RightsStatements.org is characterized by the following traits:
Controlled (ie. computer readable) rather than uncontrolled:
RightsStatements.org is a way of marking up the copyright status of an item into specific categories that a computer can interpret and understand. This is more useful than a free-text sentence about copyright status, in that when a computer can clearly understand copyright status, it is possible for that computer to create a search based on what reuse status an item has. Similar to how Google Advanced Search has a drop down for limiting by "usage rights", which is driven by Creative Commons licenses, widespread adoption of RightsStatements.org would allow faceted search based on usage rights for a wider variety of content.
Faceted search by reuse rights is great for supporting reuse of content. For example, a student putting together a presentation could quickly limit search results to items in the public domain, and so graduate with a portfolio that can be posted publicly with . For example, a faculty member creative material for classroom use and open educational resources (OER) could quickly find material that can be remixed and shared, and so plan ahead and design a course that can be shared freely with no legal restrictions.
Language of the RightsStatements is written to limit liability:
RightsStatements.org is similar to Creative Commons. However, RightsStatements.org are not licenses, and so the statements can be applied to items where a digital library does not own the copyright.
Creative Commons licenses must be applied by the creator of the item (ie. owner of the copyright). Each Creative Commons license gives an assertion of ownership in the copyright, then grants a set of permissions. For a digital library working with material from a variety of sources, Creative Commons licenses can't be applied to a large amount of content. Older material, materials donated and with permission given according to a different contract than Creative Commons, items falling under fair use. The Creative Commons license has to be applied by the author/creator.
RightsStatements.org statements are worded to not make promises. Each statement makes clear that it is the belief of the digital library that the item has a certain copyright status, but rather are worded to make clear that anyone reusing the material needs to check up on it themself and verify.
Significantly, RightsStatements.org incorporates Creative Commons. So, if you already have a Creative Commons license on a resources, you do not need to add a RightsStatements.org value to that resource. The determining factor for which is appropriate is whether or not you own the copyright, and so whether or not you are able to license the item.
RightsStatements.org is favored by the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA):
In April 2016, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and Europeana jointly launched RightsStatements.org and the RightsStatements.org controlled values. See Julia Fallon, Senior Policy Advisor , Europeana Foundation, “Rightsstatements.org launches at DPLAfest 2016 in Washington DC”, Apr. 14, 2016, https://pro.europeana.eu/post/rightsstatements-org-launches-at-dpla-fest-in-washington-dc . At the time of launch, both federated search projects emphasized a RightsStatements.org value as a pending future requirement for all items contributed to DPLA or Europeana. In the case of DPLA, this requirement is coming soon and has been since the April 2016 introduction. Many contributing digital libraries are still in the process of implementing.
You can see RightsStatements.org values in action by going to Europeana https://www.europeana.eu/portal/en and running a search. Along the left hand side of your search results, there is a facet for "Can I Use It?". This facet is built on the controlled rights statements, and maps both Creative Commons licenses and RightsStatements.org statements to broad categories of reuse - Free Re-use (public domain, or attribution required), Limited Re-use (educational or nonprofit use allowed, contractual/legal restrictions), and No Re-use (in copyright, or copyright not evaluated).
Meanwhile, in the U.S. with the DPLA, the controlled RightsStatements.org copyright statements are new and are gaining traction. As they are adopted and implemented by different libraries, a critical mass of content is building in the form of digital objects labeled with a RightsStatements.org statement. Assuming implementations of the RightsStatements.org statements are generally accurate, the statements may soon be incorporated into existing searches and into digital library interfaces to allow search by reuse. The interface on Europeana shows the kind of application that is possible with widespread adoption of the rights statements, and as digital library technologies begin to incorporate this information into the interfaces.
In Florida, Florida's DPLA hub, the Sunshine State Digital Network (SSDN) has expressed a preference for standardized statements. A copyright or license statement is required by SSDN, and a preferred format for this statement is RightsStatements.org .
Only 7 pages long, and it has a flow chart. This is a great place to start for planning workflows of how you will know what RightsStatements.org value to assign to each of your items in a digital library. Because it is short, it is easy to read and take in quickly, and easy to provide to anyone else who will work with implementing the statements.