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Note: Summary of best practices added. Jenn Riley 10/12/05

[edit] Recording Rights Statements about Resources

[edit] Summary of Best Practices

  • Include rights information about a resource in the most granular format possible.
  • State rights information in plain language intended for the end-user of a resource.
  • Supply rights over the metadata record only in a metadata element specifically designed for this purpose.

Information about rights associated with resources, particularly digital resources, is an important component of the OAI metadata record. Best practice is to include rights information concerning the use of the resource at the most granular level possible preferably in the appropriate field in the metadata record itself (at minimum the <dc:rights> element in simple Dublin Core (oai_dc). Other possible locations are within a set description or a repository description. However, there is no guarantee that a service provider will make use of this information; thus it may be hidden from an end user.

Please note that the <rights> container available in the OAI protocol is not for rights pertaining to the resource, but for rights pertaining to the metadata. See Expressing Rights over Metadata for more information.

In general, the audience for rights statements associated with resources is the end user. To this end the information provided should be as free of legalese and technical jargon as possible. State clearly any restrictions on usage of the digital object, including explicitly mentioning lack of copyright restrictions when the digital object is in the public domain. Also provide contact information for use by end users who wish to pursue required permissions for publication, exhibit, or other types of dissemination.

For example:

    <dc:rights>Materials digitized for The Making of Modern Michigan are either
    in the public domain, according to U.S. copyright law, or permission has 
    been obtained from rights owners. The digital version and supplementary 
    materials are available for all educational uses worldwide. For further 
    information contact the MMM project staff (mmm@mail.lib.msu.edu).</dc:rights>

If you maintain rights information relating to specific digital objects on a web site, you may wish to provide a URL for that web site in lieu of a textual rights statement. When doing so, you should provide enough textual explanation, along with the URL, to make the purpose of the URL clear to end users.

For example:


See DC IU Charles Cushman Collection 1 for the complete record from which this example was taken.

Note, however, that there is increasing interest in machine-processable rights information (as seen in the importance of Digital Rights Management (DRM) and the development of initiatives such as the Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL)). Data providers should remain aware of these developments and adapt their rights information as necessary.

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