Copyright is property right on creative work like texts, pictures and music. It may annoy many bloggers and advocates of free online content that not everything on the internet can be reused without fear of being sued for damages after a breach of copyright (yes, that happens!), yet protection is important. How many artists would still go public with their work if it meant giving it away for free and that completely as well as for good? Certainly fewer than now and probably not the most talented, but the most pretentious or missionary ones who are otherwise provided for financially.
However, copyright protection isn’t infinite. Sooner or later (depending on the respective domestic copyright law in force) every piece of art enters the public domain and there are many initiatives dedicated to making those works accessible on the internet. Just think of the Project Gutenberg eBooks. There is a vast and constantly growing sea of free online resources available, but they are scattered all over the web without systematic or quality control. The Public Domain Review has made it its task to put a spotlight on the best and most interesting as well as easily overlooked contents free of copyright.
The Public Domain Review is a non-profit project of the Open Knowledge Foundation promoting free and open access to digital cultural heritage. The online magazine was founded by Jonathan Gray and Adam Green in order to make public domain works which are available for free on the internet more widely known. It first appeared on 1 January 2011 and offers articles written by scholars, writers and artists about non-copyrighted cultural gems which the authors wish to recommend and promote as well as curated collections of films, audio, images and texts. A free biweekly newsletter informs subscribers about topics covered on the magazine.
Another mission of The Public Domain Review is to promote the work of many different projects, organisations and volunteers worldwide dedicated to digitising and publishing public domain works for free on the internet. A guide to the exploration of interesting online resources in the public domain completes the magazine’s contents and encourages to plunge into own research. The magazine regularly holds a caption competition on its site in which readers are called upon to submit a witty heading to adorn an image provided by the magazine. The prize for the lucky winner is a Public Domain Review cloth tote bag.
Like many such projects The Public Domain Review depends on donations, but there also is a web store where prints, T-shirts, mugs and other merchandise “returning select gems from their pixel-based existence back into the world of real objects from whence they once came” can be bought to support the magazine. In addition the editors always welcome the submission of ‘playful’ or informal articles about public domain works which – if chosen – are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. Featured material must be available online in openly-licensed digitised form and it should preferably be unorthodox or unusual in some way.