Old Release

This documentation relates to an old version of DSpace, version 6.x. Looking for another version? See all documentation.

Support for DSpace 6 ended on July 1, 2023.  See Support for DSpace 5 and 6 is ending in 2023

What is an Embargo?

An embargo is a temporary access restriction placed on metadata or bitstreams (i.e. files). Its scope or duration may vary, but the fact that it eventually expires is what distinguishes it from other content restrictions. For example, it is not unusual for content destined for DSpace to come with permanent restrictions on use or access based on license-driven or other IP-based requirements that limit access to institutionally affiliated users. Restrictions such as these are imposed and managed using standard administrative tools in DSpace, typically by attaching specific access policies (or "resource policies") to Items, Collections, Bitstreams, etc.

Embargo functionality was originally introduced as part of DSpace 1.6, enabling embargoes on the level of items that applied to all bitstreams included in the item. Since DSpace 3.0, this functionality has been extended to the Submission User Interface, enabling embargoes on the level of individual bitstreams.

DSpace Embargo Functionality

Embargoes can be applied per item (including metadata) and per bitstream (i.e. file). The item level embargo will be the default for every bitstream, although it could be customized at bitstream level.

When an embargo is set on either an item level or a bitstream level, a new ResourcePolicy (i.e. access policy) is added to the corresponding Item or Bitstream. This ResourcePolicy will automatically control the lifting of the embargo (when the embargo date passes). An embargo lift date is generally stored as the "start date" of such a policy. This means that the access rights defined in the policy do not get applied until after that date passes (and prior to that date, the access rights will default to Admin only).

The scheduled, manual "embargo-lifter" commands (used prior to DSpace 3) are no longer necessary and not recommended to run.

Managing Embargoes on existing Items

Administrators are able to change the lift date of any embargo by editing the authorization policy (ResourcePolicy) on the object. These authorization policies can be managed from the Edit Item screen by clicking on "Authorizations".

  • To add an embargo, edit the appropriate policy and set a "start date". To add an full Item embargo (including metadata), edit the Item policy. To embargo individual bitstreams, edit the appropriate Bitstream policy.

  • To remove an embargo, edit the appropriate policy, and clear out the "start date".
  • To change an embargo, edit the appropriate policy, and change the "start date" to a new date.

Changes to the embargo should take effect immediately. However, as Administrators have full access to embargoed items, you may need to log out first. After logging out, you will be subject to the embargo.

Configuring and using Embargo in DSpace Submission User Interface


The following sections describe the steps needed to configure and use Embargo functionality in the DSpace Submission User Interface.

As a DSpace administrator, you may choose to integrate either Simple or Advanced Embargo as part of the item submission process in the user interface. These are outlined in detail in the sections Simple Embargo Settings and Advanced Embargo Settings.

This preference is stored in the dspace.cfg value webui.submission.restrictstep.enableAdvancedForm.  If not set, the default is for Simple Embargo.

On the level of an individual item, a new Private/Public state has been introduced to control the visibility of item metadata in the different indexes serving the DSpace web interface (search, browse, discovery), as well as machine interfaces (REST-API, OAI-PMH, …)

Configuring the Embargo UI

As already mentioned the user will be given the opportunity to choose between:

To switch between the two, you need to set following variable in the dspace.cfg file (or your local.cfg, see Configuration Reference). A value of false (the default) enables the Simple settings while a value of true enables the Advanced settings.


Configuration name changed

Please note that the configuration parameter name was changed in DSpace 4.0 from xmlui.submission.restrictstep.enableAdvancedForm to webui.submission.restrictstep.enableAdvancedForm

Submission Process


To enable the embargo, changes are required to the item-submission.xml file, located in your [dspace]/config/ directory. This file determines which steps are executed in the submission of a new item (see also Submission User Interface).

Two new submission steps have been introduced in the file. By default, they are not activated:

  • AccessStep: the step in which the user can set the embargo at item level, effectively restricting access to the item metadata.
  • UploadWithEmbargoStep: the step in which the user can set the embargo at bitstream level. If this step is enabled, the old UploadStep must be disabled.  Leaving both steps enabled will result in a system failure.

Here is an extract from the new file:

<!--Step 3 will be to Manage Item access.

<!-- Step 4 Upload Item with Embargo Features (not supported in JSPUI)
            to enable this step, please make sure to comment-out the previous step "UploadStep"

To enable the new Embargo, ensure that the new steps are uncommented and the old UploadStep is commented out.

Simple Embargo Settings

Using the simple embargo settings, submitters will be able to define embargoes bound to specific dates, that are applied to all anonymous and default read access. To keep the interface simple, options to apply embargoes for particular groups of DSpace users are not shown. The simple embargo settings interface assumes that embargoes always start immediately upon submission, so only end dates are configurable.


The simple AccessStep Embargo form renders three options for the user:

  • Private item: to hide an item's metadata from all search and browse indexes, as well as external interfaces such as OAI-PMH.
  • Embargo Access until Specific Date: to indicate a date until which the item will be embargoed.
  • Reason: to elaborate on the specific reason why an item is under embargo.

When Embargo is set, it applies to Anonymous or to any other Group that is indicated to have default read access for that specific collection.

This shows how the Access step is rendered, using the simple embargo settings:


The simple UploadWithEmbargoStep form renders two new fields for the user:

  • Embargo Access until Specific Date: to indicate a date until which the bitstream will be embargoed. When left empty, no embargo will be applied.
  • Reason: to elaborate on the specific reason why the bitstream is under embargo.

These fields will be preloaded with the values set in the AccessStep.

The following picture shows the form for the Upload step, rendered using the simple embargo settings with preloaded values:

Advanced Embargo Settings

The Advanced Embargo settings are really designed with a submitter in mind who is aware of user groups in DSpace and has understanding of how Resource Policies work.


The Advanced AccessStep Embargo step allows the users to manage more fine-grained resource policies to attach to the item.

The form will render the following fields:

  • Policies List: list of the custom policies already added.
  • Private Item: whether to hide an item's metadata from all search and browse indexes, as well as external interfaces such as OAI-PMH.
  • Name: to give a name to the policy.
  • Groups: to indicate the user groups to which the policy will apply.
  • Visible/Embargoed: whether the Item will be visible or embargoed for that specific group.
  • Embargo Access until Specific Date: to indicate a date until which the item will be embargoed.
  • Reason: to elaborate on the specific reason why the policy is applied.

The last two fields will be enabled only when Embargoed has been selected.

This step gives the opportunity to the user to manage the policy manually, so that combinations such as the following will be possible:

  • Set Embargo for Anonymous
  • Set Embargo for anyone, except for the users belonging to a specific group
  • Set Embargo for specific groups, but not for other groups ...

Here is a screenshot of the Access step form that will be rendered for the advanced embargo settings:


UploadWithEmbargoStep for Advanced Embargo settings displays an additional Policies button next to Edit in the list of uploaded files.
Clicking it brings you to the a page where you can edit existing policies on the bitstream and add new ones.

When the button is pushed, a form similar to the one in the AccessStep will be rendered, making it possible to manage the policies at bitstream level.

Restrict list of displayed groups to specific (sub)groups

For large instances of DSpace, the list of Groups can be quite long. Groups can be nested. This means that not only EPersons can be members of groups, but groups themselves can belong to other groups.

When advanced embargo settings are enabled, you can limit the list of groups displayed to the submitters to subgroups of a particular group.

To use this feature, assign the super group name to following configuration value in dspace.cfg:


Configuration name changed

Please note that the configuration parameter name has been changed in DSpace 4.0 from xmlui.submission.restrictstep.groups to webui.submission.restrictstep.groups

Once a specific group is configured as supergroup here, only the groups belonging to the indicated group will be loaded in the selection dialogs. By default, all groups are loaded.

Private/Public Item

It is also possible to adjust the Private/Public state of an item after it has been archived in the repository.

Here is a screenshot showing the updated Edit Item dialog:

Private items are not retrievable through the DSpace search, browse or Discovery indexes.

Therefor, an admin-only view has been created to browse all private items. Here is a screenshot of this new form:

Pre-3.0 Embargo Migration Routine

If you have just upgraded from a DSpace 1.x.x version, any embargoes that are currently "in effect" will need to be migrated into ResourcePolicies. Prior to 3.0, embargoes in DSpace were managed entirely in metadata fields (and required running a scheduled "embargo-lifter" command).  However, DSpace now stores all embargo information directly on ResourcePolicies (i.e. "access policies").  These ResourcePolicies automatically "lift" an embargo after the embargo date passes.

In order to migrate old embargoes into ResourcePolicies, a migration routine has been developed.  Please note that this migration routine should only need to be run ONCE (immediately after an upgrade from 1.x.x to a more recent version of DSpace).  After that point, any newly defined embargoes will automatically be stored on ResourcePolicies.

To execute it, run the following command:

[dspace]/bin/dspace migrate-embargo -a

Technical Specifications


The following sections illustrate the technical changes that have been made to the back-end to add the new Advanced Embargo functionality.


When an embargo is set at item level or bitstream level, a new ResourcePolicy will be added.

Three new attributes have been introduced in the ResourcePolicy class:

  • rpname: resource policy name
  • rptype: resource policy type
  • rpdescription: resource policy description

While rpname and rpdescription are fields manageable by users, the rptype is managed by DSpace itself. It represents a type that a resource policy can assume, among the following:

  • TYPE_SUBMISSION: all the policies added automatically during the submission process
  • TYPE_WORKFLOW: all the policies added automatically during the workflow stage
  • TYPE_CUSTOM: all the custom policies added by users
  • TYPE_INHERITED: all the policies inherited from the enclosing object (for Item, a Collection; for Bitstream, an Item).

Here is an example of all information contained in a single policy record:

policy_id: 4847
resource_type_id: 2
resource_id: 89
action_id: 0
epersongroup_id: 0
start_date: 2013-01-01
rpname: Embargo Policy
rpdescription:  Embargoed through 2012


To manage Private/Public state a new boolean attribute has been added to the Item:

  • isDiscoverable

When an Item is private, the attribute will assume the value false.

Item.inheritCollectionDefaultPolicies(Collection c)

This method has been adjusted to leave custom policies, added by the users, in place and add the default collection policies only if there are no custom policies.


Some methods have been changed on AuthorizeManager to manage the new fields and some convenience methods have been introduced:

public static List<ResourcePolicy> findPoliciesByDSOAndType(Context c, DSpaceObject o, String type);
public static void removeAllPoliciesByDSOAndTypeNotEqualsTo(Context c, DSpaceObject o, String type);
public static boolean isAnIdenticalPolicyAlreadyInPlace(Context c, DSpaceObject o, ResourcePolicy rp);
public static ResourcePolicy createOrModifyPolicy(ResourcePolicy policy, Context context, String name, int idGroup, EPerson ePerson, Date embargoDate, int action, String reason, DSpaceObject dso);

Withdraw Item

The feature to withdraw an item from the repository has been modified to keep all the custom policies in place.

Reinstate Item

The feature to reinstate an item in the repository has been modified to preserve existing custom policies.

Pre-DSpace 3.0 Embargo Compatibility

The Pre-DSpace 3.0 embargo functionality (see below) has been modified to adjust the policies setter and lifter. These classes now also set the dates within the policy objects themselves in addition to setting the date in the item metadata.

Creating Embargoes via Metadata


Prior to DSpace 3.0, all DSpace embargoes were stored as metadata.  While embargoes are no longer stored permanently in metadata fields (they are now stored on ResourcePolicies, i.e. access policies), embargoes can still be initialized via metadata fields.  

This ability to create/initialize embargoes via metadata is extremely powerful if you wish to submit embargoed content via electronic means (such as Importing Items via Simple Archive FormatSWORDv1SWORDv2, etc).

Setting Embargo terms via metadata

Functionally, the embargo system allows you to attach "terms" to an item before it is placed into the repository, which express how the embargo should be applied. What do we mean by "terms" here? They are really any expression that the system is capable of turning into (1) the time the embargo expires, and (2) a concrete set of access restrictions. Some examples:

"2020-09-12" - an absolute date (i.e. the date embargo will be lifted)
"6 months" - a time relative to when the item is accessioned
"forever" - an indefinite, or open-ended embargo
"local only until 2015" - both a time and an exception (public has no access until 2015, local users OK immediately)
"Nature Publishing Group standard" - look-up to a policy somewhere (typically 6 months)

These terms are interpreted by the embargo system to yield a specific date on which the embargo can be removed (or "lifted"), and a specific set of access policies. Obviously, some terms are easier to interpret than others (the absolute date really requires none at all), and the default embargo logic understands only the most basic terms (the first and third examples above). But as we will see below, the embargo system provides you with the ability to add your own interpreters to cope with any terms expressions you wish to have. This date that is the result of the interpretation is stored with the item.  The embargo system detects when that date has passed, and removes the embargo ("lifts it"), so the item bitstreams become available. Here is a more detailed life-cycle for an embargoed item:

Terms assignment

The first step in placing an embargo on an item is to attach (assign) "terms" to it.  If these terms are missing, no embargo will be imposed. As we will see below, terms are carried in a configurable DSpace metadata field, so assigning terms just means assigning a value to a metadata field. This can be done in a web submission user interface form, in a SWORD deposit package, a batch import, etc. - anywhere metadata is passed to DSpace. The terms are not immediately acted upon, and may be revised, corrected, removed, etc, up until the next stage of the life-cycle. Thus a submitter could enter one value, and a collection editor replace it, and only the last value will be used. Since metadata fields are multivalued, theoretically there can be multiple terms values, but in the default implementation only one is recognized.

Terms interpretation/imposition

In DSpace terminology, when an Item has exited the last of any workflow steps (or if none have been defined for it), it is said to be "installed" into the repository. At this precise time, the interpretation of the terms occurs, and a computed "lift date" is assigned, and recorded as part of the ResourcePolicy (aka policy) of the Item. Once the lift date has been assigned to the ResourcePolicy, the metadata field which defined the embargo is cleared.  From that point forward, all embargo information is controlled/defined by the ResourcePolicy.

It is important to understand that this interpretation happens only once, (just like the installation). Therefore, updating/changing an embargo cannot be done via metadata fields. Instead, all embargo updates must be made to the ResourcePolicies themselves (e.g. ResourcePolicies can be managed from the Admin UI in the Edit Item screens).

Also note that since these policy changes occur before installation, there is no time during which embargoed content is "exposed" (accessible by non-administrators). The terms interpretation and imposition together are called "setting" the embargo, and the component that performs them both is called the embargo "setter".

Embargo period

After an embargoed item has been installed, the policy restrictions remain in effect until the embargo date passes.  Once the embargo date passes, the policy restrictions are automatically lifted.  An embargo lift date is generally stored as the "start date" of a policy. Essentially, this means that the policy does not get applied until after that date passes (and prior to that date, the object defaults to Admin only access).

Administrators are able to change the lift date of the embargo by editing the policy (ResourcePolicy). These policies can be managed from the Edit Item screens.

Configuration of metadata fields

DSpace embargoes utilize standard metadata fields to hold both the "terms" and the "lift date". Which fields you use are configurable, and no specific metadata element is dedicated or pre-defined for use in embargo. Rather, you must specify exactly what field you want the embargo system to examine when it needs to find the terms or assign the lift date.

The properties that specify these assignments live in dspace.cfg:

# DC metadata field to hold the user-supplied embargo terms
embargo.field.terms = SCHEMA.ELEMENT.QUALIFIER

# DC metadata field to hold computed "lift date" of embargo
embargo.field.lift = SCHEMA.ELEMENT.QUALIFIER

You replace the placeholder values with real metadata field names. If you only need the "default" embargo behavior - which essentially accepts only absolute dates as "terms" - this is the only configuration required, except as noted below.

There is also a property for the special date of "forever":

# string in terms field to indicate indefinite embargo
embargo.terms.open = forever

which you may change to suit linguistic or other preference.

You are free to use existing metadata fields, or create new fields. If you choose the latter, you must understand that the embargo system does not create or configure these fields: i.e. you must follow all the standard documented procedures for actually creating them (i.e. adding them to the metadata registry, or to display templates, etc) - this does not happen automatically. Likewise, if you want the field for "terms" to appear in submission screens and workflows, you must follow the documented procedure for configurable submission (basically, this means adding the field to input-forms.xml). The flexibility of metadata configuration makes if easy for you to restrict embargoes to specific collections, since configurable submission can be defined per collection.

Key recommendations:

  1. Use a local metadata schema. Breaking compliance with the standard Dublin Core in the default metadata registry can create a problem for the portability of data to/from of your repository.
  2. If using existing metadata fields, avoid any that are automatically managed by DSpace. For example, fields like "date.issued" or "date.accessioned" are normally automatically assigned, and thus must not be recruited for embargo use.
  3. Do not place the field for "lift date" in submission screens. This can potentially confuse submitters because they may feel that they can directly assign values to it. As noted in the life-cycle above, this is erroneous: the lift date gets assigned by the embargo system based on the terms. Any pre-existing value will be over-written. But see next recommendation for an exception.
  4. As the life-cycle discussion above makes clear, after the terms are applied, that field is no longer actionable in the embargo system. Conversely, the "lift date" field is not actionable until the application. Thus you may want to consider configuring both the "terms" and "lift date" to use the same metadata field. In this way, during workflow you would see only the terms, and after item installation, only the lift date. If you wish the metadata to retain the terms for any reason, use 2 distinct fields instead.


After the fields defined for terms and lift date have been assigned in dspace.cfg, and created and configured wherever they will be used, you can begin to embargo items simply by entering data (dates, if using the default setter) in the terms field. They will automatically be embargoed as they exit workflow, and that the computed lift date will be stored on the ResourcePolicy

Extending embargo functionality

The embargo system supplies a default "interpreter/imposition" class (the "Setter") .


The default setter recognizes only two expressions of terms: either a literal, non-relative date in the fixed format "yyyy-mm-dd" (known as ISO 8601), or a special string used for open-ended embargo (the default configured value for this is "forever", but this can be changed in dspace.cfg to "toujours", "unendlich", etc). It will perform a minimal sanity check that the date is not in the past. Similarly, the default setter will only remove all read policies as noted above, rather than applying more nuanced rules (e.g allow access to certain IP groups, deny the rest). Fortunately, the setter class itself is configurable and you can "plug in" any behavior you like, provided it is written in java and conforms to the setter interface. The dspace.cfg property:

# implementation of embargo setter plugin - replace with local implementation if applicable
plugin.single.org.dspace.embargo.EmbargoSetter = org.dspace.embargo.DefaultEmbargoSetter

controls which setter to use.


DEPRECATED: The Lifter is no longer used in the DSpace API, and is not recommended to utilize. Embargo lift dates are now stored on ResourcePolicies and, as such, are "lifted" automatically when the embargo date passes. Manually running a "lifter" may bypass this automatic functionality and result in unexpected results.

The default lifter behavior as described above - essentially applying the collection policy rules to the item - might also not be sufficient for all purposes. It also can be replaced with another class:

implementation of embargo lifter plugin - - replace with local implementation if applicable
plugin.single.org.dspace.embargo.EmbargoLifter = org.dspace.embargo.DefaultEmbargoLifter