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The Digital Public Domain

The Digital Public Domain: Foundations for an Open Culture

Melanie Dulong de Rosnay
Juan Carlos De Martin
Volume: 2
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Open Book Publishers
Pages: 245
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  • Book Info
    The Digital Public Domain
    Book Description:

    Digital technology has made culture more accessible than ever before. Texts, audio, pictures and video can easily be produced, disseminated, used and remixed using devices that are increasingly user-friendly and affordable. However, along with this technological democratization comes a paradoxical flipside: the norms regulating culture's use —copyright and related rights —have become increasingly restrictive. This book brings together essays by academics, librarians, entrepreneurs, activists and policy makers, who were all part of the EU-funded Communia project. Together the authors argue that the Public Domain —that is, the informational works owned by all of us, be that literature, music, the output of scientific research, educational material or public sector information —is fundamental to a healthy society. The essays range from more theoretical papers on the history of copyright and the Public Domain, to practical examples and case studies of recent projects that have engaged with the principles of Open Access and Creative Commons licensing. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in the current debate about copyright and the Internet. It opens up discussion and offers practical solutions to the difficult question of the regulation of culture at the digital age. The free PDF edition of this title was made possible by generous funding received from the European Union (eContentplus framework project ECP-2006-PSI-610001).

    eISBN: 978-1-906924-47-8
    Subjects: Law, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Charles R. Nesson

    The public domain is the sovereign space of all citizens of the world. Like the air we breathe, it is free for all people to use, without restriction, no rights reserved. Our public ownership of this domain of knowledge should be understood as a fundamental human right to access our shared knowledge, the use of which is not the result of a grant by any specific government.

    In this book, the members of Communia not only articulats this positive conception of our public domain, but also seek to make the European public domainactionable. The book defines the public domain...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Melanie Dulong de Rosnay and Juan Carlos De Martin

    In a context of extension of copyright duration and scope, the public domain is at risk, and with it, the vibrant expression of our culture and democracies. A group of academic and think-tank researchers, librarians, government representatives, museum curators, copyright and human rights activists, information technology entrepreneurs and non-profits worked between 2007 and 2011 to understand the notion of the public domain. Often lacking a positive definition, this concept has been poorly represented in the public debate. The political scene, since the expansion of the Internet in the last couple of decades, has been giving a larger space to concepts...

  6. The Public Domain Manifesto
    (pp. xix-xxvi)
  7. I. Introducing the Digital Public Domain

    • 1. Communia and the European Public Domain Project: A Politics of the Public Domain
      (pp. 3-46)
      Giancarlo Frosio

      The following chapter is an amended version of the Final Report of the Communia Network on the Digital Public Domain. The Report was undertaken (i) to review the activities of Communia; (ii) to investigate the state of the digital public domain in Europe; and (iii) to recommend policy strategies for enhancing a healthy public domain and making digital content in Europe more accessible and usable. As a result, together with the review of the definition, value and role of the public domain, the chapter will examine the challenges and bottlenecks impinging on the public domain. In addition, it will discuss...

  8. II. Legal Framework

    • 2. Consume and Share: Making Copyright Fit for the Digital Agenda
      (pp. 49-60)
      Marco Ricolfi

      As it often happens, the title of my chapter has an ambiguous ring to it. Are we trying to figure out which set of specific changes in copyright legislation would help to achieve the targets set by the specific policy document released by the EU Commission last year? Are we supposed to deal with a broad new vision of the role of copyright intended to foster the generation and dissemination of creativity in the new digital environment?¹ And are we talking about EU Directives or the Berne Convention—about the short term or medium term? Well, perhaps the two dimensions,...

    • 3. Evaluating Directive 2001/29/EC in the Light of the Digital Public Domain
      (pp. 61-80)
      Lucie Guibault

      This chapter presents an evaluation of Directive 2001/29/EC on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the digital information society.¹ The Directive entered into force on 22 June 2001,² and its objectives were twofold: (1) to adapt legislation on copyright and related rights to reflect technological developments; and (2) to transpose into community law the main international obligations arising from the two treaties on copyright and related rights adopted within the framework of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in December 1996.³ The Directive was one of the centrepieces of the original Lisbon Agenda of 2000....

    • 4. Building Digital Commons through Open Access Management of Copyright-related Rights
      (pp. 81-92)
      Giuseppe Mazziotti

      Without the intermediation of performers and producers of audio and video recordings, a huge stock of creative works which have entered the public domain after the expiration of the copyright protection term will never become available to the public in digital formats as a free resource. This chapter identifies such “free resources” as “commons”; they are a resource which anyone within the relevant community has a right to access without having to obtain anyone else’s permission.¹ There are types of creative works (for example, musical works or theatrical plays) whose effective dedication to the public domain for the benefit of...

  9. III. Developments and Case Studies

    • 5. Contractually-constructed Research Commons: A Critical Economic Appraisal
      (pp. 95-110)
      Enrico Bertacchini

      This chapter surveys the main economic issues concerning the emergence of contractually-constructed research commons, with a particular attention to the field of biological/genetic resources and biotechnologies. In the last decade there has been a growing and high-pitched debate about the expansion of exclusionary and proprietary strategies (intellectual property rights andsui generisregimes, restrictive licensing, etc) for the appropriation of the value of knowledge and information resources. The main point of contention has centred on the justification for the adoption of these strategies and how actors in this setting manage the production, dissemination and use of knowledge and information.¹ On...

    • 6. Social Motivations and Incentives in Ex Situ Conservation of Microbial Genetic Resources
      (pp. 111-124)
      Tom Dedeurwaerdere, Per M. Stromberg and Unai Pascual

      Innovation in life science depends on Public Service Microbial Collections (PSMCs) for facilitating acquisition of and access to existing microbial research materials through a worldwide network of centralised deposit and access services.¹ Microorganisms are critical to maintaining the health of other life forms that depend on them for energy recycling, nutrients and minerals, while conversely, causing infectious disease when they overlap with susceptible hosts.²

      The World Federation of Culture Collections (WFCC) is a network of over 500 public culture collections that are publicly available for research.³ It is the WRCC’s historical mission to organise the collection, authentication, maintenance and global...

    • 7. Open Knowledge: Promises and Challenges
      (pp. 125-132)
      Rufus Pollock, Jo Walsh and Open Knowledge Foundation

      “Open knowledge” is material that others are free to access, reuse and redistribute. We are just beginning to witness its great potential. Increasing the visibility and discoverability of open resources is crucial if we are to encourage innovative re-combination and reuse—hence the importance of open metadata for open knowledge. Componentization—or the atomization of a given resource into “packages”—has greatly contributed towards the ease with which software developers are able to reuse and build upon each other’s work. In this chapter, we argue that this kind of approach is becoming significantly more important in knowledge development. We will...

    • 8. Science Commons: Building the Research Web
      (pp. 133-138)
      Kaitlin Thaney

      Science Commons, a project of Creative Commons (CC), works to encourage the sharing of scientific and academic knowledge. This chapter will look at the technology and infrastructure designed and used at Science Commons to better share knowledge, an approach contextualised here as “building the research Web”, in the hope of utilising the power of current Internet technologies to accelerate scientific research.¹ There are three main tenets to consider: open access to the content; access to the physical research materials; and an open source knowledge management system.

      This approach requires redesigning information that is already digital into a format that works...

    • 9. The DRIVER Project: The Socio-economic Benefits of a European Scientific Commons
      (pp. 139-148)
      Karen Van Godtsenhoven

      The European DRIVER project (the Digital Repository Infrastructure Vision for European Research) builds a repository infrastructure combined with a search portal for open access (OA) European scientific communication. The goal is to aggregate all OA materials into one knowledge infrastructure or scientific commons, with collections, scientific communities and customized portals. For the infrastructure, the DRIVER open source software package D-NET v.1.0 ( has been developed. The DRIVER project chose to include only open access full-text materials, which means it does not retrieve reference-only materials, in order to promote the OA movement with readers and authors.

      Specific studies about copyright for...

    • 10. CC REL: The Creative Commons Rights Expression Language
      (pp. 149-188)
      Hal Abelson, Ben Adida, Mike Linksvayer and Nathan Yergler

      This chapter introduces the Creative Commons Rights Expression Language (CC REL), the standard recommended by Creative Commons (CC) for machine-readable expression of copyright licensing terms and related information.¹ CC REL and its description in this contribution supersede all previous CC recommendations for expressing licensing metadata. Like CC’s previous recommendation, CC REL is based on the World Wide Web Consortium’s Resource Description Framework (RDF).² Compared to the previous recommendation, CC REL is intended to be both easier for content creators and publishers to provide, and more convenient for user communities and tool builders to consume, extend and redistribute.³

      Formally, CC REL...

    • 11. The Value of Registering Creative Works
      (pp. 189-204)
      Roland Alton-Scheidl, Joe Benso and Martin Springer

      In this chapter we present good practices for online registration services. We will be asking the following questions: is reliable and simple registration of works the right way to improve confidentiality and trust? How could rights collecting societies benefit from such registries? What kind of governance is required to run such registries? And do they conflict with public patent laws or authorities? We will conclude with a proposal for either adapting the Digital Media Project (DMP) authority scheme or establishing registration peering and using existing namespaces.¹

      Copyright is an automatic right; works are protected by copyright across the world from...

  10. Select Bibliography of Resources Cited
    (pp. 205-220)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 221-223)