Museum Guide to Digital Rights Management


Government of Canada

“In the 1990s, recognizing the new significance that the World Wide Web was bringing to intellectual property (IP), the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) initiated a series of publications for museum professionals that addressed several facets of this important legal construct, from rights administration and licensing practices to policy creation.

This Guide joins that series of works, many of which are as relevant today as when they were first published. This is especially true of Diane Zorich’s, Developing Intellectual Property Policies: A How-To Guide for Museums (2003), and Lesley Ellen Harris’s, A Canadian Museum’s Guide to Developing a Licensing Strategy (2004, under revision for 2010). Those two form an interdependent pair, as Lesley Ellen Harris put it: “Whereas your IP Policy will help you audit and determine your copyright assets, your digital licensing strategy will take you to the next stage of granting rights to the use of those intangible assets to others and financially benefiting from doing so.” This Guide, building on those two works, is primarily focused on the technical underpinnings and strategic decisions involved in practicing rights management with the new tools now available. It follows the course of rights management from the inventory of the rights an institution owns (the IP audit), through documenting and managing object and image rights, and on to licensing, tracking and protecting intellectual property.

The CHIN Museum Guide to Digital Rights Management is a review of current practice and a guide to good practice, but also a call to action around the increasingly critical role that the management of intellectual property rights of both objects and their images has in the cultural heritage community. For effective participation in 21st-century culture, much of which is being played out via the Internet, museums need to be clear to themselves and to their communities about the IP rights they own, have been assigned or can obtain, as well as what they do not have.”