The Public Domain and Libraries: History, Contexts, Threats and Opportunities

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Brin, Lise
Swartz, Mark
Public domain (Copyright law) , Public interest
This chapter provides an introduction to the history and philosophical justifications for the existence of the public domain in copyright legislation around the world, with a primary focus on common law jurisdictions. It discusses expanded definitions of the public domain that have been proposed in the literature and examines current and evolving threats to the public domain. The intersection of libraries with the public domain is examined, specifically libraries’ roles in collecting, preserving, sharing, and defending the ever-expanding body of knowledge. Issues related to other types of organizations committed to upholding the public domain, all in the name of public interest, are explored. Some attention is given to Indigenous and traditional knowledge areas with the growing recognition that they have not been well served by copyright law.