Rights Metadata

The ability to attach rights metadata to your transfer is another useful feature available in Archivematica.

What is rights metadata?

Rights metadata defines the set of rights, including access and copyright, for a specific digital object or a transfer as a whole.

For example, rights metadata can communicate that a file or transfer is restricted, why, and how long this restriction is in place. Inserting rights metadata in a standardized way may also enable machine-actionable functions on these materials, such as the ability to automatically open up access after a predetermined date, though such workflows in systems like AtoM are not yet established.

What standards are used for entering rights metadata?

Rights metadata in Archivematica is defined using the PREMIS standard for digital preservation metadata. It is recommended that you familiarize yourself with the PREMIS rights terms before you prepare rights metadata for ingest in Archivematica.

PREMIS has a concept of a rights basis, which links to a law, contract, agreement, or other documentation of the relevant rights according to four different categories: Copyright, Statute, License, and Other. Archivematica expands on these bases by adding two additional options: Donor and Policy.

These different bases each have sub-terms associated with them. Some of the sub-terms are unique to the basis, while others are shared between them. For example, both the Statute and Copyright bases include a field recording the jurisdiction, while Copyright also includes a “status” field indicating the copyright status (such as “public domain” or “copyrighted”). Many of these fields include recommended controlled vocabularies to be used. More than one basis can be added to a set of digital objects or items.

Each basis has one or more acts associated with it. An act is some kind of action that is to be performed with the digital objects in question. The Library of Congress has a controlled vocabulary of events that can be used to describe acts, but an institution-specific controlled vocabulary may also be used.

Each basis can also optionally link to documentation for the basis – including an identifier type like a URI or DOI, the identifier itself (its value), and its role (the purpose of the documentation, also ideally expressed from a controlled vocabulary).

Should I include rights metadata?

Like all user-submitted metadata in Archivematica, adding rights metadata for a transfer is optional. However, if you choose to add rights metadata for a transfer, some fields are required by the PREMIS standard. For example, if you are adding metadata about copyright, you must add the copyright status and jurisdiction, but the copyright start and end date are optional. See the table below for more information on required and optional rights metadata fields.

How does Archivematica implement rights metadata?

As with descriptive metadata, rights metadata is implemented in Archivematica through the ingest of structured metadata and the outputs of this information in the rightsMD sections of a METS XML file. Rights metadata can only be applied to individual items.

How do I enter rights metadata in Archivematica?

Rights metadata can be added in two ways:

  • CSV import requires formatting metadata in a CSV file. Unlike with descriptive metadata, rights metadata can only be applied to individual items.
  • The interface can be used to enter metadata during processing in Archivematica, until the “approve normalization” step. Rights metadata entered through the interface is applied to every object in the transfer.

In both cases, you can add multiple rights bases and multiple acts to transfers and objects. Multiple different bases, or rights information with the same basis but different acts, require entries to be repeated by adding new entries via the interface or adding new rows to a CSV.

Another detail specific to Archivematica is the grant/restriction area, which formalizes the vocabulary of the PREMIS restriction field to one of three potential terms: “allow,” “disallow” and “conditional.” These are then tied to the PREMIS termOfGrant or termOfRestriction fields, which record date ranges for acts or restrictions. The combination of dates with an act allow for rights-based actions to be automated. For example, a donor policy could be set with a restriction to expire after a certain date, after which the records could be released to an access system. As noted by Evelyn McLellan, “If the user selects ‘Allow,’ Archivematica automatically creates a termOfGrant semantic unit to capture information about the start and end dates of the grant; if either ‘Disallow’ or ‘Conditional’ is selected, Archivematica creates a termOfRestriction semantic unit instead” (p. 158).

Where can I learn more about rights metadata in the digital preservation context?

Please refer to McLellan’s book chapter, “Implementing Rights Metadata for Digital Preservation” (closed access) in Digital Preservation Metadata for Practitioners: Implementing PREMIS for a great introduction to the principles and application of rights-related metadata workflows in Archivematica.

Rights Metadata Workflow — Interface

Rights metadata entered through the interface is based on the PREMIS rights elements and is applied to all objects in the transfer. Multiple sets of rights metadata can be added. This is unlike descriptive metadata, which gets added at the transfer level only and is non-repeatable.

  1. Start a transfer.
  2. At any time during processing up to the “Approve Normalization” step of that transfer click on the small report icon.
  3. Under “Rights” click “Add” to add new metadata.

    1. Note that clicking “List” will not display any metadata that may have been also added by the CSV import method described below – it will just show what has been entered via the interface.
  4. A series of fields will be displayed, the first of which is Basis. Selecting a different Basis will cause the remainder of the fields to change depending on the rights Basis selected.
  5. Fill out required fields (marked by an asterix at the end) along with any optional fields you wish to fill out. Click the blue “Next” button at the bottom of the page.
  6. A second page of fields will open that are specific to the Act being granted or restricted. Fill out the required acts granted or restricted information. For example, if the Act is “Disseminate,” you could select “Disallow” as the modifying Grant/restriction to indicate that the files are not permitted to be disseminated.
    1. If you need to go back to edit or view something, you can use the “Back” button in your browser.
  7. Once you’ve entered the rights metadata, click the blue “Save” button at the bottom of the page to save your work, or the blue “Done” button to exit the page.
  8. If you would like to edit the metadata you just entered, go back to step 3 and click the “List” link. From here you can edit or delete rights statements.
  9. You can add additional rights statements by clicking the “Add” link.

Rights Metadata Workflow — CSV Import

If you choose to import rights metadata via CSV file, the metadata must be applied to items: it cannot be applied to folders or subfolders.


The basic requirements are similar to those described for descriptive metadata import via CSV:

  • A UTF-8 encoded CSV file called rights.csv should be placed in the metadata folder of the transfer
  • The first column should be called ‘file’ (instead of ‘filename’)
  • The same formatting applies to the file column when the transfer is in BagIt format (i.e., adding ‘data/’ to the path for items)
  • Field names should reflect the PREMIS terms
  • Multiple rights bases can be entered for a single file, e.g. an item can have both copyright and statutes bases that affect who can access it and when
  • The same object can also have repeated acts with the same basis

If you choose to upload your rights metadata in a CSV file, it is best to create this file before beginning the transfer process so that all the data (digital items and metadata) can be packaged and transferred together. However, using the “Add metadata files” workflow is possible with rights.csv files.

  1. As part of the Archivematica transfer workflow, all the digital items to be transferred should be in a folder called ‘objects’. Any subfolders within this have no naming requirements and will depend on how you’ve organized your digital items.
  2. Open a new spreadsheet file (separate from any descriptive metadata file you may have created for this transfer) using Excel or your preferred spreadsheet application and input your metadata based on the format shown in the chart below.Please note that the chart below does not include all the possible PREMIS terms. Refer to the complete list and crosswalk table below or to the sample rights CSV from Artefactual Systems. The chart below is formatted for a standard or zipped directory transfer type.
    file basis status jurisdiction determination_date start_date end_date grant_act grant_restriction
    objects/example1.jpg Copyright Copyrighted Canada 2014-01-01 2014-01-01 2020-12-31 Disseminate Disallow
    objects/example1.jpg Copyright Copyrighted Canada 2014-01-01 2014-01-01 2020-12-31 Use Disallow
    objects/pdfs/example2/pdf License 2015-09-09 open Replicate Conditional

    Top Row = Header. filename is an essential header and column which ensures that the metadata is mapped to the correct items. The information within this column must be formatted exactly as shown here, with no spaces in the header name.

    Two Middle Rows = Examples of copyright data for one object with two different act restrictions.

    Bottom Row = Example of an object in a subfolder for which a license requires only conditional replication.

    For the fields containing the actual metadata, you can have spaces and format the information as you wish.

    When creating the CSV file, it is important to ensure you have no blank columns in the middle (i.e. no header or data). If there is a blank column in the middle of the file, this will cause the whole transfer to fail. Blank columns at the end are okay, as this is how Archivematica detects the end of the file. It is also important to make sure that none of the fields have trailing spaces at the end or line breaks.

  3. Place this document in a folder titled ‘metadata’ – make sure this folder is outside of the ‘objects’ folder and at the same level as the ‘objects’ folder. If you have created a descriptive metadata CSV file, the two files will both go in the ‘metadata’ folder.
  4. Begin the Archivematica transfer workflow as usual.

PREMIS Rights in Archivematica: Crosswalk and Reference Table

Applicable rights basis PREMIS term Archivematica interface term Archivematica CSV field name Required? Description
All rightsBasis Basis basis Yes The basis is the broad category of rights and related actions under consideration. Picking a basis determines the type of subsequent rights metadata fields to be used: copyright, statute, license, donor, policy, other. More than one rights basis can be added to a group of objects (via the interface) or items (via CSV). In the Archivematica interface, selecting “Other” for the basis requires the addition of details about that basis.
All copyrightApplicableDates: startDate

statuteApplicableDates: startDate

licenseApplicableDates: startDate

otherRightsApplicableDates: startDate

Copyright start date

Statute start date

License start date

Donor agreement start date

Policy start date

Other start date

start_date No The start date of the range in which the copyright, statute, license, or other rights basis applies to the content. Note that this might differ from the start and end dates that are specific to the act being granted. For example, a migration action might be allowable within a narrower date range than a license start and end date. But in many cases the two sets of dates will match.

Format note: Use ISO 8061 (YYYY-MM-DD).

All copyrightApplicableDates: endDate

statuteApplicableDates: endDate

licenseApplicableDates: endDate

otherRightsApplicableDates: endDate

Copyright end date

Statute end date

License end date

Donor agreement end date

Policy end date

Other end date

end_date No The end date of the range in which the copyright, statute, license, or other rights basis applies to the content. Note that this might differ from the start and end dates that are specific to the act being granted. For example, a migration action might be allowable within a narrower date range than a license start and end date. But in many cases the two sets of dates will match.

Format note: Use ISO 8061 (YYYY-MM-DD). If an open end date, check the box in the Archivematica interface or enter “open” in the CSV.

All copyrightNote




Copyright note

Statute note

License note

Donor agreement note

Policy note


note No Additional information about the copyright status, statute, license, or other rights-related bases.
All act Act grant_act Yes In PREMIS, “The action the preservation repository is allowed to take.” A controlled vocabulary is suggested using terms such as replicate, migrate, modify, use, disseminate, delete.
All restriction Grant/restriction grant_restriction No In PREMIS, “A condition or limitation on the act.” This field and the related terms below are handled slightly differently than in PREMIS. A more precise controlled vocabulary than used in PREMIS is required when using the Archivematica interface and using the same terms is recommended when using the CSV import option: Allow, Disallow, Conditional (see McLellan p. 158). When “Allow” is selected, the termOfGrant date fields are then used in the PREMIS output. When either “Disallow” or “Conditional” is selected, the “termOfRestriction” fields are applied instead.
All rightsGrantedNote Grant/restriction note grant_note No In PREMIS, “Additional information about the Rights granted.” Recommended in McLellan (p. 159) to be used when “Conditional” is selected in the Grant/restriction field above.
All termOfGrant – startDate

termOfRestriction – startDate

Start grant_start_date No In PREMIS, “The date the granted permission commences.”

Format note: Use ISO 8061 (YYYY-MM-DD).

All termOfGrant – endDate

termOfRestriction – endDate

End grant_end_date No In PREMIS, “The date the granted permission expires.”

Format note: Use ISO 8061 (YYYY-MM-DD). If an open end date, check the box in the Archivematica interface or enter “open” in the CSV.

All copyrightDocumentationIdentifierType




Copyright documentation identifier – Type

Statute documentation identifier – Type

License documentation identifier – Type

Donor documentation identifier – Type

Policy documentation identifier – Type

Other documentation identifier – Type

doc_id_type No In PREMIS, “A designation of the domain within which the [copyright/license/statute/other] documentation identifier is unique. A controlled vocabulary is recommended, but a URI or file name may be in local use.
All copyrightDocumentationIdentifierValue




Copyright documentation identifier – Value

Statute documentation identifier – Value

License documentation identifier – Value

Donor documentation identifier – Value

Policy documentation identifier – Value

Other documentation identifier – Value

doc_id_value No The documentation identifier value, e.g. the contents of the URI, DOI, path and file name, etc.
All copyrightDocumentationIdentifierRole




Copyright documentation identifier – Role

Statute documentation identifier – Role

License documentation identifier – Role

Donor documentation identifier – Role

Policy documentation identifier – Role

Other documentation identifier – Role

doc_id_role No In PREMIS, “A value indicating the purpose or expected use of the documentation being identified.” This identifies the type of document being applied in relation to the basis. For example, “donor agreement,” “accession record,” “law,” etc. as applicable.
Copyright copyrightStatus Copyright status status Yes In PREMIS, “A coded designation for the copyright status of the object at the time the Rights statement was recorded.” The Archivematica interface presents three options based on a controlled vocabulary in PREMIS; using the same terms for CSV import is encouraged.




Copyright jurisdiction

Statute jurisdiction

jurisdiction Yes The country whose copyright or legislation applies to the object.




Copyright determination date

Statute determination date

determination_date No The date the copyright status was determined or the date it was determined that the statute listed was applicable to the permission(s) in question.

Format note: Use ISO 8061 (YYYY-MM-DD).

Statute statuteCitation Statute citation citation Yes In PREMIS, “An identifying designation for the statute.”
License licenseTerms License terms terms No In PREMIS, “Text describing the license or agreement by which permission was granted.”