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How one group aims to sort out digital usage rights once and for all

The Digital Public Library of America recently landed a Knight Foundation grant for its program “Getting It Right on Rights.” DPLA's tech director says the program has broad implications.

Science library of Upper Lusatia, in Görlitz, Germany.

(Photo by Ralf Roletschek, via WikiMedia Commons)

The Digital Public Library of America secured one of the recently announced Knight Challenge Grants, for its program “Getting It Right on Rights.” The program addresses some themes we addressed in our conversation with the organization’s technology director, Crown Heights’s Mark Matienzo.

In an email to Brooklyn, Matienzo confirmed he would be helping with the Getting It Right on Rights program. At its heart is a legal question: How to standardize usage rights for DPLA’s digital products, as well as for other digital collections.

A huge amount of digital resources are available online, “However, these collections lack consistency on people’s usage rights and are further weakened by inconsistent copyright law and aversion to risk by nonprofit institutions,” according to the release from the Knight Foundation.

In short, institutions are confused about how much of a digital resource they can share online and how they can tell users it is permissible to use those materials, beyond simply looking at or reading them.

DPLA hopes to come up with a series of rights statements that are both clearer, more consistent and more widely used.

Matienzo says the implications of the project will extend well beyond his organization. The set of rules should be usable by any organization here or abroad that makes digital materials available online. “We’re basically coming up with a standard for doing this work that anyone can implement,” he told us via email.

One digital collection we pay attention to here is the Brooklyn Collection at the Brooklyn Public Library.


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