Proposed DACS Rights Statements Receive Overwhelming Community Support

The Technical Subcommittee on Describing Archives: A Content Standard (TS-DACS) recently requested feedback on its proposal to adopt two new single-level minimum required descriptive elements:

·        8.2. Rights Statement for Archival Description

·        13.10. Rights Statement for Archival Authority Records

As noted in the request, these elements were proposed by Alston Coburn (East Carolina University) and Patrick Galligan (Rockefeller Archive Center). They would require archival repositories to clearly and transparently state the copyright status of their descriptive and archival authority records, either on a record-by-record basis, or globally in a system-level rights statement (i.e. a single, all-encompassing statement posted on the main page of a searchable finding aid database, OPAC, institutional website, etc.). As researchers develop new ways to interact with archival collections and archival descriptions, cultural heritage institutions need standardized ways to tell researchers and future archivists the ways in which they can use archival description data. Stating these rights directly in the archival descriptions themselves affords repositories another way to fulfill their mission to help researchers use the archival collections with which they are entrusted. Additionally, encouraging repositories to allow use and reuse of descriptive and authority records aligns with our professional value to promote open and transparent cultural heritage, and brings DACS into better alignment with new DACS Principle 8, which calls for archival description to be easily used, reused, and shared.

Although TS-DACS sincerely hopes that these proposed elements will encourage institutions to open their descriptive and authority records for use and reuse through the application of creative commons or other public copyright licenses, the proposed elements do not require them to do so. If an institution wishes to claim copyright on its archival descriptions, or otherwise prohibit their use and reuse, that is perfectly within their right. Similarly, a repository could simply state that the copyright status of its records is unknown or undetermined. What is most important is that the conditions governing the use and reuse of an institution’s records are clearly, transparently, and consistently documented and communicated to users.

TS-DACS asked users to respond to five questions and provided space for open comments. One hundred and forty-five people responded to the questionnaire, and an overwhelming majority, 88.3% of respondents, support the adoption of the rights statement elements as required. Forty-nine of them identified their repositories as “Small,” while there were forty-eight respondents identifying as “Medium” and another forty-eight identifying their workplaces as “Large” repositories. A majority of respondents, sixty-four percent, identified their repositories as academic, while the remainder was divided among a variety of other types of archives. Other details gleaned from the questionnaire are reflected in the charts attached. 

TS-DACS will move forward by presenting this data to the Standards Committee along with a draft revised to clarify a few minor issues raised by the comments. The sub-committee will also begin working on presentations and educational components designed to help community members implement the new elements. 

Count of Do you support the adoption of elements 8.2 and 13.10 as single-level minimum required DACS elements_.png15.12 KB
Count of Which description best fits the type of repository at which you work_.png31.75 KB
Count of Which description best fits the size of your repository in terms of the number of archivists performing technical services work.jpg38.14 KB
Count of In terms of collection size and scope, resources, and total staffing, how would you describe the size of your repository_.png16.64 KB