Public Domain Manifesto

Paul sez,
Over the last few months a couple of academics and free culture activists working together in the Communia network have drafted a manifesto about the public domain in the digital age.

This public domain manifesto was launched yesterday and we are looking for signatures (we already have quite a lot of them).

The manifesto underlines the importance of the public domain as a shared resource and established a number of principles for the public domain in the digital age. The first principle is:

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.

Read the rest of the manifesto (and sign it!) at

The Public Domain Manifesto (Thanks, Paul!)



    This was dreamed up by folks who have never bought a book in their lives unless compelled to buy one by a teacher. They can’t remember a time when they had to save their pennies to buy the latest hit record because music has been “free” via airwaves and file sharing. They press a button and BINGO! It’s theirs.

    Can’t think of an idea for an art project? Hey, no problem. Just copy something out of a magazine. Need a cool picture but you can’t find the time to shoot it yourself? No problem! Download one from somebody’s website.

    It’s idiotic. Copyright protection was extended for many works in order to ensure that their makers got their fair share of royalties. If one feels that a copyright inhibits access, go out and BUY the #@!&#! book, record,painting,DVD, or photo. Writers, artists, musicians,photographers, songwriters and the like must be allowed to derive a profit from their intellectual property for as long as possible. If there is no protection of their intellectual property, there will be little incentive for talented people to create, and there will be even less incentive for producers and distributors to invest money in publishing and distributing intellectual property.

    I’ve written three books during the past twelve years. They continue to sell well despite the passage of time. One of the books is in its third printing. One more thing: I’m confined to a wheelchair and require regular therapy and will require it for the rest of my life (perhaps another thirty-five years). If some folks had their way, ownership of my intellectual property would enter the public domain, and my income from publishing would not be protected. Thanks.

    “The Public Domain is the rule, copyright protection is the exception.” Hey, my son needs a girlfriend. Would someone please lend him his wife for the night?

    Doesn’t sound too good, does it?

    1. There is no scarcity in the realm of information. We are using a system (capitalism) which was predicated on real scarcity to try and construct a system using the state to *create* scarcity so that this system will still work.

      The idea of using coercive government institutions to ensure scarcity where none exists is wrong headed. The appropriate solution is to figure out how we can allow this realm of productivity to grow without having to engineer authoritarian regimes to deal with it.

      “Hey, my son needs a girlfriend. Would someone please lend him his wife for the night?”

      Yes, because women are property. You my friend, are an idiot.

    2. Writers, artists, musicians,photographers, songwriters and the like must be allowed to derive a profit from their intellectual property for as long as possible.

      I’m a writer too! I write software. Do it every day, for about ten years now. I wholeheartedly agree with you, I should be paid even when I decide to do nothing for the rest of the year. Also, all my medical costs should be covered, however high compared to my income or my work’s value to society. My children should be able to profit from my work. Also, my grandchildren.

      Too bad it doesn’t work that way. Sorry Louis, life is a bitch and you have to work for your pay. Not just me, not just the mailman, not just the guy flipping your burgers and driving your bus.
      All those poor musicians that thought they had the gig of a lifetime, snorting coke off the Queen of England? It’s just a job, and it’s hard work.
      Not every writer is Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. It’s hard work there, too.
      Don’t get me started on photographers either. Now that’s a seriously tough business to get into, with every Joe and his new DSLR trying to make a buck.

      Tell me why the “creative industries” get to have special handouts and the rest of the world doesn’t? Sure, it’s a more difficult business case to make, it’s not just work for cash. Then again, I would think that the world has the concept of “investment” figured out by now.

      Let us get this thing straight: the default is that there is no protection. This is not an opinion, this is (natural) law. The exception is that creators get a limited, government granted monopoly on distributing their work. The reason for this is that it urges creators to create more, for the benefit of society.

      See? It’s simple. Especially note the “for the benefit of society” part. This makes selling your copyright to another person so completely stupid. Worse, if you die, how are you going to create more stuff? How should your children be able to live off that?

      Your last remark is so bereft of any kind of creative thinking that I fear for the contents of your books.

    3. Id have to agree with the common assessment of your logic.
      Severely lacking, narcissistic, and short-sighted.
      Of course. The people who wrote this have”never bought a book in their lives”. Seriously??
      This is very simple. It has nothing to do with trying to undermine your ability to make a living off of your work. It has everything to do with creating a common knowledge base that is not controlled by a few elitist manipulators who subjugate the masses to intellectual poverty and subservient consumerism so they can make a buck. If you could see past your own skin for a second and look at the long term…the big picture… you might not make the ridiculous assertion that people who are trying to prevent the world from becoming a giant haliburton/microsoft merger. It is quite plain in your comment that you think that reforming current patent laws is about dowloading media. In all of your examples you use “art,book,music,movie”. It has nothing to do with that. An artist has the right to make a living from what he or she has created. The problem comes from the publishing companies who try to enslave the population from being able to create works of their own without giving them a cut, or tells them that they cant use a certain phrasing because some guy somewhere wrote something similar and has a patent on it. An author should be able to make money on a book, but they should not have the power to patent word phrasing or anything else. And that is where this thing is heading. Trying to prevent that has nothing to do with borrowing someones wife.

  2. Anyone working in UK Parliament here? Could you please slip this into the folder labelled “digital economy bill”? You can use the current contents of that folder for paper mache.

    p.s. yes, he’s a troll. but I can’t resist myslef:
    “Copyright protection was extended for many works in order to ensure that their makers got their fair share of royalties.”
    Copyright protects the interests of the copyright holders. If you have a book, music or software CD at home, open it and check who that is.

  3. People who depend on copyright are the people politicians turn to for support for any given bill. The other way around also; lobby groups outnumber politicians with double digits.

    So you might wanna ask yourself; are these people trying to make their profession ready for the future, or are they trying to ensure they don have to change their ways.

    Most individuals don’t like change, but in reality, a group dynamic, or the macro form of group dynamic we find ourselves in today(capitalistic democratic society), forces change. Information sharing is good for society, in the long term. Sure for people who have worked in their respective industry change might lead to income loss or even losing a job. The flip side is that the industry as a whole will stay healthy.

    The western world decided manual labor was a thing of the past, and intellectual propriety was the future. How about all the people who lost their job because of that strategy change? For intellectual propriety to grow, we need a industry that keeps evolving.

    It is ironic how the so called free market spends so much time regulating their own understanding of “free”.

    I am just starting to embark on a future in the music/sound industry and I for one embrace a future with new perspective on copyright and propriety right.

    The question is if these initiatives will lead to change, or the market will. I put my money on the latter. In the end, we already see new start ups growing, and old corporations crumbling.
    If i was a politician I know where i’d put my vote…. unless a lobby group would pay enough to do whatever i would do when i was a politician.

  4. “Writers, artists, musicians, photographers, songwriters and the like must be allowed to derive a profit from their intellectual property for as long as possible. ”

    Does this go for plumbers as well–that is, if they fix your sink, do they keep getting paid for that act in perpetuity? Or do they have to keep working if they want to continue to make a living? If not, why are artists a special case?

  5. That manifesto would more effective if it used the word “restriction” instead of “protection”.

    The phrase “copyright protection” is a term of art, and lawyers know what it means. But to the general public — the audience for this manifesto — “protection” connotes safety, security, etc. It’s a positive term. To be fair, “restriction” is negative, but at least it’s accurate. After all, copyright protection doesn’t protect the work itself (in fact, the work is less secure with copyright restriction, since it can’t spread freely into many copies, and therefore is more vulnerable), but it does restrict the use others can make of the work.

  6. LouisBalfour, you’re making a better argument for universal health care than for copyright protection.

  7. I’m actually fine with copyright being inherited or given away or sold. I know the “intellectual property” metaphor has its limits, but I think it works well in this case. In incentive terms, “I’ll get the money from this temporary monopoly” becomes “if I die, my family will get the money from this temporary monopoly,” or whatever — it helps, not hinders, the incentive.

    This works fine as long as there’s a reasonable term limit. I like the idea of automatic protection for the first fourteen years, followed by opportunities to renew for two additional fourteen-year terms (which requires you to list your work on a centralized online registry), for a maximum of forty-two years, and no orphaned works older than fourteen. Whether enacting this would be feasible, or whether the 42-year limit could be made retroactive (now THAT would be dramatic), or whether there’d need to be a delay before the “more than 14 requires it to be registered and renewed” part kicks in, to give copyright holders time to do so…I don’t know about any of that.

Comments are closed.