Researchers across disciplines generally agree that some form of public domain is necessary for an open society in general and for innovation in particular. Consensus ends, however, when questions are raised such as what should be part of the public domain and how should the public domain be regulated?
The draft paper
A draft paper regarding the concept of the digital public domain was prepared by Leonhard Dobusch, Free University Berlin. You can find the revised version of the Public-Domain Paper here.
The aim of the workshop was to discuss the current state of research on the concept of the public domain and its societal and economic relevance. Researchers across disciplines generally agree that some form of public domain is necessary for an open society in general and for innovation in particular. Consensus ends, however, when questions are raised such as what should be part of the public domain and how should the public domain be regulated?
After reviewing the current state of debate, this workshop discussed how to tackle these questions both theoretically (which concepts to use) and empirically. The responses by Felix Stalder and Juan Carlos de Martin hinted at possible research directions: Felix argued for a focus on social practices of sharing and collaborating; Juan Carlos underlined the political processes and legal systems that need to be addresses – and changed.
We made Leonhard’s slides available here: Public-Domain-Slides
Discussion and remarks
The discussion during and afterwards yielded interesting remarks, particularly addressing two aspects:
Is “public domain” the right concept?
A lot of discussion in the workshop revolved around the concept of the public domain – both academically as well politically. Is the public domain as a negatively defined concept (absence of intellectual property rights) really a good starting point for research and for activism? Should it be defined positively or is it better to work with notions like “information commons” or “low IP-regimes”? Obviously there is a need to differentiate between the public domain as a positive and as a normative concept – and between research and advocacy.
Focus on practices
One of the key aspects that ran through the discussion was the suggestion to focus on practises. Empirical research should focus on practices of contributing, using, expanding or enclosing the public domain. This perspective might avoid the conceptual problems discussed before by focussing on actual processes of sharing cultural works and knowledge.