internet.

So we want to know what you think– what captures your imagination when you think about the Internet as a place for free expression and innovation?

A pilot for the rights initiative has already begun. In April 2014, DPLA and Europeana, formed a working group to scope and manage their rights statements. At an initial meeting in New York City, the group established a timeline and three subcommittees to tackle issues pertaining to rights statements, governance, and technology.

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About DPLA
The Digital Public Library of America ( strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. Since launching in April 2013, it has aggregated over 7 million items from over 1,300 institutions. The DPLA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit.

About the Knight News Challenge
The Knight News Challenge on strengthening the Internet is funding breakthrough ideas that strengthen the Internet for freedom of expression and innovation. For more, visit

About the Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit

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