Introduction and background
Users love unique collection items. They want to be able to re-use them in a range of contexts whether it be a WW1 diary page in a school assignment, an image of a historic building in a blog post, a journal article distributed by a teacher, or a developer writing an app.
Currently Trove users might need to look at each item from a search individually, to read the rights statement and contact the holding organisation directly to get specific permission before they can re-use or re-publish it anywhere.
That process of gaining permission can be a barrier some users won’t cross. What if their school assignment is due tomorrow morning? Or they’ve found 50 images, all held by different institutions, all requiring separate permission requests? That’s a lot of extra work. Some users will simply discard items that require permission and move on to another one where the re-use options are clearer.
It can also be a burden on the holding organisation to respond to requests for permission when the item is already known to be out of copyright, or the organisation is trying to encourage use of its content.
Trove aims to get Australian collections seen by as many people as possible. You've already put the effort into collecting and describing your resources, and making them available online. Why not increase their visibility by encouraging reuse? By providing clear and simple guidance to users wanting to use your content you can:
- Encourage creativity around your collection
- Increase the profile of your material
- Generate traffic back to your website as users seek more information or related items
- Extract greater value from the effort of digitising your collection
- Encourage scholarship and research based on your collection
Use Creative Commons Licences where possible
One way to encourage re-use is to include a Creative Commons licence on individual items. National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA) encourages its members to release their material using these licences, you can read more about this in their Position Statement: Creative Commons.
If you’ve not met Creative Commons before, they’re a set of 6 simple, reusable licences. They’re readable as legal code, machine code, or by a normal person. They allow an organisation to say an item can be re-used in certain specific ways, without having to check each time with the holding institution. They encourage creativity and use of items in a legal way.
They also help an organisation get the recognition it deserves for making the item available in the first place.
For example, many organisations include a statement like
“Reproduction rights owned by XXXX. You may save or print this image for research or educational purposes. For any further uses, contact us directly to obtain permission.”
The intent behind this statement might be to make sure the organisation receives credit for making the image available, and that the image isn’t used for someone else’s financial gain.
If that’s true, then a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial licence expresses the same intent in a standard way. It spells out that it’s ok to use the image in situations like a classroom, in an assignment, or on a family history blog, but doesn’t allow someone to publish it in a book without getting permission first.
These licences cross international borders and we encourage content partners to think about including them on records added to Trove.
By including the standard URL to a Creative Commons licence instead of a free text sentence, you enable users to search exclusively for re-usable items. Users can then find items with these licences from multiple institutions. There is clearly demand for this – one of the most popular tweets from the Trove team in 2015 was advice on how to find re-usable images by searching for the Creative Commons licence.
Label pre-1955 photographs as Out of Copyright
Copyright has expired in Australia on photographs taken prior to 1 January 1955. The Australian Copyright Council has a great fact sheet – Duration of Copyright - that gives more specific details on identifying out of copyright items in your collection.
National and State Libraries Australasia also have a Position statement on public doman works.
In general, you should identify out of copyright items as such in your metadata records, by using the dc:rights field to add a phrase like ‘Out of Copyright’. Special donor agreements may prevent you from releasing specific images in this category, but it can be helpful to include a note in the rights field stating why.
If you know some of your images are out of copyright but there is a technical barrier that prevents you from marking them as such, then talk to the Trove team. There may be something we can do to flag your out of copyright records.
There will always be collection items that cannot be marked as out of copyright or given a Creative Commons Licence. They may still be in copyright or have perpetual copyright, or there might be a special donor agreement. While Creative Commons Licences and Out of Copyright statements are the best for encouraging re-use, it can be good to specify other kinds of rights associated with an item in a standard way as well. Standardised statements help users better understand what they can and can’t use.
The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and Europeana have set up a project called RightsStatements.org to examine how rights might be better expressed, and streamline metadata from lots of different institutions. 12 standardised rights statements have been created for cultural heritage works, and these can be accessed on the RightsStatements.org website. These statements do not cover all copyright situations, but do include such complexities as out of copyright items that have associated donor agreements.
Future Enhancements to Trove
Currently there are thousands of different rights and licence statements from the hundreds of organisations who contribute their content to Trove. If we can standardise this metadata, we can provide users with new ways to find your content. In the future we’d like to enhance Trove to offer a search based on rights. Users could then limit their searches to items that they can reuse, or items that are out of copyright.