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Help to map the public domain around the world!

Jonathan Gray - May 10, 2011 in Bibliographic, Join us, OKF Projects, Open Data, Open Knowledge Foundation, Public Domain, Public Domain Works, WG Public Domain, Working Groups

The following post is from Jonathan Gray, Community Coordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation.

We’re currently looking for more people to help map copyright law in countries around the world – so we can make it easier for people to find and reuse works which have entered the public domain.

We’re particularly keen to contact law students, whether at graduate or undergraduate level. Hence if you know people who are studying or teaching at law schools we’d be eternally grateful if you could help to pass this note on to them!

> ## HELP TO MAP THE PUBLIC DOMAIN AROUND THE WORLD!

> The Open Knowledge Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to promoting open knowledge in all its forms – from sonnets to statistics, genes to geodata. This includes work to make it easier for people to find and reuse works which have entered the public domain in their country.

> We are currently seeking volunteers to help us to develop and review a set of Public Domain Calculators for countries around the world. These help people determine whether or not a given work is still protected by copyright (to find out more see our 5 minute film!). We want to combine these calculators with large collections of data about works to enable people to find out which works are in the public domain in their country and enable them to find, download and share copies of these works.

> There are currently 15 completed flowcharts (USA, Canada, UK, Spain and Norway), one of which has already been implemented into code (UK). We’ve got a growing network of legal experts, developers and advocates in over 30 countries. We want to build on this to create and review calculators for more countries around the world.

> If you’re interested in helping out, please email jonathan.gray@okfn.org and primavera.defilippi@okfn.org – or join our mailing list and introduce yourself at: .

The Public Domain Calculators code is now in a separate library

Jonathan Gray - March 5, 2011 in Bibliographic, OKF Projects, Open Data, Public Domain, Public Domain Works, WG Public Domain, Working Groups

The following post is from Jonathan Gray, Community Coordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation.

As many of you will know, the Public Domain Calculators aim to make it easier to find out which works are in the public domain in a given jurisdiction. There are two main parts of the project:

  1. A collection of flowcharts, mapping copyright laws in different countries
  2. A library of code (part of PublicDomainWorks.net)

Recently we’ve been doing a bit of work to make the Public Domain Calculator code into a standalone library that can be integrated into lots of different software packages and services. The library has been stripped down of all the code from PublicDomainWorks.net and is now available at:

Our long-term vision is to turn the Public Domain Calculators into a code library which can be plugged into different software or websites that interface with a variety of archives, repositories, library catalogues, and so on. Because all of the code and content is open, all of the legal reseach can be peer reviewed and the algorithms can be optimised and improved.

If you’re interested in getting involved, please visit:

If you want to find out more you can also watch our short video about the project!

How can we promote the public domain?

Jonathan Gray - 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 PublicDomainWorks.net , 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?

Launch of the Public Domain Review to celebrate Public Domain Day 2011

Jonathan Gray - January 1, 2011 in Public Domain, Public Domain Works, Releases, WG Public Domain, Working Groups

The following post is from Jonathan Gray, Community Coordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation.

The 1st of January every year is Public Domain Day, when new works enter the public domain in many (though unfortunately not all) countries around the world.

To celebrate, the Open Knowledge Foundation is launching the Public Domain Review, a web-based review of works which have entered the public domain:

Each week an invited contributor will present an interesting or curious work with a brief accompanying text giving context, commentary and criticism. The first piece takes a look at works by Nathanael West, whose works enter the public domain today in many jurisdictions.

You can sign up to receive the review in your inbox via email. If you’re on Twitter, you can also follow @publicdomainrev. Happy Public Domain Day!

Which works enter the public domain in 2011?

Jonathan Gray - October 18, 2010 in Events, Public Domain, Public Domain Works, WG Public Domain, Working Groups

Every year on January 1st hundreds of works enter the public domain around the world. So how do we know which works will come of age in 2011?

Like last year we are keen to get a picture of this well in advance so we can start planning celebrations for Public Domain Day 2011 (see here for our round up of the 2010 highlights!).

First off, we can get a rough idea from the data and calculators that are live on our Public Domain Works project:

We are going to be loading a lot more data (e.g. from the British Library and Cambridge University Library) into project very soon, and we also planning to update the calculation code in the light of continued work on the public domain calculators — so watch this space!

To make sure we haven’t missed anyone, we can cross-reference this with bigger lists of notable people (not just creators) who died in 1940, such as one can find on Wikipedia:

Furthermore one can use structured data sources (such as DBpedia faceted search) to do more sophisticated things such as searching for people who died in 1940 who were artists, novelists, or poets.

This gives us the following basic list of famous creators whose work will enter the public domain in 2011 (in many, but unfortunately not all, jurisdictions):

  • Isaac Babel
  • Walter Benjamin
  • John Buchan
  • Mikhail Bulgakov
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Emma Goldman
  • Paul Klee
  • Selma Lagerlof
  • Leon Trotsky
  • Vito Volterra
  • Nathanael West

There are some links to other potentially interesting figures listed at:

Over the following few weeks we’re going to start planning for Public Domain Day 2011. This will hopefully include the launch of a new site for reviews of public domain works:

The excellent European COMMUNIA project is also starting to plan and coordinate activities in this area, which will be collated on their Public Domain Day site!

If you are interested in doing something for Public Domain Day 2011, please add your ideas to the planning pad and/or join the discussion list at:

Workshop on Open Bibliographic Data and the Public Domain, 7th October 2010

Jonathan Gray - October 5, 2010 in Open Data, Public Domain Works, WG Open Bibliographic Data, WG Public Domain

A brief reminder that our workshop on Open Bibliographic Data and the Public Domain (which we blogged about a few months ago) is taking place on Thursday 7th October. Details are as follows:

Here’s the blurb:

This one day workshop will focus on open bibliographic data and the public domain. In particular it will address questions like:

  • What is the role of freely reusable metadata about works in calculating which works are in the public domains in different jurisdictions?
  • How can we use existing sources of open data to automate the calculation of which works are in the public domain?
  • What data sharing policies in libraries and cultural heritage institutions would support automated calculation of copyright status?
  • How can we connect databases of information about public domain works with digital copies of public domain works from different sources (Wikipedia, Europeana, Project Gutenberg, …)?
  • How can we map existing sources of public domain works in different countries/languages more effectively?

The day will be very much focused on productive discussion and ‘getting things done’ — rather than presentations. Sessions will include policy discussions about public domain calculation under the auspices of Communia (a European thematic network on the digital public domain), as well as hands on coding sessions run by the Open Knowledge Foundation. The workshop is a satellite event to the 3rd Free Culture Research Conference on 8-9th October.

If you would like to participate, you can register at:

If you have ideas for things you’d like to discuss, please add them at:

To take part in discussion on these topics before and after this event, please join:

Workshop on Open Bibliographic Data and the Public Domain

Jonathan Gray - August 17, 2010 in Bibliographica, Events, OKF Projects, Open Data, Public Domain, Public Domain Works, WG Open Bibliographic Data, WG Public Domain, Working Groups

We are pleased to announce a one day workshop on Open Bibliographic Data and the Public Domain. Details are as follows:

Here’s the blurb:

This one day workshop will focus on open bibliographic data and the public domain. In particular it will address questions like:

  • What is the role of freely reusable metadata about works in calculating which works are in the public domains in different jurisdictions?
  • How can we use existing sources of open data to automate the calculation of which works are in the public domain?
  • What data sharing policies in libraries and cultural heritage institutions would support automated calculation of copyright status?
  • How can we connect databases of information about public domain works with digital copies of public domain works from different sources (Wikipedia, Europeana, Project Gutenberg, …)?
  • How can we map existing sources of public domain works in different countries/languages more effectively?

The day will be very much focused on productive discussion and ‘getting things done’ — rather than presentations. Sessions will include policy discussions about public domain calculation under the auspices of Communia (a European thematic network on the digital public domain), as well as hands on coding sessions run by the Open Knowledge Foundation. The workshop is a satellite event to the 3rd Free Culture Research Conference on 8-9th October.

If you would like to participate, you can register at:

If you have ideas for things you’d like to discuss, please add them at:

To take part in discussion on these topics before and after this event, please join:

The Durationator

Guest - June 2, 2010 in External, Free Culture, Legal, Public Domain, Public Domain Works, WG Public Domain, Working Groups

The following guest post is from Professor Townsend Gard and Justin A. Levy who are both at the Tulane Center for Intellectual Property Law and Culture, New Orleans, and are members of the Open Knowledge Foundation‘s Working Group on the Public Domain.

Durationator

The Durationator is a project based at Tulane University Law School in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA that is creating a separate software tool that will also help a user determine the copyright status of any given work.  Our goal is to be able to determine the copyright status of any work in any jurisdiction in the world.  Our main focus is U.S. law, but we have an international component that looks at individual countries as well, particularly non-EU countries, as we know that the EU will be well documented fairly soon from OKFN’s work.  We have been excited about finding a community in OKFN that is interested in the public domain, and more specifically the copyright status of works.

Read the rest of this entry →

Public Domain Calculators at Europeana

Guest - May 12, 2010 in COMMUNIA, External, OKF Projects, Open Knowledge Foundation, Public Domain, Public Domain Works, Technical, WG Public Domain, Working Groups

The following guest post is from Christina Angelopoulos at the Institute for Information Law (IViR) and Maarten Zeinstra at Nederland Kennisland who are working on building a series of Public Domain Calculators as part of the Europeana project. Both are also members of the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Working Group on the Public Domain.

Europeana Logo

Over the past few months the Institute for Information Law (IViR) of the University of Amsterdam and Nederland Kennisland have been collaborating on the preparation of a set of six Public Domain Helper Tools as part of the EuropeanConnect project. The Tools are intended to assist Europeana data providers in the determination of whether or not a certain work or other subject matter vested with copyright or neighbouring rights (related rights) has fallen into the public domain and can therefore be freely copied or re-used, through functioning as a simple interface between the user and the often complex set of national rules governing the term of protection. The issue is of significance for Europeana, as contributing organisations will be expected to clearly mark the material in their collection as being in the public domain, through the attachment of a Europeana Public Domain Licence, whenever possible.

The Tools are based on six National Flowcharts (Decisions Trees) built by IViR on the basis of research into the duration of the protection of subject matter in which copyright or neighbouring rights subsist in six European jurisdictions (the Czech Republic, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom). By means of a series of simple yes-or-no questions, the Flowcharts are intended to guide the user through all important issues relevant to the determination of the public domain status of a given item.

Researching Copyright Law

The first step in the construction of the flowcharts was the careful study of EU Term Directive. The Directive attempts the harmonisation of rules on the term of protection of copyright and neighbouring rights across the board of EU Member States. The rules of the Directive were integrated by IViR into a set of Generic Skeleton European Flowcharts. Given the essential role that the Term Directive has played in shaping national laws on the duration of protection, these generic charts functioned as the prototype for the six National Flowcharts. An initial version of the Generic European Flowchart, as well as the National Flowcharts for the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, was put together with the help of the Open Knowledge Foundation at a Communia workshop in November 2009.

Further information necessary for the refinement of these charts as well as the assembly of the remaining four National Flowcharts was collected either through the collaboration of National Legal Experts contacted by IViR (Czech Republic, Italy and Spain) or independently through IViR’s in-house expertise (EU, France, the Netherlands and the UK).

Both the Generic European Flowcharts and the National Flowcharts have been split into two categories: one dedicated to the rules governing the duration of copyright and the sui generis database right and one dedicated to the rules governing neighbouring rights. Although this division was made for the sake of usability and in accordance with the different subject matter of these categories of rights (works of copyright and unoriginal databases on the one hand and performances, phonograms, films and broadcasts on the other), the two types of flowcharts are intended to be viewed as connected and should be applied jointly if a comprehensive conclusion as to the public domain status of an examined item is to be reached (in fact the final conclusion in each directs the user to the application of the other). This is due to the fact that, although the protected subject matter of these two categories of rights differs, they may not be entirely unrelated. For example, it does not suffice to examine whether the rights of the author of a musical work have expired; it may also be necessary to investigate whether the rights of the performer of the work or of the producer of the phonogram onto which the work has been fixated have also expired, in order to reach an accurate conclusion as to whether or not a certain item in a collection may be copied or re-used.

Legal Complexities

A variety of legal complexities surfaced during the research into the topic. Condensing the complex rules that govern the term of protection in the examined jurisdictions into a user-friendly tool presented a substantial challenge. One of the most perplexing issues was that of the first question to be asked. Rather than engage in complicated descriptions of the scope of the subject matter protected by copyright and related rights, IViR decided to avoid this can of worms. Instead, the flowchart’s starting point is provided by the question “is the work an unoriginal database?” However, this solution seems unsatisfactory and further thought is being put into an alternative approach.

Other difficult legal issues stumbled upon include the following:

  • Term of protection vis-à-vis third countries
  • Term of protection of works of joint authorship and collective works
  • The term of protection (or lack thereof) for moral rights
  • Application of new terms and transitional provisions
  • Copyright protection of critical and scientific publications and of non-original photographs
  • Copyright protection of official acts of public authorities and other works of public origins (e.g. legislative texts, political speeches, works of traditional folklore)
  • Copyright protection of translations, adaptations and typographical arrangements
  • Copyright protection of computer-generated works

On the national level, areas of uncertainty related to such matters as the British provisions on the protection of films (no distinction is made under British law between the audiovisual or cinematographic work and its first fixation, contrary to the system applied on the EU level) or exceptional extensions to the term of protection, such as that granted in France due to World Wars I and II or in the UK to J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan”.

Web based Public Domain Calculators

Once the Flowcharts had been prepared they were translated into code by IViR’s colleagues at Kennisland, thus resulting in the creation of the current set of six web-based Public Domain Helper Tools.

Technically the flowcharts needed to be translated into formats that computers can read. In this project Kennisland choose for an Extensible Markup Language (XML) approach for describing the questions in the flowcharts and the relations between them. The resulting XML documents are both human and computer readable. Using XML documents also allowed Kennisland to keep the decision structure separate from the actual programming language, which makes maintenance of both content and code easier.

Kennisland then needed to build an XML reader that could translate the structures and questions of these XML files into a questionnaire or apply some set of data to the available questions, so as to make the automatic calculation of large datasets possible. For the EuropeanaConnect project Kennisland developed two of these XML readers. The first translates these XML schemes into a graphical user interface tool (this can be found at EuropeanaLabs) and the second can potentially automatically determine the status of a work which resides at the Public Domain Works project mercurial depository on KnowledgeForge. Both of these applications are open source and we encourage people to download, modify and work on these tools.

It should be noted that, as part of Kennisland’s collaboration with the Open Knowledge Foundation, Kennisland is currently assisting in the development of an XML base scheme for automatic determination of the rights status of a work using bibliographic information. Unfortunately however this information alone is usually not enough for the automatic identification on a European level. This is due to the many international treaties that have accumulated over the years; rules for example change depending on whether an author is born in a country party to the Berne convention, an EU Member State or a third country.

It should of course also be noted that there is a limit to the extent to which an electronic tool can replace a case-by-case assessment of the public domain status of a copyrighted work or other protected subject matter in complicated legal situations. The Tools are accordingly accompanied by a disclaimer indicating that they cannot offer an absolute guarantee of legal certainty.

Further fine-tuning is necessary before the Helper Tools are ready to be deployed. For the moment test versions of the electronic Tools can be found here. We invite readers to try these beta tools and give us feedback on the pd-discuss list!

Note from the authors: If the whole construction process for the Flowcharts has highlighted one thing that would be the bewildering complexity of the current rules governing the term of protection for copyright and related rights. Despite the Term Directive’s attempts at creating a level playing field, national legislative idiosyncrasies are still going strong in the post-harmonisation era – a single European term of protection remains very much a chimera. The relevant rules are hardly simple on the level of the individual Member States either. In particular in countries such as the UK and France, the term of protection currently operates under confusing entanglements of rules and exceptions that make the confident calculation of the term of protection almost impossible for a copyright layperson and difficult even for experts.

PD Calculators

Generic copyright flowchart by Christina Angelopoulos. PDF version available from Public Domain Calculators wiki page

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