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Copyright: Rights Statements


Some sort of rights management field or statement is a common attribute of digital collections. If your digital content will be made publicly accessible online, it is best practice to provide a rights statement that clearly identifies and explains the copyright status of the item.

Rights descriptions/ statements are often widely varied across organizations. These fields have also been known to contain information that has little value to the user. The inconsistencies with rights statements led to confusion for the organizations and users.

Thankfully, in 2016, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and Europeana launched, a new controlled vocabulary for describing the copyright status of digital works.

Rights Statements

Rights Statements: Definitions

What is a rights statement?

  • The Dublin Core definition of rights (in regards to digital collections) is "information about rights held in and over the resource."
  • The Western States Dublin Core Metadata Best Practices (version 1.2, 2003) definition is “the content of this element is to be a rights management or usage statement, a URL that links to a rights management statement, or a URL that links to a service providing information on rights management for the resource. A rights management statement may contain information concerning accessibility, reproduction of images, copyright holder, restrictions, securing permissions for use of text or images, etc.”
  • says standardized rights statements "can be used to communicate the copyright and re-use status of digital objects to the public."
About provides standardized rights statements that can be used by cultural heritage institutions to indicate the copyright status of digital objects that they make available online, either on their own website or via aggregation platforms.

If additional rights information is needed or if an institution already has rights information and wants to retain that, this is perfectly acceptable. The intention of is to supplement more detailed rights information that institutions already have and not to replace existing information. provides a set of standardized rights statements that can be used to communicate the copyright and re-use status of digital objects to the public.

The rights statements have been specifically developed for the needs of cultural heritage institutions and online cultural heritage aggregation platforms and are not intended to be used by individuals to license their own creations. (If you are looking for a tool to license your own works you should consider using one of the Creative Commons licenses). provides 12 standardized rights statements for online cultural heritage. Each rights statement has a unique URI (uniform resource identifier). A brief overview of the statements is provided below. Click here to view the full list of statements, descriptions, and URIs.

Categories of Statements

The rights statements fall into three categories:

  1. In copyright
  2. No copyright
  3. Other


Statements: In Copyright

Statements for works that are in copyright.

  • In Copyright
  • In Copyright - EU Orphan Work
  • In Copyright - Education Use Permitted
  • In Copyright - Non-Commercial Use Permitted
  • In Copyright - Rights-Holder(s) Unloadable or Unidentifiable


Statements: No Copyright

Statements for works that are not in copyright.

  • No Copyright - Contractual Restrictions
  • No Copyright - Non-Commercial Use Only
  • No Copyright - Other Known Legal Restrictions
  • No Copyright - United States


Statements: Other

Statements for works where the copyright status is unclear.

  • Copyright Not Evaluated
  • Copyright Undetermined
  • No Known Copyright
How to Use Rights Statements

Using the rights statements from is simple. Once your institution has determined which statement to use, copy and paste the corresponding link/ URI (uniform resource identifier) into your rights management field. And that’s it!

To use these rights statements, all you need is the URI. Consult the "Guides" tab in this section for further help on how to use and select rights statements.

North Dakota State Library

The North Dakota State Library (NDSL) has adopted the rights statements provided by for its collections on Digital Horizons and the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

NDSL also endorses and recommends the use of these standardized rights statements by other institutions in the state.

Contact Digital Initiatives with any questions about rights statements.

Rights Statements Guides
Examples of Rights Statements

Examples of certain rights statements in use on items in NDSL's digital collections.

Rights Statements: Video Resources


The staff of the Digital Initiatives department at the North Dakota State Library are not lawyers, nor are they copyright experts. Digital Initiatives will provide help to the best of their ability, but any information provided does not constitute legal advice.

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Many of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.