The idea of a public domain is something we Americans often take for granted. We shouldn’t. The trend of copyright law, not to mention trade “agreements” has put the public domain under attack, and even in an optimistic mood one cannot help but wonder whether it will disappear entirely within one’s own lifetime. Considering nothing currently under copyright will expire by law until 2019 at the earliest, and that the Mickey Mouse Curve is still very much in effect, a bit of skepticism is warranted.
Yet there are immense advantages to a public domain of knowledge, especially when that knowledge is made available in the digital realm.
The Digital Public Domain: Foundations for an Open Culture 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, whether literature, music, 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.