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Communia condemns the privatisation of the Public Domain by the BnF

- January 21, 2013 in Bibliographic, COMMUNIA, OKF France, Public Domain

Last week the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) concluded two new agreements with private companies to digitze over 70.000 old books, 200.000 sound recordings and other documents belonging (either partially or as a whole) to the public domain. While these public private partnerships enable the digitization of these works they also contain 10-year exclusive agreements allowing the private companies carrying out the digitization to commercialize the digitized documents. During this period only a limited number of these works may be offered online by the BnF. Together with La Quadrature du Net, Framasoft, SavoirsCom1 and the Open Knowledge Foundation France, COMMUNIA has issued a statement (in french) to express our profound disagreement with the terms of these partnerships that restrict digital access to an important part of Europe’s cultural heritage. The agreements that the BnF has entered into, effectively take the works being digitized out of the public domain for the next 10 years. The value of the public domain lies in the free dissemination of knowledge and the ability for everyone to access and create new works based on previous works. Yet, instead of taking advantage of the opportunities offered by digitization, the exclusivity of these agreements will force public bodies, such as research institutions or university libraries, to purchase digital content that belongs to the common cultural heritage. As such, these partnerships constitute a commodification of the public domain by contractual means. COMMUNIA, of which the OKFN is a partner, has been critical of such arrangements from the start (see their Public Domain Manifesto) and Policy Reccomendations 4 & 5. More interestingly these agreements are also in direct contradiction with the Public Domain Charter published by the Europeana Foundation in 2011. In this context it is interesting to note that the director of Bibliothèque nationale de France currently serves as the chairman of the Europeana Foundation’s Executive Board.

COMMUNIA statement on open access to EU funded Horizon 2020 research

- November 22, 2012 in COMMUNIA, Open Access, Policy, Public Domain, WG EU Open Data

Horizon 2020 is the EU’s proposed new programme for research and innovation, which would run from 2014 to 2020. The programme would create an “Innovation Union” with a budget of €80million, bringing together current research and innovation funding available through a number of sources. On 28th November MEPs are set to vote on the proposals, which involve 6 different pieces of legislation. It is clear that the EC’s aim of “breaking down barriers to create a genuine single market for knowledge, research and innovation” can only be met through bold steps towards open access. The COMMUNIA Association (of which the OKFN is a member) has published a policy paper entitled “Position on EC Horizon 2020 Open Access policy” in the run-up to this month’s vote, which will be circulated among MEPs. The paper is based around two of the policy recommendations produced by members of the network. The core principles are that:
  • All publicly funded research outputs and educational resources must be made available as open access materials (aligned with the Budapest Open Access Initiative).
  • Notwithstanding the need to support OA policies, access to copyright protected material for education and research purposes must be improved by strengthening existing exceptions and limitations to copyright, and broadening these exceptions to cover uses outside of formal educational and research institutions.
Based on this, COMMUNIA recommends a clear tripartite Open Access policy to be included in the Horizon 2020 plans:
  • An Open Access mandate for all publicly funded research, in line with the BOAI. This would require the use of CC-BY, CC0 or similar licensing, and should be backed up by sanctions.
  • The elimination of sui generis rights on databases, which have not demonstrated any value since their 1996 introduction.
  • Prohibition on publishing agreements which prevent authors from archiving their research in OA repositories, or ban authors bound by an institutional OA mandate.
We hope that MEPs will take note of these recommendations when it comes to voting on the proposals next week. The full policy paper is available as a PDF, and on the Communia website. If you’re interested in discussing open access policy at the Open Knowledge Foundation, you can join our open-access mailing list.

COMMUNIA Projekt veröffentlicht Abschlussbericht und Buch

- May 10, 2012 in Commons, COMMUNIA, offenes Wissen, Open Knowledge, Public Domain

Das COMMUNIA Projekt hat seinen Abschlussbericht und ein Buch veröffentlicht. Der Abschlussbericht fasst die herausragende Arbeit des thematischen Netzwerks zusammen. Er umfasst theoretische Analysen und praktische Handlungsempfehlungen zu allen Fragen rund um die Public Domain. Auswahl der Themen: Das Buch mit dem Titel “THE DIGITAL PUBLIC DOMAIN” kann hier gekauft oder gratis heruntergeladen werden. Ich empfehle die Lektüre von beiden Werken sehr! Viel Spaß beim Lesen. Die Arbeit des COMMUNIA Projekt wird heute, nach dem Auslauf der Förderung durch die EU, als zivilgesellschaftliche Organisation mit dem Namen COMMUNIA ASSOCIATION fortgesetzt.  

Open Book Publishers releases “The Digital Public Domain”

- April 24, 2012 in COMMUNIA, External, Open Access, Public Domain, WG Humanities, WG Public Domain

openbookpublishers Open Book Publishers is the first UK academic publisher to have made all its books freely available online, publishing peer-reviewed research in subjects across the Humanities and Social Sciences. They are “committed to the idea that high quality scholarship should be available to readers everywhere regardless of their income or access to university libraries”. CommuniaCover This week sees their most recent release hit the virtual shelves, The Digital Public Domain: Foundations for an Open Culture, edited by Melanie Dulong de Rosnay, co-founder and chair of Communia, and Juan Carlos De Martin. From the Press Release:
This book brings together essays by academics, librarians, entrepreneurs, activists and policy makers, who were all part of the EU-funded Communia project. Together the authors argue that the Public Domain — that is, the informational works owned by all of us, be that literature, music, the output of scientific research, educational material or public sector information — is fundamental to a healthy society.

The essays range from more theoretical papers on the history of copyright and the Public Domain, to practical examples and case studies of recent projects that have engaged with the principles of Open Access and Creative Commons licensing. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in the current debate about copyright and the Internet. It opens up discussion and offers practical solutions to the difficult question of the regulation of culture at the digital age.
Open Book Publishers argue that “One of the fundamental aims of academia is to spark thought and debate in both the academic and wider community. Open Access helps spread educational materials to everyone, globally, not just to those who can afford it. A large proportion of scholarly research is publicly funded, so it seems only reasonable that its results be made available as widely as possible.” The free PDF edition of this title was made possible by generous funding received from the European Union (eContentplus framework project ECP-2006-PSI-610001). Get your copy here, and have a browse of their other titles at

Eine Standardlizenz für Open Data in der EU?

- February 15, 2012 in COMMUNIA, Europe, LAPSI, Lizenzen, offene Daten, Open Data

Am 12. Dezember 2011 hat Neelie Kroes, Vizepräsidentin der EC hatte die Vorschläge der Europäischen Kommission zur Revision der Richtlinie 2003/98/EG vorgestellt (siehe unseren Bericht dazu). Darin findet sich unter anderem ein Absatz zu Lizenzen in dem die Einführung von “Standardlizenzen” empfohlen wird. Leider bleibt unklar, was untere einer “Standardlizenz” zu verstehen sei, ausserdem ist zu befürchten, dass die ungenaue Formulierung zur Entwicklung von dutzenden “Standardlizenzen” in Europa führen wird – jedes Land seine eigene. Das dies enorme Probleme hinsichtlich der Kompatibilität führen wird ist offensichtlich. Das wurde sehr klar herausgearbeitet und kritisiert im Policy Paper (PDF) der COMMUNIA association, das ich auf den LAPSI Konferenz ende Februar in Brüssel vorgestellt habe. Siehe dazu auch den Artikel von Timothy Volmer auf dem Wir haben angefangen ein deutsches Policy Paper zum Thema zu entwerfen, ich denke dass die wichtig ist um deutsche Behörden von der Idee abzubringen mann müsse eine Deutsche Standardlizenz für Daten des öffentlichen Sektors entwerfen. Wohin das führen kann sieht man Beispielhaft am missglückten Versuch der Geolizenzen. Wir werden das Policy Paper in den nächsten Tagen fertig stellen. Ihr seid herzlich eingeladen es zu kommentieren und zu verbessern! Nun haben spanische Open Data-Enthusiasten einen Kampagne für den Gebrauch einer Standardlizenz für Open Data in der EU gestartet, die man hier unterzeichnen kann: Aus der Übersetzung der Kampagne:
Support the establishment of a common European OpenData license within the review of the Public Sector Information re-use Directive Recently, the European Commission initiated the process of revision of the European Directive on Re-use of Public Sector Information. One of its main objectives is to provide a general authorisation to re-use to citizens and businesses who want to make use of public sector information for the creation of new services, generating economic activity and enhancing the transparency. The European Commission proposal of a revised Directive is certainly bold and extends the current framework. However, it has not defined a common European OpenData license which should by applicable to all European Public Administrations. The creation of a single public information re-use space in Europe requires much more, it requires a common European OpenData license applicable to all data generated by European public administrations. This is possible. Royal Decree 1495/2011, approved by the Government of Spain, provides an example of how a simple legal notice serves as an open data license applicable in the state public sector – this sets an easy to follow roadmap for implementation in Europe. First, define a European OpenData license compatible with the principles of information re-use without further conditions. Second, set a transitional period after which the license is associated with all information generated by the public sector in the European Union. Third, provide for the compulsory publication of such license in all public administration websites giving legal certainty to all European infomediary entrepreneurs and citizens wishing to make use of the information. Right now the European Commission and Member States are developing the new directive, it is time that WE the OpenData community get our voice heard in Europe. We ask the European Commission and the European Parliament to include a common European OpenData license and a clear deadline for adoption by all Member States in the revised Directive.

We cannot miss this golden opportunity in tapping the new gold of public sector information!

Public Domain Day: January 1st 2012

- December 13, 2011 in COMMUNIA, Events, Guest post, Public Domain, Public Domain Works, WG Public Domain

The following guest post is by Juan Carlos de Martin, from the the Politecnico of Torino, Italy, one of the organisers of the annual Public Domain Day of which the OKF is a proud supporter. Every January a growing number of people throughout the world gather to celebrate the new year. But not for the usual reasons. They meet because every January 1st the works of authors who died decades before – typically, seventy years before – enter the public domain, that is, their copyright protection expires. Why a celebration for such an apparently technical reason? Because as the new year starts, the works of those selected authors have finally reached the state to which all culture is headed since the earliest times. I am talking of the state that automatically allows any human being to sing, play, translate, summarize, adapt what other human beings have thought before them. Wish to produce a big print edition of your favorite poetry? Now you can. Fancy translating into Sicilian dialect a play you love? Now you can. Possessed by the desire to illustrate, manga style, the ideas of your preferred political scientist? Now you can. Longing to publish a more correct version of a score riddled with typos that the publisher never cared to correct? Now you can. In principle, all the above activities are perfectly possible even before the expiration of copyright. On condition, however, that one asks for permission the copyright owner (assuming that they can be located: let’s ignore here the huge problem of the so-called “orphan works”) and pays whatever is requested. Noting that very often the copyright owner is not the author (or his/her descendants), but a for-profit publishing house. Consequently, many activities do not take place because either the copyright owner does not like the idea (no manga, for instance), or because the wannabe new author cannot afford to pay what is requested by the copyright owner. Such restrictions, introduced, in their modern form, about three centuries ago to provide – for the common good – incentives to authors, now last an unprecedented seventy years (in Europe and in many other countries) after the death of the authors. A shockingly long time, which an increasing number of scholars, NGO’s and citizens are asking to reduce. To know more about the current debate on copyright reform and the role of the public domain, see for instance the Public Domain Manifesto and the brand new, Brussels-based COMMUNIA association for the digital public domain, or check out the OKF’s Working Group on the Public Domain. But as we work towards copyright reform, every January people who care about the public domain get together and welcome the works of a new batch of authors. In recent years, public domain day celebrations have taken place in cities throughout the world, from Zurich to Warsaw, from Torino to Haifa, from Rome to Berlin. The volunteer-staffed website provides an information hub for such celebrations. The celebrations typically take place in libraries, universities or cafés. People read – or sometimes perform – the work of the new authors. It is often a moving experience, as great men and women from the time of our grand (and great-grand) fathers come back to life under our affectionate gaze. During the month of January 2012 people will gather again. Celebrations have already been announced in, among other places, Warsaw, Zurich, Torino and Rome. We hope that others will follow the example. Welcoming the works of some of our great writers, musicians, painters, poets, journalists, scholars is a most gratifying way to start the new year and also a great way to enhance the knowledge of our common cultural roots. If you’re interested in organising an event in your area, you can join the pd-discuss list.

How can we promote the public domain?

- February 7, 2011 in Bibliographic, COMMUNIA, Free Culture, Public Domain, Public Domain Works, WG Public Domain, Working Groups

The following post is from Jonathan Gray, Community Coordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation. A few weeks back we ran a small workshop in Berlin for Public Domain Day 2011. It was attended by a mix of artists, scholars, legal experts, technologists, and passers by.
We started out with a general conversation in which the following kinds of questions were asked:
  • What is the public domain?
  • How do I know whether or not a given work is in the public domain?
  • I’m often interested in incorporating existing works into new designs, how can I know what I am (and what I’m not) allowed to reuse?
  • Where can I find work X, which I believe to be in the public domain?
  • Where can I find archives of video material which has entered the public domain?
We then brainstormed about the kinds of things that people were keen to do on the day, which included talking and learning more about laws and policies related to the public domain, going through archives to look for interesting works which just entered the public domain in 2011, and making things using public domain works. There was strong demand for reviewing and discussing legal and policy issues related to the public domain first, so we ran through what the public domain is, how one can determine the copyright status of a work, and work on the Public Domain Calculators. We soon decided that there was need for a clearer page with information along these lines, so we set up the following two sites: We’re going to be continuing to improve this site over the next few weeks (it will be an ongoing work in progress), so if you have any suggestions for things to add, please let us know in the comments below, or sign up to our pd-discuss list and say hello! More generally over the coming months we’re going to be spending more time on the Public Domain Calculators, on , and will be starting to have regular online meetings for people interested in the public domain. We’d also like to help to provide a more central source of information about different (open!) online sources of works which have entered the public domain. And we’re working on exposing open bibliographic metadata so we can combine this with the calculators to get a better idea of what is in the public domain in different countries. What do you think that the OKF can do to help to promote the public domain or make it easier to find and reuse public domain works? Is there anything that you think would be really useful but that hasn’t yet been done? Related posts:
  1. Launch of the Public Domain Review to celebrate Public Domain Day 2011
  2. New microshort film on the Public Domain Calculators!
  3. Public Domain Calculators Meeting, 10-11th November 2009

Cultural Heritage rights in the age of digital copyright

- December 21, 2010 in COMMUNIA, Events, Public Domain, WG Archaeology, WG Cultural Heritage, Workshop

The following guest post is from Stefano Costa at the University of Siena. Stefano is Founder of the IOSA initiative and Coordinator of the Open Knowledge Foundation‘s Working Group on Open Data in Archaeology.

On December, 10th the COMMUNIA WG3 gathered in Istanbul for the final workshop, with the aim of producing a set of recommendations about cultural heritage and the public domain.

I am not a lawyer, so I took a chance to learn about the marked differences between access rights and property rights. More than that, it became soon clear that Cultural Heritage rights (CHR) only exist in certain EU member states (e.g. Italy, Greece) while in others there are no such rights.

This poses a first set of basic problems: a Finn tourist taking a photograph of the Parthenon in Athens might actually be violating Greek CHR, especially if she’s going to publish the resulting image on the Web. Same would happen in Italy, not just inside museums but also for public buildings and panoramas. On the other hand, Portugal only listed 5 buildings that cannot be freely photographed. Apparently Finland poses no restrictions on photographing of CH, be it historical buildings or artistic creations.

CH laws were mostly conceived in a pre-digital age and even those that got recently revamped (like the Italian case) apparently ignore the ease of creating digital reproductions of CH items at no cost and with no risk of damaging the items themselves. Cultural Heritage institutions (CHI) claim quasy-property rights over the artifacts they are custodians of, thus posing serious restrictions not just to personal usage, but also to the development of public repositories like Wikimedia Commons. As the recent GLAMWIKI event at the British Museum showed, some institutions are engaging with open content creators in a positive way, claiming their role of primacy by sharing the knowledge they have, rather than closing their doors and keeping the best for themselves.

In the case of licensing, the widespread distinction between commercial and non-commercial use is really harmful and poses more problems than it solves. What is particularly frustrating is that this distinction doesn’t take into account the existance of the Commons and of the Public Domain, in other words content that can be both commercial and non-commercial at the same time. A photographer might want to publish her photographs of Archaic korai under a CC-BY-SA license, thus enabling any kind of reuse, from the incorporation into Wikimedia Commons to the publishing on a tourist guide or a textbook.

Here a further distinction is worth: most CH items are in the Public Domain themselves (because they were made several centuries ago), but the same doesn’t currently apply to their digital reproductions. If the r. is basically a mechanical operation, one might argue that no copyright should apply to the reproduction, too. Clearly, the distinction between a work that is creative and one that is not is going to be very dangerous in the case of photography and ultimately impossible (think about those monuments that are photographed thousands of times per day).

The fact that going into these subtle juridic details takes so much time and effort is, alone, a good example of the difficulties that this double layer of rights is posing.

The recommendations we collected are aimed in the direction of clearing the nature and extent of CHR, and of maximising the benefits for the Commons and the Public Domain. CHR should not be property rights but rather access rights, thus posing no limitations on subsequent copies of the first reproduction once this takes place. If there is going to be a fee for commercial use of reproductions, the process has to be easy and quick. The policy for museum visitors should be “open by default” and larger institutions (or networks) might ask digital publishers like bloggers and wikipedians to link back to the original item – even though this assumes that there’s a digital collection available on the Web. Licensing of such collections is beyond the scope of COMMUNIA, and CH is also explicitly excluded from the EU PSI directive. There was some work done by the LAPSI project at the last meeting in Barcelona about this, and the survey launched by the European Commission might help in changing this situation. Clearly, countries like Italy and Greece might see this as “selling out” one of their major assets for economic development. We believe the opposite, and tried to develop our discussion around the concept of cultural heritage as infrastructure, just like the road network or the public green, that needs to be maintained for the benefit of all citizens and the overall development of society.

CHI want to retain control over items and buildings that they often regard as “theirs”, but this need has to live together with the fact that millions of people want to share digital content about cultural heritage on the web. Ultimately, this fact should be regarded as a very positive thing, if the mission of institutions is to maximise the awareness of Cultural Heritage among the public and the impact it has on the social and economic life of EU citizens.

Cultural Heritage rights in the age of digital copyright

- December 21, 2010 in COMMUNIA, Events, Public Domain, WG Archaeology, WG Cultural Heritage, Workshop

The following guest post is from Stefano Costa at the University of Siena. Stefano is Founder of the IOSA initiative and Coordinator of the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Working Group on Open Data in Archaeology.

On December, 10th the …

Cultural Heritage rights in the age of digital copyright

- December 21, 2010 in COMMUNIA, Events, Public Domain, WG Archaeology, WG Cultural Heritage, Workshop

The following guest post is from Stefano Costa at the University of Siena. Stefano is Founder of the IOSA initiative and Coordinator of the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Working Group on Open Data in Archaeology.

On December, 10th the …