COMMUNIA FINAL REPORT | The COMMUNIA Meetings and Events

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Workshops and international conferences

Among its activities, COMMUNIA organized several workshops and three International conferences in EU countries. Conference and Workshops have been also a special opportunity for members of the COMMUNIA Working Groups to gather together and discuss the COMMUNIA agenda, actions and policy recommendations.

The 1st COMMUNIA Workshop, Technology and the Public Domain, in Torino, on January 18, 2008, addressed different technology and infrastructure matters involving over 100 attendees. The bottom line remained an interdisciplinary and broad approach, pushing for the development of the “digital commons” as a general mainframe.

The 2nd COMMUNIA Workshop, Ethical Public Domain: Debate of Questionable Practices, took place in Vilnius on March 31, 2008. The workshop centered on identifying the obstacles to a vibrant Public Domain. The meeting was structured in a series of debates, each discussing a practice diminishing the Public Domain. A dialogue between proponents, opponents, mediators and audience members, the workshop was structured around position statements that were submitted in advance. Each session starts with the position statement of the proponent, followed by the reaction of an opponent and a debate with the audience coordinated by a mediator.

In July 2008, the COMMUNIA Thematic Network and the GICSI-EU initiative co-organized the 1st COMMUNIA Conference 2008, in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. The Conference centralized on the theme of Assessment of Economic and Social Impact of Digital Public Domain Through Europe. During the two-day conference, various speakers breached various topics. Paul David pointed out Intellectual Property constraints “as a major barrier to innovation, growth and collaboration.” His solution was the “widespread use of open access publishing and the creation of 'pools' or 'clubs' of scientific information commons.” Mark Isherwood introduced the Economic and Social Impact of Public Domain in the Information Society for the purpose of “evaluating the social and economic value of Public Domain works for the next 10- 20 years.” Audience interaction sparked debate and consent. It was agreed that through open access and public-oriented policies, both research productivity and knowledge diffusion could be augmented. As an endnote, Ed Steinmueller summarized the mission of the COMMUNIA Thematic Network whose goal it is “to share the true value of public domain and open licensing.”

In October 2008, the 3rd COMMUNIA Workshop, Marking the Public Domain: Relinquishment & Certification, was held in Amsterdam. The workshop addressed the legal, economic and technical issues related to certifying public domain works and relinquishing intellectual property rights in Europe. The two major topics were: relinquishing authors' rights and certifying public domain works. To conclude, the COMMUNIA Network announced the formation of a new working group called Mapping the Public Domain.

In January 2009, the 4th COMMUNIA Workshop was held in Zurich at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). The Workshop was devoted to review the first year of the COMMUNIA Project and to plan future actions, Working Group projects and initiatives.

In March 2009, the 5th COMMUNIA Workshop, co-organized by the Open Knowledge Foundation and London School of Economics, focused on Accessing, Using and Reusing Public Sector Content and Data. It examined obstacles and solutions with the claim that: Public Sector content and data should be made available, both legally and technically, for public reuse. Tom Watson called for 4 kinds of openness: feedback, conversation, information and innovation alongside easy-to-use licensing for government information to encourage the public to use and reuse.

The 2nd COMMUNIA Conference 2009 was scheduled for June 2009 in Torino. Titled Global Science and the Economics of Knowledge Sharing Institutions, the Conference addressed contractually constructed commons and public domain initiatives. Bernt Hugenholtz strategized that the EU and national bodies should abolish any copyright in government information and reconsider the privatization of public data functions, while universities should discourage or prohibit 'all rights' transfers to publishers, promoting instead open access practices. The event addressed the conceptual foundations and practical feasibilities of contractually constructed “commons” and related bottom-up public domain initiatives (joint policy guidelines, common standards, institutional policies, etc.) capable of offering shared access to a variety of research resources, identifying models, needs and opportunities for effective initiatives across a diverse range of research areas.

In June 2009, NYU Law School hosted the First Open Video Conference with over 800 attendees and thousands more online. The COMMUNIA Project hosted Audiovisual Archives which investigated how memory institutions could provide access to their holdings enabling creative reuse, and how they continue to serve as storytellers of our past.

The 6th COMMUNIA Workshop took place in Barcelona in October 2009. Based on Memory Institutions and Public Domain, the workshop emphasized the challenges of digitizing works today. The Workshop stressed the need to achieve balance by reminding that authors should be paid, but memory institutions should be guaranteed the access to culture and knowledge. The event was organized under 3 main sessions: National Heritage Preservation: Legal Issues and Implications, Progressions from Open Access to the Public Domain: In Museums, Archives and Film Institutes and Developing the Public Domain of the Future.

In November 2009, COMMUNIA hosted a series of meetings devoted to Public Domain Calculators - a task carried out by the Working Group on Mapping the Public Domain. The goal of these workshops was to determine whether or not a given work is under copyright in a given EU jurisdiction. The purpose of the first meeting co-organized by the Open Knowledge Foundation was to produce materials such as legal flow charts and public domain “algorithms” which will help with the representation of different national copyright laws and the determination of public domain status.

The 7th COMMUNIA Workshop, took place at the National Library of Luxembourg, under the title Digital Policies: the Public Domain and Alternative Compensation Systems in February 2010. Licencing schemes for public domain projects like Europeana, French policies regarding the reutilization of the national cultural heritage, copyright exceptions for file sharing, cultural flat rate, and role of the collective societies in alternative compensation systems were among the topics discussed at the workshop..

The 8th COMMUNIA Workshop, Education of the Public Domain: The Emergence of a  Shared Educational Commons, was held in April 2010 in Istanbul. The program included OpenCourseware objectives to achieve the vision of open educational resources, COMMUNIA education policy recommendations in the context of OER projects in the Middle East, and a copyright session on harmonized law and copyright management.

The 3rd and final COMMUNIA Conference, University in Cyberspace: Reshaping Knowledge Institutions for the Networked Age, was co-organized, in June 2010, by the NEXA Center for Internet and Society at the Politecnico di Torino and Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. The Conference featured three days of academics, policymakers, visionaries, entrepreneurs, architects, and activists addressing some of the most significant issues facing universities in a networked age.