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Posted on Friday February 6, 2015

Selecting a rights statement

This page offers information on how to identify the most accurate and adequate rights statement for the data you share with Europeana.

We believe that everyone should be able to access cultural heritage online. And for users to know how to access and use digital objects, providing clear and simple rights information is essential. 

Data submitted to Europeana must include a rights statement from one the 14 options Europeana provides. Deciding which one to use requires understanding the copyright status of the digital object and determining whether you have the right to share an object and to allow its use. It is also important to consider your organisation's policy for sharing content, and whether there is a willingness to open up, for example. 

The approach and workflow to making such decisions will change from one organisation to the next, but here are a few important factors we recommend you consider before selecting a rights statement:

  • Start by evaluating the rights on the work. Is it in the public domain or protected by copyright? The Public Domain Calculator can help you answer this.

  • If it is in copyright, consider whether your institution holds the rights. Was the work donated or purchased by your institution from the rightsholder directly? Was there an agreement when this happened, and did it say whether rights were transferred to your organisation?

  • See whether you can review the copyright status of every object, or whether capacity and time constraints allow you to only look at the collection as a whole. The approach will be very different if you do an item-by-item assessment than if you analyse a collection globally. 

  • If the work is in copyright, and you do not hold the rights, can you identify and locate the author, creator or rights holder? If the work is in copyright, and your institution does not hold the rights, can you identify and locate the author, creator or rights holder to get permission to make it available online?

  • Explore whether your legislation offers solutions to help you in this process. An example is the orphan works exception, coming from a European Directive, and adopted by all European member states. It deals with cases where the rightsholder cannot be identified or located. 

  • If you already have permission to share an object, consider whether any  specific terms and conditions apply. For instance, was it digitised through a partnership with a private actor and does the agreement allow for commercial uses? 

Once you have taken the necessary steps to gain an understanding of the copyright status of your collection, have a look at Europeana’s available rights statements and pick the one that suits the conditions of your collection. You will see that we use both Creative Commons Licenses and tools, and Rights Statements

When selecting a rights statement, we encourage you to be diligent. If we want to make the best out of sharing digital heritage online and make it useable, providing correct information is a very important first step. It shows respect for existing rights on a work and for its author, and is another way to contribute to maintaining high standards of quality when sharing digital cultural heritage online.  

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