A system for controlling use and distribution of digital works, in which the owner of a digital work (101) attaches usage rights (102) to that work. Usage rights are granted by the "owner" of a digital work to "buyers" of the digital work. The usage rights define how a digital work may be used and further distributed by the buyer. Each right has associated with it certain optional specifications which outline the conditions and fees upon which the right may be exercised. Digital works are stored in a repository. A repository will process each request (103,104) to access a digital work by examining the corresponding usage rights (105). Digital work playback devices, coupled to the repository containing the work, are used to play, display or print the work.; Access to digital works for the purposes of transporting between repositories (e.g. copying, borrowing or transfer) is carried out using a digital work transport protocol. Access to digital works for the purposes of replay by a digital work playback device(e.g. printing, displaying or executing) is carried out using a digital work playback protocol. Access is denied (106) or granted (107) depending whether the requesting repository has the required usage rights.