Tag Archives: The Public Domain

Thinking about the public domain

So what I want to do is put up a blog celebrating the public domain. Not public domain in the narrow, literal sense – stuff that’s not protected by copyright – but in a broader sense. ‘Public domain’ may actually be the wrong phrase here, since people will probably just think: “Ah, free stuff!”. There are other phrases: ‘public realm’, ‘culture’, ‘society’. None of them reallly does it for me though. The public domain is the shared space where societies and cultures make meaning. But that’s a bit of a mouthful isn’t it? I wrote an essay a while ago for the BBC Trust (here’s a PDF).

I think it sits between disciplines: there’s some economics (production and distribution methods, economic models), some sociology (how groups create shared meaning), some history etc. etc. In the essay I touch down (in a not-at-all systematic way) in ancient Greece, Tin Pan Alley and Renaissance Florence: moments when the public domain was robust and productive. I want the blog to record moments like these: to catalogue the conditions that produce a healthy public domain. Read it if you get a minute. Let me know what you think.

And by the way, I need a name for the blog. Got any ideas?