BDRC's Access Policies

The core access guidelines for Buddhist Digital Resource Center were developed by E. Gene Smith. The Board of Directors made clarifications in 2012, and further clarifications were made in 2014 and 2019 after review by Harvard University Copyright Advisor, Kyle Courtney.


BDRC's license and access policy serves two distinct purposes:


1. It maximizes access to cultural works to sustain the living traditions.
2. It protects the legal and cultural rights of authors and publishers.


Where these purposes may conflict, BDRC respects the rights of authors and publishers, including upholding copyright law as it pertains to some of the works in BDRC's archive. BDRC does not own the copyright for any of the texts in our archive and therefore cannot waive copyright (copyright refers to the legal ownership of the work). However, a significant portion of the texts in the BDRC archive reside in the public domain and are openly accessible. We recognize that the Buddhist canon and other scriptures belong to the cultures that produced them and strive to make these texts as freely available as we are legally allowed to. BDRC shares certain copyrighted materials with the public on a limited basis under the doctrine of fair use.


BDRC allows registered users to freely download full PDFs of open access works from the BUDA platform. You can create an account for free.


If you do not have an account, or are not logged into an account, access is limited to the first 20 and last 20 pages of a work. If you need help with registration or have a question about your account, please contact support at

Open Access

BDRC distributes some works in the Public Domain. These are works that have been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law. Users are free to share and adapt them for any purpose. We ask users to credit BDRC where possible.

Restricted Access

Limited Access Due to Copyright

BDRC restricts access to copyrighted works and only provides sample images for such works. BDRC cannot grant or deny requests to publish materials that are under copyright by a third party.

Sealed Texts

BDRC restricts access to some works because of the nature of their content and out of respect for cultural traditions. The holders of the traditions request these restrictions.

Poor Quality Materials

BDRC restricts some texts in cases where the scanned source is of poor quality or incomplete. BDRC reserves the right to restrict access to these works and may direct users to a better quality edition.

Other Restrictions

BDRC restricts or embargoes some texts at its discretion for whatever purpose BDRC deems necessary.


Typical Cases

Scanned manuscripts and woodblock prints: original sources dating from the 8th century from India, China, Bhutan, Nepal, etc.


Explanation: These works are in the public domain.


Open Access

Type of work

Scanned facsimile editions of original manuscripts and woodblock prints dating from the 8th century: original sources that appear as phototypeset facsimile volumes, but with newly composed front and back matter. For example, facsimile editions made in New Delhi in the 1980s acquired by Gene Smith while working for the Library of Congress.


Explanation: The newly composed front and back matter of these works can be under copyright protection, but the body contained in these works is not under copyright. We remove the front and back matter during our scanning and archiving process and remove the copyright designation.


Open Access

Type of work

Scanned reprints of original manuscript and woodblock prints dating from the 8th century: works that appear as newly published volumes (either bound or in traditional pecha format), but are input electronically from original sources.


Explanation: Portions of these works are under copyright protection and therefore BDRC restricts these works to respect the rights of the copyright holders.


Restricted Access

Type of work

OCR-generated and computer input texts: electronic full-text files of any of the above that come from optical character recognition (OCR) or manual input.


Explanation: Access to these resources are determined on a case-by-case basis.


Open or Restricted Access


The Life of Milarepa and the Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, W1CZ1988, is an old edition of a Tibetan classic. It is in the public domain, and not otherwise restricted. BDRC provides all the images with no restrictions, for free.


Tibetan to Sanskrit Dictionary, W1KG4919, has been compiled recently and is thus under copyright. It is not otherwise restricted, and BDRC only provides limited access.


The Secret Heart Essence—A Compendium of Pith Instructions on Mahākāla, W1CZ1073, is a text that is traditionally not made available to those who have not received a particular transmission. It is in the public domain, but we completely block any access to it, except from specific accounts.

A Compilation of Dunhuang Manuscripts, W8LS20272, is a recently printed edition of some old Dunhuang texts from the first millennium CE. Although the text itself (which constitutes most of the work) is in the public domain, the front and back matter (preface, table of contents, images, etc.) are under copyright. We treat the whole work as if it is under copyright, and only provide limited access.