“The Public Domain is not some gummy residue left behind when all the good stuff has been covered by property law,” wrote Duke University professor of law James Boyle in 2008. “The Public Domain is the place we quarry the building blocks of our culture. It is, in fact, the majority of our culture.”
These words make up the preamble to The Public Domain Manifesto, the collaborative work of scholars, activists, and other citizens concerned about the international trend towards increasingly strict and punitive copyright laws. Initial signers of the manifesto include organizations like Creative Commons and the Open Knowledge Foundation.
More from the manifesto:
The Public Domain as aspired to in this Manifesto is defined as cultural material that can be used without restriction, absent copyright protection. In addition to works that are formally in the public domain, there are also lots of valuable works that individuals have voluntarily shared under generous terms creating a privately constructed commons that functions in many ways like the public domain. Moreover, individuals can also make use of many protected works through exceptions and limitations to copyright, fair use and fair dealing. All of these sources that allow for increased access to our culture and heritage are important and all need to be actively maintained in order for society to reap the full benefit of our shared knowledge and culture.