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The presence of a robust public domain is an essential precondition for cultural, social and economic development and for a healthy democratic process. But the public domain is under pressure as a result of the ongoing march towards an information economy. Items of information, which in the `old economy had little or no economic value, such as factual data, personal data, genetic information and pure ideas, have acquired independent economic value in the current information age, and consequently become the object of property rights making the information a tradable commodity.
How and to what extent does the commodification of information affect the free flow of information and the integrity of the public domain? Does the freedom of expression and information, guaranteed inter alia in the European Convention on Human Rights, call for active state intervention to `save the public domain? What means both legal and practical are available or might be conceived to guarantee and foster a robust public domain? These were the main questions that were addressed in a major collaborative research project led by the Institute for Information Law of the University of Amsterdam (IViR) in co-operation with the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society (TILT) of Tilburg University, and funded by ITeR, the Dutch National Program for Information Technology and Law.
Thirteen contributions from academia worldwide make up the present book, addressing the future of the public domain from a different angle. In addition, all authors were invited to reflect upon the notion and role of the public domain in the context of information law and policy. Should this concept be limited to that of a `negative image of (intellectual) property protection, i.e. all publicly available information not subject to a property right, and therefore freely (i.e. gratis) available, or should a broader approach be taken, e.g. all information available from public sources at affordable cost? Should information policies be aimed at maximizing the public domain or optimizing information flows? To what extent are these aims congruent?
This book takes a broader, `information law oriented approach towards the question of preserving the public domain, in which a wide range of interrelated legal questions converge. Issues treated in this book include: