Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)
“Hacking the public domain” − taking digital arms to fight off copyfraud
Wikimedia projects are public domain havens. Contributors spend time and energy in gathering, curating, restoring public domain works, building upon them and making them available in both the advancement of their mission and the public interest.
“Copyfraud” is the practice of claiming rights on public domain works. It may be the deed of publishers or other commercial ventures ; but many a cultural institution goes down this road while aiming to maintain control over the reproductions of works they keep. To achieve this, they slap blanket copyright notices on digitizations of public domain works, and lock those behind panes of digital glass (like Flash viewers or zooming scripts). Just like in a museum, one is able to see but not to touch, to desire but not to get − or for a fee − ; denying the public its right to reuse or remix, in short to appropriate what has long been theirs.
“Hacking the public domain” was a motto coined by French librarian and jurist Lionel Maurel in September 2011. Maurel discussed the idea that fighting harmful intellectual property laws in court and nourishing the commons through public domain works curation and free licenses may not be enough anymore. Reflecting upon cases with institutions like JSTOR and the National Portrait Gallery, he argued that more direct actions might be justified in the public interest.
Wikimedians, though extremely aware and respectful of laws, have a long history of frowning upon spurious copyright claims. Some tried, through the GlamWiki initiative, to reach out to institutions, explaining our vision of the public domain and enjoining them to relinquish their claims on public domain works. Others disregarded these claims, circumventing technological measures put in place by institutions in order to retrieve works and sharing those on projects like Wikimedia Commons and Wikisource. Reflecting back on these instances where contributors have taken digital arms to fight off copyfraud, this talk will discuss the merits of this course of action, pondering what alternatives may exist to defend the public domain.
Wikis and the Public Sector
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