[tdwg-content] What is the purpose of dcterms:accessRights in Darwin Core?

Steve Baskauf steve.baskauf at vanderbilt.edu
Fri Apr 19 04:24:22 CEST 2013

I have been struggling with some difficult terms while working on the 
draft Darwin Core RDF Guide.  At the moment, the term that I've been 
struggling with is dcterms:accessRights, which is imported by Darwin 
Core from Dublin Core as a record-level term. 

In the case of dcterms:accessRights (defined as "Information about who 
can access the resource or an indication of its security status." with 
comment "Access Rights may include information regarding access or 
restrictions based on privacy, security, or other policies."), the range 
is given as dcterms:RightsStatement (i.e. a non-literal value is 
expected rather than a string literal).  Thus a client interpreting a 
dcterms:accessRights property should expect a URI reference pointing to 
another resource that is a Rights Statement, defined as "A statement 
about the intellectual property rights (IPR) held in or over a Resource, 
a legal document giving official permission to do something with a 
resource, or a statement about access rights."

So dcterms:accessRights seems to be a rather vague term that is intended 
to point to additional information about:
1. intellectual property rights (i.e. copyright)
2. permission to do something with a resource (i.e. licensing information)
3. access rights (i.e. to what extent access to the resource is controlled)

These are actually three rather different types of information about a 
resource.  It seems to me that the first two items are about created 
intellectual property - the territory of Audubon Core.  Audubon Core has 
a pretty rich vocabulary for describing these kinds of properties that 
media are likely to have.  But they don't seem to apply so much to 
Darwin Core, which is more about data and specimens, neither one of 
which can be copyrighted or licensed as far as I can know.  So it seems 
to me that item 3 is the most relevant to Darwin Core, since data can be 
embargoed, access to specimens can be restricted, loans prohibited, 
etc.  The ancient history on the accessRights term at 
http://dublincore.org/usage/meetings/2002/10/accessRights.shtml seems to 
indicate that the term was originally intended to serve to describe the 
limitations of access but that it got thrown together with intellectual 
property rights and licensing when the range was declared to be 
"RightsStatement" several years later.

Anyway, I'm not how this term would get used in the context of specimens 
and observations.  The DwC comment give the example "not-for-profit use 
only" which sounds more like a licensing statement such as Creative 
Commons-NC .  When Audubon Core comes online, xmpRights:UsageTerms and 
xmpRights:WebStatement will be available to provide that kind of 
information for images and other media.  We also have 
dwc:informationWithheld to tell people that some information is not 
available to the public.  So under what circumstances would I actually 
use dcterms:accessRights?  Is there anybody who uses it as a property in 
their metadata and can give me some real examples of its use?  I'm sure 
there was a reason given when Darwin Core was undergoing ratification, 
but I don't remember the discussion, and it is too overwhelming to think 
of digging through the email archives to look for it.


Steven J. Baskauf, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer
Vanderbilt University Dept. of Biological Sciences

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