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New mailing list on digital public domain

COMMUNIA is opening up the general discussion on issues related to the digital public domain.

The COMMUNIA mailing list is open to anyone interested in this topic, aiming at engaging the public at large and improving interaction among organizations, movements and individuals worldwide.

For more information about the mailing list and subscription options, please visit:

Italy: reform of National public assets launched

A new bill aims at reforming the current civil laws on National public assets and institutions.

The final version of the bill, in its works since June 2007 under the Department of Justice supervision, was presented on April 29 by the Italian Public Assets commission during a public event in Rome titled: "From democratic government economics to public assets reform".

Mostly focused on structural changes, the reform bill fosters the social and civil rights of each citizen in accessing and using National goods and properties. In particular, the proposed document introduces the category of "common assets" in the Italian civil code, including rivers and lakes, highways and cultural artifacts, education institutions and public service networks. Both the State and, to some extent, private entities are in charge of management and protection of such assets, but they need always to meet the public needs at socio-cultural and economic levels.

Full text of the bill (in Italian).

"The Future of the Internet"

A public conference for the 10th year of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School is celebrating its tenth year as a research program founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development. Along with major releases of books by Berkman projects and people, on May 15-16, 2008 a public conference will focus on "The Future of the Internet".

The various sessions are focused, among other topics, on best strategies for public media institutions and how to create a balance between open and closed domains, today's copyright restrictions and public domain development. Some of the scheduled speakers include Esther Dyson, Jimmy Wales, Terry Fisher, Charles Nesson, Jonathan Zittrain.

More details on the Berkman's Center website.

LibriVox: acoustical liberation of books

How to enhance meaning and scope of the public domain in every day life? Here is a great example!

Expanding the success of resources such as the Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg, LibriVox provides free audiobooks from the public domain. Its volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files (in mp3 or ogg vorbis formats) back on the Internet.

Launched in August 2005, by Hugh McGuire, a Montreal-based writer and web developer, the project has catalogued so far more than 1,300 books, spanning from "Paradise Lost" to the "Bhagavad Gita", from the complete Aesop’s Fables to writings by E. A. Poe, E. Pound, R. W. Emerson, B. Russell.

LibriVox main goal is to record all the books that are public domain in the USA (the copyright status of these works is different in other countries). The database includes also some recordings in languages other than English (Japanese, Italian, French, Spanish, etc.), and most information about the project is available in many languages as well.

Aimed at the "acoustical liberation of books in the public domain", LibriVox is a totally volunteer, open source, free content, public domain project.

Legality of e-book reader restrictions

Does the "first sale doctrine" (allowing us to lend/resell our hardcover books) still applies in the digital realm? Only the courts will have the final answer.

According to Amazon and Sony, the fine print that you "agree" to when buying e-books says you just get a license to the e-books downloaded to Amazon's Kindle or the Sony Reader—you're not paying to own 'em, in spite of the use of the term "buy." But - here is the true question - is this claim legal? Four students at Columbia Law School published a paper on the Science and Technology Law Review suggesting that these contentious restrictions may be valid under current law, but nevertheless the ultimate answer "will be determined by courts."

«While the restrictions on e-books may initially seem inconsistent with the rights granted for hard-copy books, these differences are the consequence of new digital products outgrowing traditional copyright doctrines. Such issues are currently being examined by legal scholars and industry insiders, but only time will tell whether this degree of control over digital media is acceptable to society,» states the Columbia Law School students.

Also, an interesting post on Gizmodo (which generated lots of comments) points out another unresolved glicht: «If a court ruled with you on that front, you still can't sell reproductions of your copy, an illegal act tantamount to Xeroxing your Harry Potters. You'd have to sell the physical media where the "original" download is stored—a hard drive or the actual Kindle or Sony Reader. Our guess is that it only gets more complicated from here.»

Internet Archive: free & public domain books

The San Francisco-based Internet Archive is building the world's largest online collection of free and public domain books, with nearly 350,000 titles and growing.

The process is labor-intensive, but surprisingly efficient: with monastic diligence, workers sit in book-scanning stations and manually turn pages all day long - thus digitizing around 1,000 public domain titles every day.

The titles scanned at the Internet Archive will always be free and available. Users can even order copies to be printed on demand and shipped to your home, paying only for production costs. If this service gains popularity, thousands of out-of-print titles could be back in publication. provides a great virtual tour and more detailed information about this process, due to size variance and the delicacy of old books, perfomed by volunteers at the University of California's Northern Regional Library Facility.

A successful, grass-roots effort to liberate books from the confines of scarcity.

Book on copyright & public domain

An upcoming book explains in plain language how and why works of authorship enter the public domain, covering also important issues about current copyright laws.

The public domain—the body of creative works not entitled to copyright protection—is the worlds greatest intellectual resource. Unfortunately, it can be extraordinarily hard to determine whether a work (or part of a work) is in the public domain. Copyright and the Public Domain by Stephen Fishman brings much needed clarity to the question of what is protected by copyright and what is not. In plain language, it explains how and why works of authorship enter the public domain, while also detailing the complexity of its relationship with copyright laws.

The Patry Copyright Blog provides a useful preview of this book, along with some discussion about issues related to today's role of public domain within the current copyright laws (mostly in the U.S.).

Published by Law Journal Press, Copyright and the Public Domain will be available in April 2008.

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