Rights Expression Language

What Does Rights Expression Language Mean?

Rights Expression Language (REL) is a machine readable language used in digital rights management (DRM). REL supports consistency and reliability among different systems and services and guarantees end-to-end interoperability, which allows different systems to work together.


REL’s main function is defining licenses, meaning to define permission and restrictions with regard to document content usage.

Techopedia Explains Rights Expression Language

REL features the flexibility to support multiple business models, richness and extensibility for DRM. It facilitates the identification and association of digital rights to digital content. Most RELs are expressed in XML, but any format may be used, including simple text.

RELs are usually embedded as metadata (data, such as creation date, language used and tools used to create media) in documents like MP3 audio, downloaded video or e-books.

Examples of notable RELs include Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL), Creative Commons REL (CC REL), and Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG-21). A common online REL is the General Free Documentation License (GDFL), which gives users free permission to copy and distribute a work that is often subject to copyleft – the opposite of copyright.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…