Public domain

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See also: Licenses | iA Wiki

Acronym: Public Domain

This wiki is primarily public domain. See iA Wiki for further information.

The public domain like other licensing concept is based on the premise that one "owns" everything ones writes, publishes or creates. That is, in theory, while in practise we find that sharing material deemed intellectual property, thereby replicates it. So sharing information, knowledge, ideas, etc, relinquishes control. This loss of property or rights management renders licensing concepts or similar classification such as copyright, creative commons obsolete or irrelevant.

Never the less, the idea of the public domain remains popular onlinereferring more generally to the large chunks of information, that are freely distributed. The amount of data in the public domain is immense. A method to integrate this into an automated knowledge application remains unknown.

Public Domain Rights

According to a laws held by a clear majority of countries around the world, not only you, even your heirs, will be able to have people persecuted for copying your ideas (or even significant modifications thereof). If you are an American, and you live until 2050, your copyrights will expire in 2125, provided that the USA Congress doesn't extend copyright terms within that period, as it has frequently done in the past to please corporations like Disney. It is doubtful in any case that 22nd century readers will have much interest in the ramblings of this crazy period except for historical or psychological purposes.

If you want your ideas to be read and distributed massively right now, there's a simple option. Forget about licenses and all this nonsense: Put your ideas in the public domain, and everyone can use them in any way they please. In the US, you just have to state "This work is hereby put in the public domain" somewhere within the work in question. In Europe, copyright works differently (it's not transferable), so you can only grant unlimited rights, but you always retain some rights, even if you don't want them. Early US politicians had the admirable foresight to require all information produced directly by the government to be put in the PD, which makes many photos, texts and scientific works freely accessible.

There's a catch to the PD, though: If you put your text in the PD, someone else can come along and integrate it into a non-PD text. They can profit from what you did without giving anything back. From this dilemma the idea of using the copyright system against itself was born, via "viral licenses" which would require all works that include the so-licensed work to be licensed under it as well; that is, something that may be freely copied would remain so forever, in every context. The Wikipedia project uses the GNU Free Documentation License (FDL) on all of its content, for example.

One of the reasons this Wiki uses the public domain is due to the incompatibilities different licenses can create. Once you have more than one such license, there are often subtle differences which make it impossible to incorporate material under one license into material under the other. Public domain content, on the other hand, can be incorporated everywhere.

If you want to use PD content, check out Wikipedia's impressive directory of Public Domain Resources.


  • The Minciu Sodas laboratory is organizing a network of OpenPeople who are confirming that at places they indicate they are generating content in the public domain, so that together we can openly circulate content and encourage online activity, such as virtual flash mobs.

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