One of the most frequently asked questions about the statements is if they apply to original works (i.e. a painting) or the digital objects (i.e. a specific digital representation of the painting in the form of an image file).

Our statements have been purposively designed so that they can be applied to digital objects to make it easier for users of the digital objects to determine the copyright and reuse status. This design process and principles are documented in the right statements white paper. The primary use case would be a cultural heritage institution that displays a rights statement next to a digital object on its website. In this scenario the statement indicates the copyright and reuse information of that digital object.

In addition most of our statements can also be used to indicate the copyright status of original works. For example a website may want to use the In Copyright statement to indicate that a book is in copyright without providing access to a specific digital representation of the book.

Most often the digital object and the original work will have the same copyright status. However it is worth worth bearing in mind the realities of the digitisation process. In many jurisdictions, additional copyrights, permissions and restrictions that affect the status of the digital object can be created during as a result of acquisition or the process of digitising an original work. As a matter of policy and practice we strongly believe that digitisation should not create a new layer of restrictions, and to the extent that restrictions are created, those should be waived. In situations where such additional rights or restrictions do exist, this should be reflected by rights statements that are applied at the level of the digital object.

This means that as our statements have been designed to reflect the status of a digital object, most of them can also be used to describe the copyright and status of the original work. We’ve broken this down along with some exceptions to this below.

The following three statements refer to the copyright status of both the digital object and the original work:

The remaining two statements describe additional permissions on top of the copyright status, which apply only to the digital object.

As such, these statements can be used to indicate re-use conditions of digital objects but should not be used for original works (instead the Creative Commons licenses should be used for granting permissions to use copyrighted works).

In this category the No Copyright - United States refers to the copyright status of both the original work and its digital object. Unlike other statement in this category, no additional restrictions on reuse are expressed beyond its Public Domain status. It is also distinct because this public domain status depends on the physical location of the user of the digital object.

The remaining three statements indicate the status of the digital object only. Each of these statements identifies restrictions or explicit permission that are different from the original out of copyright work.

Other rights statements

All three statements in this category can be used for the original work and digital copies as the rights status is identical for both.

In the new year we will publish a follow up post that will dive deeper into the technical details of how our statements can be applied to the different layers discussed in this post.