Thursday, August 11, 2011

Making Sense of Public Domain

As more material becomes identified by governments, libraries, museums, and other institutions as "public domain," instructors and administrators will need help in understanding what is out there and the significance of some of the archives. They will also need help in learning how to use them effectively. This is where The Public Domain Review comes in. "Public domain" is any work that is not copyrighted, has an expired copyright, or that is considered public property. Copyright expiration dates can vary from country to country but tend to be 50 to 70 years after the death of the author. These materials are free to use and re-purpose, even commercially. There is a University of California website dedicated to copyright with a good over-view of the laws and definitions around public domain. The Public Domain Review provides examples of the kinds of materials in public domain from various archives of public domain materials on the net including:

The Public Domain Review is accepting submissions of articles. They are looking for articles about items in the collections but they are also looking for articles about how to use the materials in the collections. This is a good opportunity for teachers, instruction designers, and artists to reconnect students and the public with the historical record of our culture. I would like to see lesson plans developed around public domain materials, much like what we are doing with the course development around the Kaleidoscope grant (a grant that seeks to implement courses using openly licensed texts and learning objects).
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