The Public Domain Manifesto

The COMMUNIA project has published The Public Domain Manifesto. I reproduce the preamble:

“Le livre, comme livre, appartient à l’auteur, mais comme pensée, il appartient—le mot n’est pas trop vaste—au genre humain. Toutes les intelligences y ont droit. Si l’un des deux droits, le droit de l’écrivain et le droit de l’esprit humain, devait être sacrifié, ce serait, certes, le droit de l’écrivain, car l’intérêt public est notre préoccupation unique, et tous, je le déclare, doivent passer avant nous.” (Victor Hugo, Discours d’ouverture du Congrès littéraire international de 1878, 1878)

“Our markets, our democracy, our science, our traditions of free speech, and our art all depend more heavily on a Public Domain of freely available material than they do on the informational material that is covered by property rights. The Public Domain is not some gummy residue left behind when all the good stuff has been covered by property law. The Public Domain is the place we  quarry the building blocks of our culture. It is, in fact, the majority of our culture.” (James Boyle, The Public Domain, p.40f, 2008)

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 basis of our self-understanding as expressed by our shared knowledge and culture. It is the raw material from which new knowledge is derived and new cultural works are created. The Public Domain acts as a protective mechanism that ensures that this raw material is available at its cost of reproduction – close to zero – and that all members of society can build upon it. Having a healthy and thriving Public Domain is essential to the social and economic well-being of our societies. The Public Domain plays a capital role in the fields of education, science, cultural heritage and public sector information. A healthy and thriving Public Domain is one of the prerequisites for ensuring that the principles of Article 27 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (‘Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.’) can be enjoyed by everyone around the world.

The digital networked information society has brought the issue of the Public Domain to the foreground of copyright discussions. In order to preserve and strengthen the Public Domain we need a robust and up-to-date understanding of the nature and role of this essential resource. This Public Domain Manifesto defines the Public Domain and outlines the necessary principles and guidelines for a healthy Public Domain at the beginning of the 21st century. The Public Domain is considered here in its relation to copyright law, to the exclusion of other intellectual property rights (like patents and trademarks), and where  copyright law is to be understood in its broadest sense to include economic and moral rights under copyright and related rights (inclusive of neighboring rights and database rights). In the remainder of this document copyright is therefore used as a catch-all term for these rights. Moreover, the term ‘works’ includes all subject-matter protected by copyright so defined, thus including databases, performances and recordings. Likewise, the term ‘authors’ includes photographers, producers, broadcasters, painters and performers.”

I encourage you to read it and sign it.

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