COMMUNIA FINAL REPORT | The COMMUNIA Essence

Subtitle: 
A path of fruitful growth, change and understanding

The three year long history of COMMUNIA is a path of fruitful growth, change and understanding. If the main goal of the COMMUNIA project was “to build a network of organisations that shall become the single European point of reference for high-level policy discussion and strategic action on all issues related to the public domain in the digital environment,”[2] that goal was achieved and, perhaps, exceeded. With more than 50 members, spanning three continents and the entire spectrum of social, economic and institutional activities, COMMUNIA build a stronghold for the promotion of the public domain discourse in Europe and elsewhere.

According to COMMUNIA pristine description of work, the analysis of the project has focused on public domain in the strictest sense, open access of scientific research, open access as voluntarily sharing, and orphan works. The first topic has been generally covered in most of the COMMUNIA meetings with special emphasis on the 1st COMMUNIA Conference, Assessment of Economic and Social Impact of Digital Public Domain Through Europe, held in Louvain-la-Neuve, the 1st COMMUNIA Workshop, Technology and the Public Domain, held in Turin, and the great deal of work on Public Domain Calculators lead by the Working Group 6 and Open Knowledge Foundation. Open access of scientific research has received a very large coverage during COMMUNIA proceedings: the 2nd COMMUNIA Conference in Turin was dedicated to Global Science and the Economics of Knowledge Sharing Institutions, the 8th COMMUNIA Workshop in Istanbul discussed Education of the Public Domain: The Emergence of a Shared Educational Commons, finally the 3rd COMMUNIA Conference in Turin investigated the issue of University in Cyberspace: Reshaping Knowledge Institutions for the Networked Age. Open access as voluntary renounce to exclusive rights was the focus of the 3rd COMMUNIA Workshop, Marking the Public Domain: Relinquishment & Certification, held in Amsterdam. Additionally, as detailed below, interaction between COMMUNIA and Creative Commons has been continuous throughout the duration of the project. The problem of orphan works is a fundamental concern of the COMMUNIA project. However, throughout the years, the focus has shift on the interplay between orphan work and memory institutions that received in depth coverage at the 6th COMMUNIA Workshop in Barcelona, Memory Institutions and the Public Domain. The emergence of new business models, an additional topic of the original description of COMMUNIA work, was investigated at the 7th COMMUNIA Workshop in Luxembourg, Digital Policies: the Public Domain and Alternative Compensation Systems. Finally, increased attention has been given to public sector information, especially by dedicating the 5th COMMUNIA Workshop in London to Accessing, Using and Reusing Public Sector Content and Data. Conversely, the question of the interaction of the digital public domain with the public sphere has lost some of its appeal and was finally left out of the scope of COMMUNIA investigations.

Besides growing in dimension and expanding the topics covered, the COMMUNIA Network has advanced the unity and the referential interplay of the European and international forces composing the network. The celebration of the Public Domain Day is an example of this networked effort and effect. At the same time, the last edition of the Public Domain Day celebrations tells how much the scope and the impact of COMMUNIA have expanded. The same flourishing has been witnessed at each new COMMUNIA meeting and appointment. On each occasion, new projects and strategic alliances for the public domain and for promoting open access to knowledge were envisioned and strengthened. The Public Domain Manifesto was an extemporary outcome of an idea expressed at the 1st COMMUNIA Conference. COMMUNIA has inspired to the members a common vision, an enhanced common understanding of traditional tensions that now can be tackled in a more targeted, interconnected and efficient manner.

A great deal of COMMUNIA efforts have been dedicated to interact with third parties valuing the promotion of open access and the public domain, especially in the digital environment. The project kept informal contacts, mostly through network members, with other relevant projects, including LAPSI, DRIVER, EPSIPLUS. Most prominently, the COMMUNIA Network has been collaborating, through meetings and shared members, with Europeana.[3] The many relations between the Public Domain Manifesto and the Europeana Charter were discussed at the 7th COMMUNIA Workshop in Luxembourg.[4]

The international dimension of COMMUNIA has propelled a fruitful interaction with the World Intellectual Property Organization to discuss the WIPO projects related to the promotion of the public domain. The WIPO position on the public domain was presented at the 5th COMMUNIA Workshop in London[5] and the 7th COMMUNIA Workshop in Luxembourg.[6]

COMMUNIA worked closely with Creative Commons teams around Europe and the world to investigate the best manner to protect an propel the public domain. Creative Commons public domain legal tools and infrastructure were presented at the 3rd COMMUNIA Workshop in Amsterdam.[7] In particular, COMMUNIA followed closely the development of the Creative Commons CC0 Licence and the Public Domain Mark. The Public Domain Mark was released in October 2010 by Creative Commons as a tool enabling works free of known copyright restriction to be labeled and easily discovered over the Internet.[8] The Public Domain Mark complements the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication which allows authors to relinquish their rights prior to copyright expiration.[9] Europeana – the major European digitization project - plans to make available through its portal millions of out-of-print books labeled with the Public Domain Mark by mid-2011.

By aggregating and coordinating efforts and public domain related projects with network members and third parties, COMMUNIA has sealed the emergence of a European public domain project. A new augmented vision of the role and value of the public domain is now shared by many institutional and civil society endeavours at the European level. The COMMUNIA vision will outlive the project and will be hopefully a fruitful source of additional efforts to promote the European public domain. In light of the exceptionally valuable synergy between the public domain and technological advancement, COMMUNIA believes that the European public domain project may finally lead to a politics of the public domain.


[2] See COMMUNIA, The European Thematic Network on the Public Domain in the Digital Age, EPC 2006 PD 610001 COMMUNIA, Annex 1, Description of Work (June 18, 2007), at 5.

[3] See Harry Verwayen, Europeana Business Model and the Public Domain, presentation delivered at the 3rd COMMUNIA Workshop, Amsterdam, Netherlands (October 20, 2008).

[4] See Jill Cousins, The Public Domain, the Manifesto, his Charter and her Dilemma, presentation delivered at the 7th COMMUNIA Workshop, Luxembourg (February 1, 2010).

[5] See Richard Owens, WIPO and Access to Content: The Development Agenda and the Public Domain, presentation delivered at the 5th COMMUNIA Workshop, London, United Kingdom (March 27, 2009)

[6] See Richard Owens, WIPO Project on Intellectual Property and the Public Domain, presentation delivered at the 7th COMMUNIA Workshop, Luxembourg (February 1, 2010)

[7] Mike Linksvayer and Diane Peters, Creative Commons Public Domain Legal Tools and Infrastructure, presentation delivered at the 3rd COMMUNIA Workshop, Amsterdam, Netherlands (October 20, 2008).

[8] See Diane Peters, Improving Access to the Public Domain: the Public Domain Mark, Creative Commons News, October 11, 2010, http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/23830

[9] See About CC0 — “No Rights Reserved”, http://creativecommons.org/about/cc0