RightsML provides a data model for marking up rights expressions about content of all relevant media types in a machine readable way.


Rights Expression Language for the media industry

Rights Expression Languages are machine-readable languages used to convey the rights and restrictions associated with a particular asset. They codify the permissible actions (under certain duties and constraints) for an asset when it’s made available by one party to another.

RightsML builds on ODRL, the framework for digital rights hosted by the W3C, by extending it to meet the specific needs of the media industry.

A typical scenario in the world of photo agencies: the agency’s customer is a major publishing house with magazines, newspapers and broadcast properties (each of which has websites and iPad apps, too). The publishing house has consolidated internal systems and storage and uses one single Enterprise Digital Asset Management System across all of its properties. The pictures the agency sends to the publishing house are usable under certain conditions for one or more of the publishing house’s properties — but seldom under the same identical conditions by all of them at the same time. Traditionally, the agency would need to supply the publishing house with multiple sets of images (one for each of the publisher’s properties), resulting in duplicate images and additional overhead. Even then, editors would still need to examine any natural language notes, to find out if there are relevant restrictions for a particular use of an image.

How to streamline this complicated, error-prone and manually-intensive setup? And how to ensure that both rights holders and clients can be confident that the use of digital assets complies with the appropriate rights and restrictions? Enter RightsML.

Find more about use cases and best practices for implementing it on the IPTC Developer Site, RightsML section.

Specification and documentation

We invite publishers and their partners to implement RightsML as specified here and to give the IPTC feedback, so that we can fine tune RightsML. One way to help us assess the new standard is to examine the vocabularies we have put forward for permissions, restrictions and duties, to ensure that they allow you to express the rights you need to apply in your business. If you identify terms that are missing or that aren’t sufficiently clearly documented, let us know. If you would like to actually try encoding your rights expressions using RightsML, we would be happy to support you by providing suggested implementations and providing feedback on any sample XML implementations you generate. We would also be happy to advise on the best ways to process RightsML documents, to ensure that partners are complying with the expressed rights and restrictions.


The IPTC Developer Site provides technical information about RightsML.

The RightsML Users discussion list is used to share experiences, raise questions and recommend and discuss changes to the RightsML standard. It also connects companies and organisations who use RightsML and vendors who create tools that process RightsML policies. (Please note that we have changed to groups.io for RightsML 2.0 so there are not many conversations on that list yet!)

Upcoming Events
  • Photo Metadata Conference 2024 - open to the public

    7 May 2024
  • IPTC Autumn Meeting 2024 - for IPTC members

    30 September - 2 October, 2024
  • IPTC Spring Meeting 2025 - for IPTC members

    Western Europe (location to be confirmed) and online
    April - May 2024 (date to be confirmed)
Latest News

Last week, the IPTC Spring Meeting 2024 brought media industry experts together for three days in New York City to discuss many topics including AI, archives and authenticity. Hosted by both The New York Times and Associated Press, over 50 attendees from 14 countries participated in person, with another 30+ delegates attending online. As usual, […]