Copyright Is An Exception To The Public Domain

from the a-manifesto dept

A bunch of folks have been sending in this wonderful Public Domain Manifesto, put together by Communia. It's a wonderful read, highlighting the importance and value of the public domain, and putting forth a series of general principles which appear to make a lot of sense. It also discusses other aspects of related issues, such as the importance of individuals choosing to not use copyright, as well as the value of fair use and fair dealing. The point is both to highlight how important the public domain is to a vital thriving culture, and also to point out how the public domain has been steadily eroded over the last few decades. A key point is found in the first principle, and it's to remind everyone that copyright is an exception to the public domain, not the other way around:
The Public Domain is the rule, copyright protection is the exception. Since copyright protection is granted only with respect to original forms of expression, the vast majority of data, information and ideas produced worldwide at any given time belongs to the Public Domain. In addition to information that is not eligible for protection, the Public Domain is enlarged every year by works whose term of protection expires. The combined application of the requirements for protection and the limited duration of the copyright protection contribute to the wealth of the Public Domain so as to ensure access to our shared culture and knowledge.
Unfortunately, it's rarely thought about like this. Instead, most people consider copyright to be the rule, and things like the public domain and fair use to be exceptions. This is a problem, and it impacts how people view, understand and respond to things like copyright and the public domain itself.

To be honest, I have no idea how useful something like this manifesto really will be. Very few politicians seem to understand or care about the public domain and its importance. The manifesto might not have much of an impact on its own, but as a general set of principles for people to understand and gather behind it does seem like a good thing.

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  1. icon
    chris (profile), 26 Jan 2010 @ 12:46pm


    To me it seems unfair that copyright doesn't last forever. If I were to start a business on an idea I came up with, my heirs would be able to profit from that business forever (or until it went bankrupt or was sold to someone else)

    intellectual property is a form of monopoly. monopolies are bad, government protected monopolies are doubly bad, and everlasting monopolies are also doubly bad. an everlasting government protected monopoly is bad to the power of ten.

    while having monopoly control of a creation sounds like a good thing, this control is often abused (SLAPP, DMCA takedowns) or produces unintended consequences (orphaned works). while it's important to you to be rewarded for your work, it's more important to safeguard the public domain, not to mention the individual freedoms of others.

    all works are based on the works of others, so a plentiful public domain is critical to providing the raw materials for new works.

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