Untangling access

Untangling access
Helping you find freely available content online
2 February 2015

In the online world simple words like ‘access’ and ‘availability’ quickly become complicated. We want you to be able to find content in Trove that is freely available online. We also want you to know how you can use the resources you discover. But these simple aims raise messy problems about licensing, metadata and technology.

Two men trying to open the door of a goods train, New South Wales, ca. 1930 [picture].
Two men trying to open the door of a goods train, New South Wales, ca. 1930 [picture].

Let’s start by distinguishing between access and use. If you can access a complete copy of a resource online, without having to go through any form of authentication or payment, then we can think of it as freely available. The resource might be any digital object such as a PDF copy of a journal article, a photograph, or a sound file.

Even if you can access a resource online, there may be restrictions on its use. Copyright, for example, might prevent you from sharing a photograph or republishing a text.

Trove tries to help you find freely available resources by providing an ‘Online’ facet and ‘Available online’ checkbox. Using these you can limit your results to those that Trove thinks are accessible online. These resources can be further filtered by their access status, either ‘Freely available’ or subject to ‘Access conditions’.

Unfortunately, these facet values don’t always accurately reflect the availability of a resource. A lack of accurate information often forces Trove to make assumptions based on the source of the record.

For example, Trove assumes that the records it harvests from the institutional repositories of universities are freely available. However, we know that access to some of this content is restricted. We just can’t tell from the information we receive.

Once you’ve found a work, Trove tries to help you understand what you can do with it. Records that have come from library catalogues via Libraries Australia are displayed with a handy copyright tool — just click on ‘Check copyright status’ for a calculation based on the available metadata.

Many records will also have a ‘Terms of use’ field that contains information about copyright or other restrictions provided by the organisation that holds the item.

But that doesn’t help you much if you simply want to find all the photographs that you’re free to use on your blog. While the ‘Terms of use’ field is searchable, rights and restrictions are described in so many different ways that the statements aren’t much use when it comes to reliably filtering results. A quick analysis of the rights statements attached to Australian theses in Trove revealed more than 10,000 variations! Our friends at the Digital Public Library of America have similarly calculated there are more than 87,000 unique rights statements attached to their aggregated resources.

The lack of standardised, accurate information around access and licensing makes it difficult for Trove to help you find what you want.

So what are we going to do about it?

We’ll support and promote standards. Just a few weeks ago the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) released its recommended practice for ‘Access License and Indicators’. It proposes two simple metadata elements that will enable organisations to identify freely available resources and specify any licence conditions. We intend to support these elements in Trove and will work with our content partners to increase the flow of high-quality data.

We’ll make improvements to Trove. As well as supporting the new metadata elements we’ll review the way our ’online’ facets work to make the most of this data. We’re also planning to add a new ‘Rights’ facet so you can filter your results by licence conditions.

We’ll be sharing information on rights and reuse. Trove isn’t alone. Our sibling aggregators, DPLA and Europeana, are already working on a set of globally interoperable rights statements. We’ll be watching their project carefully and sharing the results.

We’ll be talking to our community and content partners. Trove is made up of records contributed by hundreds of organisations, large and small. If we want to improve online access to all the rich Australian content in Trove, we have to work together.


Help us to continue to tell Australian stories by donating to the National Library of Australia's Support Trove appeal. The appeal closes on February 28, 2015. For more information please visit our forum.

This post appears on the Trove blog. To subscribe to future posts in this blog add http://www.nla.gov.au/blogs/trove to your RSS reader. To subscribe to all National Library of Australia blog posts, use http://www.nla.gov.au/blogs

Thank you for this detailed explanation.
LxQVUq <a href="http://fnvqdycbnwti.com/">fnvqdycbnwti</a>, [url=http://tijuabtcuhsf.com/]tijuabtcuhsf[/url], [link=http://xzovtixyadwv.com/]xzovtixyadwv[/link], http://cfwgvwpypptq.com/
We're very glad you found the post useful Suzanne.
Great news about the upcoming rights facet for Trove. That is going to be so useful.