The Public Domain Manifesto

Written By: - Date published: 7:42 pm, January 29th, 2010 - 8 comments
Categories: interweb - Tags: ,

The public domain, as we understand it, is the wealth of information that is free from the barriers to access or reuse usually associated with copyright protection, either because it is free from any copyright protection or because the right holders have decided to remove these barriers. It is the raw material from which new knowledge is derived and new cultural works are created.

After decades of measures that have drastically reduced the public domain, typically by extending the terms of protection, it is time to strongly reaffirm how much our societies and economies rely on a vibrant and ever expanding public domain. The role of the public domain, in fact, already crucial in the past, it is even more important today, as the Internet and digital technologies enable us to access, use and re-distribute culture with an ease and a power unforeseeable even just a generation ago. The Public Domain Manifesto aims at reminding citizens and policy-makers of a common wealth that, since it belongs to all, it is often defended by no-one. In a time where we for the first time in history have the tools to enable direct access to most of our shared culture and knowledge it is important that policy makers and citizens strengthen the legal concept that enables free and unrestricted access and reuse.

Sound good to you? Go sign it!

8 comments on “The Public Domain Manifesto”

  1. gomango 1

    interesting – but its a bit wooly.

    What are current copyright periods? Kind of hard to agree to “The term of copyright protection should be reduced.” without knowing what it is to start with or agreeing what a fair period is. There has to be some balance between the public domain and the abilty of the artist/author/inventor to make some money from their effort.

    I also disagree with “most of our shared culture and knowledge is locked away behind copyright and technical restrictions.” Unless it’s re-worded as “most of our shared culture and knowledge requires payment to access”.

    I’m sympathetic to the idea of a robust public domain but lets be honest – most technological advances occur because of the profit motive. Take away the ability for individuals or companies to profit from their effort and they wont make the effort. Imagine a world without books, music, medicine, technology. It’s called North Korea.

    The internet has a pernicious effect in that we expect to get information for free now. Why? Creating that information is someones day job.

    • felix 1.1

      I tend to agree. Very vague.

    • Noko 1.2

      This myth of “reduce the copyright terms and people will stop producing” is rubbish. Original intellectual property law was actually based around patents, and reducing the secrecy behind trade guilds and the knowledge that often died with them because they were afraid they’d lose their profit if they divulged that information, and patents gave them a 20 year monopoly on production via the method. Imho, this is the only intellectual property law that’s still working like it should be, and it’s the one that hasn’t had the terms increased drastically from periods of about 20 years, to life plus 75. Think about how ridiculous that is.

      Copyrights are meant to balance the opportunity of the creator to make money off their work, and the publics interest to see everything in the public domain. Right now, this balance is fully manipulated by massive lobbying groups like the RIAA (and the RIANZ in Godzone) who make far more off the artists they “help” than the artists will ever see of their own money. Artists are ripped off, the public is ripped off and some more big businesses (like Sony, EMI, Universal and Warner) make more money than they’d ever need by taking advantage of this.

      • felix 1.2.1

        Blah blah blah. Railing against RIANZ and the like is a complete red herring.

        The fact that some companies in the field are somewhat exploitative of artists and creatives (and I suspect I have more first hand experience of such practices than you) has nothing to do with the validity or otherwise of the various copyrights which apply.

        • Noko 1.2.1.1

          Blah blah blah

          Great argument.
          I didn’t say copyright law should be reformed because it’s used to exploit people (though if you don’t think that’s a good reason to change legislature, you’ve got something very wrong with you), I said that these lobby groups have skewed it in favour of their own interests rather than the interests of everybody else. There’s something wrong with that.

          • felix 1.2.1.1.1

            You are conflating two issues:

            1. The validity of copyright laws
            2. The exploitation of artists

            The second does not derive from the first.

            • Noko 1.2.1.1.1.1

              The second is intrinsically entangled with the first.
              However, you don’t think current copyright law is skewed in favour of the big corporates instead of the actual producers and public?

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