Thanks for your observations on rightsstatements.org
Since I happen to be a lurker on this
list (via digest) and since you name-check me in your observations let me try to answer
some of the question that you have raised. This is not necessarily a response on behalf of
but I believe hat the following is broadly in line with how others
who are involved with the project look at these issues.
While I can understand your initial reaction to the suite of rights statements that is
offered by rs.org
I think you are misunderstanding the purpose of the site. The purpose of
is certainly not to to "to march people *away* from the maximum openness,
access, and impact.” Instead rightsstatements.org
was conceived out of a need for
standardised, well-structured machine readable rights information that can be used with
digital objects that cannot be made available under an open license or marked as being in
the public domain.
For most cultural heritage institutions (and aggregators) such objects make up the
majority of the digital objects on their platforms. This concerns works that are in
copyright but which can be made available online by the organisations who have them in
their collections. This can be because the institutions rely on fair use or on other
exceptions to copyright, or because they have obtained licenses from the rights holders or
CMOs for the sole purpose of making these works available online.
While we have a set of standardised machine readable tools to mark up works that can be
made avail under open terms (the Creative Commons licenses and PD tools), prior to rights
there were no standardised machine readable tools that could serve to
describe the copyright status of works that cannot be openly shared. This meant that
Europeana relied on its own set of (rather crummy) rights statements (see here for an
or here for an actual example: https://www.europeana.eu/portal/en/rights/rr-r.html
DPLA at that time did not use standardised rights statements at all, which resulted in
them having in excess of 80.000 different copyright statements in in their collection.
The idea behind rights statements.org
is to provide standardised rights statements to
express the copyright and reuse sates of works that cannot be made available under one of
the CC licenses and tools. This is not to promote the unfree status of such objects but to
make it easier for users to understand the rights status of such digital objects and to
enable platforms to allow users to filter their collections based on standardised rights
While it is clear that labelling works with a rs.org
statement does not contribute to the
commons it does contribute to the ability of users to understand what parts of the vast
cultural heritage collections available online they can freely re-use and which part they
cannot (note that we have taken great care to make it absolutely clear in the statements
that works that are in copyright can still be used under exceptions to copyright).
In short the purpose is not to march people away from openness but to enable institutions
who have collection with varying rights statuses to clearly indicate which parts of them
are open and which are not. Hope this helps you understand the rationale behind making
these statements available.
Now with regards to your observations about individual statements. It is true that some of
our statements are more problematic than others. This concerns the three NoCopyright
statements that carry additional restrictions. All of these have been modelled on existing
restrictions that platforms like Europeana and DPLA are already dealing with. We do not
promote them but given that we have digital objects with such complicated rights
statements in our collections and given that we rely on standardised statements there was
a need to model these rights statements.
John has rightly pointed out that a lot of the material in Europeana comes from
digitisation partnerships where the parties have agreed to limit the re-use of the
resulting digital objects for whatever reasons. Personally I think such arrangements are
morally wrong, but I still think we need to allow our partners who have entered in them to
express the conditions they have agreed on in a standardised way.
If you take a look at https://pro.europeana.eu/page/available-rights-statements
also discover that Europeana actually employs a set of checks before such restrictive
statements can be used and that we do not allow the use of all rs.org
example we have decided against allowing the use of the NoC-CR statement, or the InC-NC
statement). We will also carefully monitor the use of the InC-EDU and the NoC-OKLR
statements with an eye on deciding if we continue to support them in the future.
On a final note, we are still working out how to best run rightsstatements.org
people here are genuinely interested in contributing to the project we are open to
participation on various levels. Have a look at
to learn more.
p.s the order of the licenses on http://rightsstatements.org/page/1.0/?language=en
generated via a script that pulls that information from a master file that contains all
the statements. We are not intentionally displaying the contractual restrictions statement
first but should probably look if we can change the order here.
I was wondering, have people on this list had any
contact with, or have any thoughts about rightsstatements.org
I was in a twitter chat earlier with a digital librarian at University College Dublin (re
whether or not a copyright they were asserting for Ordnance Survey Ireland re digitisation
of some old maps had any basis in reality), and, in passing, she proudly mentioned that
they were going to start adding rightsstatements.org
standard descriptions of copyright
status to all content.
I had a look at the site, and my first take was it must have been an initiative from some
of the major publishers, so loaded did it seem to be towards promoting different options
for *preventing* people doing things with one's content.
I was quite surprised to find that actually it seems to be a 100% GLAM initiative,
initiated by DPLA and Europeana, with strong input from Creative Commons, and
Kennisland's Paul Keller as one of the chairs. (And I see that our own Alex Stinson
and Federico Leva even contributed some thoughts in the development phase)
Yet to me (I don't know if others agree), the lead document at
seems rather hostile to the widest
access, openness, and re-use.
Yes, Creative Commons licences /are/ in fact mentioned as the 1st-best option in the body
text, if one reads closely. But I have to admit I missed that completely the first time
I skimmed the page -- because it is only the restrictions that get the big graphics and
My worry would be that if organisations like UCD make it a policy to mark their material
up with a rightsstatements.org
indicator wherever possible, this will (subtly or
not-so-subtly) lead them away from PD or CC0 choices; or away from "attribution"
requirements (which are not on the page) towards "non-commercial" restrictions
(Any NC statement of course also opens up a huge can of worms as to just what activities
and by whom are or are not "non-commercial" -- something the page does not flag
up, and which the site offers no clarification about, as to what might or might not be the
I am also quite concerned about the apparent endorsement given to the "contractual
restrictions" option, and indeed its prominence on the page -- placed as the first
option for non-copyright material, almost as if to encourage institutions to see this as
the appropriate default status.
"Contractual restrictions" seems a particularly nasty way to try to fence in
the public domain. It's also questionable in its effectiveness. The long-term folk
wisdom on Commons has been that if a museum has a sign up saying "no
photography" or "personal photography only", but somebody takes a
photograph and someone uploads it to Commons, that any claim would stop (at most) with the
photographer -- Commons has no contract with the museum, so is not a party to any
restrictions. That may be a slightly rose-tinted and self-serving view, but it seems a
little odd to see this option so blandly endorsed, and indeed promoted, without any
It seems odd, given who they are, that the people behind rightsstatements.org
produce a site that seems calculated to march people *away* from the maximum openness,
access, and impact.
Yet - I don't know if the list would agree - but to me that seems to be exactly what
the current presentation does, leading people away from sharing and freedom, and instead
normalising closure and restriction, even for PD materials.
I'd like to know whether the list agrees with me on this; or whether I'm being
over-sensitive and perhaps just encountered the site in the wrong frame of mind. But,
since between us I think we have a lot of contacts with the people involved with this
project, if others see something in these concerns, perhaps it might be worth a quiet word
to see if the presentation could perhaps be re-balanced a bit, to more even-handedly
present more open options?
PS. Going back to the point of my initial discussion with UCD, if copyrights /are/ being
asserted on apparently well-published archival material, it seems to me that it would be
useful if the site encouraged as standard best practice a statement of /why/ it was
asserted that there was copyright in the material -- eg whether there had genuinely been a
copyrightable expression of creativity or judgment involved. This would lend such claims
extra weight, in a world where there is so much copyfraud around that such assertions
otherwise might get casually dismissed.