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What are rights statements?

At Europeana, we use the term ‘rights statement’ to refer to the tools that indicate the extent to which copyright exists, whether there are any conditions or restrictions, and so the extent to which creative works can be used. We support 14 rights statements that data providers may use to provide rights information about digital objects when submitting content to Europeana. They are a combination of Creative Commons licenses, Public Domain tools and a subset of Rights Statements provided by 

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What are Rights Statements provided by

Rights Statements provided by the consortium are internationally interoperable rights statements designed to be used by cultural heritage institutions to communicate the copyright status of digitised objects. They provide a solution to cultural heritage institutions who want to share their digital objects online and who are unable to apply Creative Commons license, either because they do not have permission from the rights holder, or other legal or contractual obligations apply that limit the reuse of digitised objects.

Europeana uses a subset of six Rights Statements. They fall into three categories: 

  • Statements for works that are in copyright: Inc, InC-EDU, InC-EU-OW
  • Statements for works that are not in copyright: NoC-NC, NoC-OKLR;
  • Statements for works where the copyright status has not been evaluated: CNE

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What are Creative Commons licenses?

Creative Commons licenses allow authors and copyright holders to give the public permission to use copyrightable works for free under certain conditions. Each Creative Commons licence contains one or more of the four licensing elements that specify permitted uses:

  1. Attribution (BY) is a core condition attached to all Creative Commons licenses and it means you have to credit the original creator and any other nominated parties;

  2. Commercial use (NC) specifies whether others can use the work commercially;

  3. Modify & adapt (ND) specifies if other people can make changes to the work;

  4. Change license (SA) specifies if you can change the license type for your adaptation of the work.

There are six different combinations of licensing elements in the Creative Commons licensing family. The most permissive licence is CC BY. All other licences contain further restrictions; CC BY-NC-ND for instance allows neither modifications nor commercial use. 

All six CC licenses have been translated into different languages. In the past, Creative Commons legally adapted licenses to specific national legislation. The newest 4.0 licenses are designed for use in jurisdictions around the world and are internationally enforceable. Europeana data providers may use Creative Commons licenses version 4.0 or earlier (3.0, 2.5, 2.1, 2.0, 1.0).

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What are Public Domain Tools?

The public domain consists of works that are not protected by copyright. They can enter the public domain after the term of copyright protection has expired, was expressly waived, or if the work was never protected by copyright. Works in the public domain can be freely used by everyone. Read Europeana’s views on the importance of the public domain

Creative Commons has created Public Domain Tools to enable the labelling and discovery of public domain works. Europeana data providers can use them when providing content that is free of known copyright restrictions:

  • Public Domain Mark (PDM) should be used to mark works already free of known copyright and database rights and in the public domain throughout the world. 
  • CC Zero (CC0) dedicates works to the Public Domain. It waives all copyright and related rights in the work immediately and places them in the public domain.

Even when copyright protection no longer applies, we encourage anyone using public domain works in Europeana to give credit to the author and the providing institution, to be culturally aware, and to preserve public domain marks and notices, as a sign of respect. You can read more on this in our Public Domain Usage Guidelines.

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How do Rights Statements differ from Creative Commons licenses and tools?

  • Creative Commons licenses can only be applied by the person who holds the rights to an object or someone that has been authorised by them. Cultural heritage institutions often do not own the copyright to works in their collections and cannot apply Creative Commons licenses without the rights owner’s permission. 

  • Statements provided by are not a contract or a license, and rather than granting permissions they provide information about copyright status of materials. Unlike Creative Commons licenses, Statements can be applied by an owning cultural heritage institution regardless of whether or not they hold the copyright.
  • While Creative Commons licenses only work when applied to the material in which copyright exists, Statements can also be used where copyright status is unclear, or to indicate that something is not in copyright, but has additional restrictions on its use. They are designed to capture common rights situations that cultural heritage institutions are dealing with; for instance, when digital objects are out of copyright but subject to limitations on commercial use, or if legal restrictions other than copyright apply.

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How do I identify which rights exist in my collection items?

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How do I select a rights statement for the data I share with Europeana?

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How do I submit a rights statement to Europeana?

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What are the benefits of using rights statements that allow free reuse of digital objects?

What are the benefits of using rights statements that allow free reuse of digital objects?

Explore our page on open and reusable digital cultural heritage.

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If I wish to provide top-tier content, which rights statement should I apply to the digital object?

The Europeana Publishing Framework is a quality standard developed by Europeana and includes guidelines on reaching good quality in terms of content and metadata. The framework introduces four tiers of criteria for content by taking into account not just the quality of the media resources, but also the rights statements applied to digital objects. Only freely re-usable digital objects have the potential to reach the top content tier.

Europeana currently supports four rights statements that allow free reuse:

Before selecting one of these licenses or tools, make sure that the work is in the public domain, that you hold the rights or that you have the rights holders' permission to apply CC license to the digital object.