Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Studies on and tools for accessing the public domain

Aurelia J. Schultz and Joe Merante, WIPO, CC, and Nurturing the Public Domain, Creative Commons, August 10, 2009.

For the past year, Creative Commons has been working on tools to help increase access to works in the public domain. Often, it is not clear whether a work has entered the public domain or is still covered by copyright protection. This lack of clarity can cause a lot of problems, and Creative Commons is not the only one concerned about the issue.

For example, WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization) has begun research on tools for increasing access to the public domain, which relates to what we do at CC in several ways. Part of the WIPO research includes a comparative Scoping Study that will look at different countries’ legislation to see how how the public domain is defined and how public domain works are located. ...

Also of interest to our work at CC is WIPO’s expansion of a previous survey that takes an in-depth look at how deposits work as counterparts to a copyright registration system. One effect of registration, especially with a deposit requirement, is that it helps accrue a central collection location of works. These collections then contain copies of the works as well as relevant information necessary to make a determination of whether or not a work is in the public domain. ...

Furthermore, finding information about non-registered or non-deposited works can be very difficult. For this reason, Creative Commons has begun building tools to identify, tag, and increase access to public domain works. Two of these tools, CC0 and the Public Domain Certification Tool, are already in existence and available for your use. A third, the Public Domain Assertion Tool, is on its way.

CC0 allows a copyright owner to waive rights in a work, effectively placing it as close as possible to being in the public domain. Finding works placed in the public domain through the CC0 waiver is easy, because CC0 is machine-readable just like the CC licenses. Our Public Domain Certification Tool can currently be used to indicate that a particular work is already in the public domain. But we are also working on a more robust version of this tool called the Public Domain Assertion tool. This tool will allow anyone to indicate facts about a particular digital instance of a work, giving individuals and institutions a way to participate in making our cultural heritage more user-friendly.

The tool’s output will link to relevant facts and a human-readable deed to assist users in deciding whether a work is in the public domain, and thus available for use without copyright restriction in one or more jurisdictions. ...