The Open Knowledge Foundation have been working on a Public Domain Works Database in association with with Free Culture UK (as part of FC-UK’s larger Public Domain Burn project). There is now a front-end site up (as of last weekend!) at:
Summary: “The Public Domain Works DB is an [WWW] open registry of artistic works that are in the public domain. It is focused on recordings (and their underlying compositions) because a term extension for recordings is currently being considered in Europe. In future it will will expand in future to cover all types of cultural works which are covered by copyright.”
There’s a project on knowledgeforge with all the code:
There’s also a mailing list (discussion, development etc) is:
This is a great ‘open knowledge’ project in that it combines code and data and has a strong focus on information reuse. The project aims to provide much more than ‘yet another website’ by delivering a solid database of metadata in raw form that can be reused by different projects (for example those working on the public domain, those working on orphan works, those doing bibliography). To succeed in doing this one the most interesting questions is the development of an effective ‘knowledge API’ in the form of persistent identifiers for the underlying works and artists.