The Communia Project


This Annex I of the Final Report is intended to describe the nature and review the activities of the COMMUNIA Network.

The COMMUNIA Project

A brief introduction

COMMUNIA is a thematic project funded by the European Commission within the eContentplus framework addressing theoretical analysis and strategic policy discussion of existing and emerging issues concerning the public domain in the digital environment - as well as related topics, including, but not limited to, alternative forms of licensing for creative material; open access to scientific publications and research results; management of works whose authors are unknown (i.e. orphan works).

Coordinated by the Politecnico of Torino's Nexa Research Center for Internet and Society, COMMUNIA activities started on September 1, 2007 and ended on February 28, 2011.

COMMUNIA effort is aimed at helping to frame the general discourse on and around the public domain in the digital environment by highlighting the challenges arising from the increasingly complex interface between scientific progress, technological innovation, cultural development, socio-economic change on the one hand and the rise and mass deployment/usage of digital technologies in the European information society.”

The COMMUNIA Network

Who are its members

The COMMUNIA network is represented by its members and aided by a committee of prestigious advisors, including Prof. Dr. Maximilian Herberger, Prof. Jerome H. Reichman, Prof. Stefano Rodotà, Dr. Paul F. Uhlir. The founding members are 36, with five more members added in September 2008. In August 2009, the 2nd (and final) Member Enlargement Selection was completed by 41 COMMUNIA members expressing their voting preferences for 10 new members.  The network includes now 51 members - universities, consumer organizations, libraries, archives, non-profits, commercial enterprises, etc. - mostly from the EU, but also from a few overseas countries such as United States and Brazil. To look up COMMUNIA members, a worldwide interactive map is available at

COMMUNIA Network members attended COMMUNIA workshops and conferences, participated in working groups of their interest and promoted the advancement of the understanding of public domain.

The COMMUNIA Working Groups

To carry out the institutional scope of COMMUNIA

To carry out the institutional scope of COMMUNIA the following working groups ("WG") have been created.

  1. WG1: Education and scientific research (EDUSCIENCE) (led by Ignasi Labastida, Universitat de Barcelona)

WG1 focused on the role of the public domain for education and scientific research. More specifically, WG1 examined the way in which the public domain can or should act as a source of material for education and scientific research; how digital technologies impact on the relevance of the public domain for the scientific process; if and how current policies in granting (or denying) access to research results, both in the form of articles in journals and more generally as collections of research results (e.g. databases) is influencing the efficiency and effectiveness of research and education throughout Europe; whether a "protected public domain" or a "scientific commons" would be desirable and, if so, which would be the proper strategies to achieve such results.

  1. WG2: Technology issues (TECH) (led by Davide Bardone, Nexa Center for Internet & Society)

WG2 studied the complex relationships between technology, especially information and communication technologies, and the public domain and related issues. WG2 focused on the following sub-topics: the impact of data formats and protocols on the digital public domain; Rights Expression Languages and management of metadata applied to digital or digitalized works with particular emphasis on whether a change in the approach to such management is required to promote the public domain; search technologies, with a particular attention to semantic analysis capabilities and interface with legal ontologies; storage technologies, especially massively distributed storage such as can be found in P2P systems; trust as it is expressed through the use of digital signatures and timestamps for managing repositories of digital works, particularly when such works are either in the public domain or released under "sharing" licensing frameworks; Digital Rights Management systems and the way in which digital enforcement of copyright policies interacts with the public domain; network policies and the way in which they influence access to, exchange and re-use of the public domain.

  1. WG3: Libraries, museums and archives (MEMORY) (led by Maarten Brinkerink, Stichting Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid)

WG3 studies the specific issues that libraries and archives - whether public or private and independently of the specific type of works they collect - have to deal with when confronted with the public domain and more particularly with the public domain of digital works or works for which digitisation is feasible and probable. WG3 also conducted analysis on "bottom-up" archiving of works performed by volunteers, made possible by massively distributed collaboration technologies such as Wikis and other Internet and Web-based platforms. Another strand of research of WG3 related to the “voluntary sharing” area between the pure public domain and copyrighted works for which the rights holders wish to severely limit redistribution, namely works released under "sharing" licensing frameworks such as Creative Commons licenses. The issues is further complicated by the fact that libraries and archives are often vested with the particularly important duty to disseminate knowledge and culture, in its various forms, irrespective of the wishes of the rights holders. In this sense, WG3's analysis focused on the way in which public policies and the law handles the delicate balance between the role of libraries and archives, the protection that copyright law grants to rights holders and the promotion (or lack thereof) of the public domain.

  1. WG4: Economic analysis and new business paradigms (ECONOMICS) (led by Federico Morando, Nexa Center for Internet & Society)

WG4 focused on economic analysis of the digital public domain and the related issues of interest to the COMMUNIA project. More specifically, WG4 worked on what would be the proper analytical methods and tools when dealing with the public domain and/or "sharing" licensing frameworks in their interaction with existing and established business models (e.g. the "new" role of publishing intermediaries as agents that either act as an interface to the market for authors/rightsholders, providing distribution channels, legal advice, marketing efforts, etc.; or use the public domain as a resource for their activities). Furthermore, WG4 focused on how new business paradigms could emerge when different policies related to the public domain, and the intersection with information and communication technologies, are put in place. On this topic, WG4 devoted specific attention to the analysis of so-called "user-centered innovation", i.e. business processes and policy decisions that put end-users in a position to create and innovate information-intensive goods, and how the digital public domain and the "information commons" interact with this kind of phenomena.

  1. WG5: The public sphere (PUBLIC) (led by Philippe Aigrain, Sopinspace) [dissolved and merged with WG 1, during the Turin Conference 2009]

After discussion at the Amsterdam COMMUNIA workshop in October 2008, the workgroup has decided to focus on two tasks: (i) preparing and issuing an open call (to all interested parties) for position statements supportive of the public domain and voluntary information and knowledge sharing; each position statement would address a given regulatory, policy or technology issue; (ii) contributing to the work now undertaken by WG6 on "Mapping the public domain" (contents, structure, players and positions, specifics of jurisdictions).

  1. WG6: Mapping the public domain (MAPPING) (led by Jonathan Gray, Open Knowledge Foundation; Lucie Guibault, University of Amsterdam; and Séverine Dusollier, Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix)

WG6 focused on a twofold mission. Following a descriptive approach, WG6 provided a definition of what constitutes the public domain in Europe; and following a normative approach, WG6 developed principles and guidelines for the preservation, access to, and use of the public domain in Europe. The WG6 took a leading role in the development of the Public Domain Manifesto and the promotion of the ongoing work on the public domain calculators.

The COMMUNIA Meetings and Events

Workshops and international conferences

Among its activities, COMMUNIA organized several workshops and three International conferences in EU countries. Conference and Workshops have been also a special opportunity for members of the COMMUNIA Working Groups to gather together and discuss the COMMUNIA agenda, actions and policy recommendations.

The 1st COMMUNIA Workshop, Technology and the Public Domain, in Torino, on January 18, 2008, addressed different technology and infrastructure matters involving over 100 attendees. The bottom line remained an interdisciplinary and broad approach, pushing for the development of the “digital commons” as a general mainframe.

The 2nd COMMUNIA Workshop, Ethical Public Domain: Debate of Questionable Practices, took place in Vilnius on March 31, 2008. The workshop centered on identifying the obstacles to a vibrant Public Domain. The meeting was structured in a series of debates, each discussing a practice diminishing the Public Domain. A dialogue between proponents, opponents, mediators and audience members, the workshop was structured around position statements that were submitted in advance. Each session starts with the position statement of the proponent, followed by the reaction of an opponent and a debate with the audience coordinated by a mediator.

In July 2008, the COMMUNIA Thematic Network and the GICSI-EU initiative co-organized the 1st COMMUNIA Conference 2008, in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. The Conference centralized on the theme of Assessment of Economic and Social Impact of Digital Public Domain Through Europe. During the two-day conference, various speakers breached various topics. Paul David pointed out Intellectual Property constraints “as a major barrier to innovation, growth and collaboration.” His solution was the “widespread use of open access publishing and the creation of 'pools' or 'clubs' of scientific information commons.” Mark Isherwood introduced the Economic and Social Impact of Public Domain in the Information Society for the purpose of “evaluating the social and economic value of Public Domain works for the next 10- 20 years.” Audience interaction sparked debate and consent. It was agreed that through open access and public-oriented policies, both research productivity and knowledge diffusion could be augmented. As an endnote, Ed Steinmueller summarized the mission of the COMMUNIA Thematic Network whose goal it is “to share the true value of public domain and open licensing.”

In October 2008, the 3rd COMMUNIA Workshop, Marking the Public Domain: Relinquishment & Certification, was held in Amsterdam. The workshop addressed the legal, economic and technical issues related to certifying public domain works and relinquishing intellectual property rights in Europe. The two major topics were: relinquishing authors' rights and certifying public domain works. To conclude, the COMMUNIA Network announced the formation of a new working group called Mapping the Public Domain.

In January 2009, the 4th COMMUNIA Workshop was held in Zurich at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). The Workshop was devoted to review the first year of the COMMUNIA Project and to plan future actions, Working Group projects and initiatives.

In March 2009, the 5th COMMUNIA Workshop, co-organized by the Open Knowledge Foundation and London School of Economics, focused on Accessing, Using and Reusing Public Sector Content and Data. It examined obstacles and solutions with the claim that: Public Sector content and data should be made available, both legally and technically, for public reuse. Tom Watson called for 4 kinds of openness: feedback, conversation, information and innovation alongside easy-to-use licensing for government information to encourage the public to use and reuse.

The 2nd COMMUNIA Conference 2009 was scheduled for June 2009 in Torino. Titled Global Science and the Economics of Knowledge Sharing Institutions, the Conference addressed contractually constructed commons and public domain initiatives. Bernt Hugenholtz strategized that the EU and national bodies should abolish any copyright in government information and reconsider the privatization of public data functions, while universities should discourage or prohibit 'all rights' transfers to publishers, promoting instead open access practices. The event addressed the conceptual foundations and practical feasibilities of contractually constructed “commons” and related bottom-up public domain initiatives (joint policy guidelines, common standards, institutional policies, etc.) capable of offering shared access to a variety of research resources, identifying models, needs and opportunities for effective initiatives across a diverse range of research areas.

In June 2009, NYU Law School hosted the First Open Video Conference with over 800 attendees and thousands more online. The COMMUNIA Project hosted Audiovisual Archives which investigated how memory institutions could provide access to their holdings enabling creative reuse, and how they continue to serve as storytellers of our past.

The 6th COMMUNIA Workshop took place in Barcelona in October 2009. Based on Memory Institutions and Public Domain, the workshop emphasized the challenges of digitizing works today. The Workshop stressed the need to achieve balance by reminding that authors should be paid, but memory institutions should be guaranteed the access to culture and knowledge. The event was organized under 3 main sessions: National Heritage Preservation: Legal Issues and Implications, Progressions from Open Access to the Public Domain: In Museums, Archives and Film Institutes and Developing the Public Domain of the Future.

In November 2009, COMMUNIA hosted a series of meetings devoted to Public Domain Calculators - a task carried out by the Working Group on Mapping the Public Domain. The goal of these workshops was to determine whether or not a given work is under copyright in a given EU jurisdiction. The purpose of the first meeting co-organized by the Open Knowledge Foundation was to produce materials such as legal flow charts and public domain “algorithms” which will help with the representation of different national copyright laws and the determination of public domain status.

The 7th COMMUNIA Workshop, took place at the National Library of Luxembourg, under the title Digital Policies: the Public Domain and Alternative Compensation Systems in February 2010. Licencing schemes for public domain projects like Europeana, French policies regarding the reutilization of the national cultural heritage, copyright exceptions for file sharing, cultural flat rate, and role of the collective societies in alternative compensation systems were among the topics discussed at the workshop..

The 8th COMMUNIA Workshop, Education of the Public Domain: The Emergence of a  Shared Educational Commons, was held in April 2010 in Istanbul. The program included OpenCourseware objectives to achieve the vision of open educational resources, COMMUNIA education policy recommendations in the context of OER projects in the Middle East, and a copyright session on harmonized law and copyright management.

The 3rd and final COMMUNIA Conference, University in Cyberspace: Reshaping Knowledge Institutions for the Networked Age, was co-organized, in June 2010, by the Nexa Center for Internet and Society at the Politecnico di Torino and Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. The Conference featured three days of academics, policymakers, visionaries, entrepreneurs, architects, and activists addressing some of the most significant issues facing universities in a networked age.

The Public Domain Manifesto

A series of general principles

The Public Domain Manifesto was developed within the context of the COMMUNIA network and released in January 2010.[1] It outlines a series of general principles, addresses various issues and provides recommendations aimed at protecting the Public Domain. The Public Domain enshrined in the Manifesto has a broad range that can be used without restriction, in the absence of copyright protection. It includes shared material released under alternative licensing options, fair use and material released under “open access policies.” The Public Domain Manifesto was first developed within the COMMUNIA Working Group 6 – Mapping the public domain. The members of COMMUNIA Working Group 6, starting from an idea expressed during the 1st COMMUNIA Conference, worked for many months during 2009 to prepare a draft text, which was later circulated among COMMUNIA members, until a final version was completed and publicly launched on January 25, 2010. The Public Domain Manifesto web site has been set up at to publish the document online and collect signatures. The Public Domain Manifesto has been so far signed by thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations.  

[1] See The Public Domain Manifesto (produced within the context of COMMUNIA, the European thematic network on the digital public domain), and infra Annex IV [hereinafter The Public Domain Manifesto]

The Public Domain Day

Marking the entrance in the public domain of creative works

Initiatives by COMMUNIA members are being directly organized to raise public awareness of Public Domain Day on New Year's Day that marks the entrance in public domain of creative works. COMMUNIA promotes a website devoted to Public Domain Day at to increase public awareness and education of the public domain concept and its potentialities for spreading culture and knowledge worldwide. The Center for the Study of Public Domain at Duke University, a COMMUNIA member, also published an informative website, available at Additionally, to celebrate the Public Domain Day, the Open Knowledge Foundation has launched the Public Domain Review,, a web-based review of works that have entered the public domain. Each week an invited contributor will present an interesting or curious work with a brief accompanying text giving context, commentary and criticism.

In 2010, to celebrate the Public Domain Day, COMMUNIA launched the public domain day web site. Celebrations were organized in Poland and Switzerland. The Open Knowledge Foundation put together a list of all the authors entering the public domain in 2010 as part of the Public Domain Works project.

The Public Domain Day 2011 was celebrated more effectively than the previous editions. COMMUNIA with special support from the Open Knowledge Foundation promoted a concerted effort and a coordinated web campaign, around the web site and other digital channels, with general information on the public domain and the authors about to enter it, suggestions on how to celebrate the Public Domain Day, and about events planned across the world. COMMUNIA-organized Public Domain Day celebrations took place in Warsaw, Zurich, Berlin, Turin, and Haifa. In Turin, the celebrations focused on authors entering the public domain with intellectuals and actors discussing and reciting their works. The event in Zurich addressed the active reuse of public domain works by society at large, and especially by children with "working stations", where children could actually apply their creativity in reusing public domain works.

The COMMUNIA Essence

A path of fruitful growth, change and understanding

The three year long history of COMMUNIA is a path of fruitful growth, change and understanding. If the main goal of the COMMUNIA project was “to build a network of organisations that shall become the single European point of reference for high-level policy discussion and strategic action on all issues related to the public domain in the digital environment,”[2] that goal was achieved and, perhaps, exceeded. With more than 50 members, spanning three continents and the entire spectrum of social, economic and institutional activities, COMMUNIA build a stronghold for the promotion of the public domain discourse in Europe and elsewhere.

According to COMMUNIA pristine description of work, the analysis of the project has focused on public domain in the strictest sense, open access of scientific research, open access as voluntarily sharing, and orphan works. The first topic has been generally covered in most of the COMMUNIA meetings with special emphasis on the 1st COMMUNIA Conference, Assessment of Economic and Social Impact of Digital Public Domain Through Europe, held in Louvain-la-Neuve, the 1st COMMUNIA Workshop, Technology and the Public Domain, held in Turin, and the great deal of work on Public Domain Calculators lead by the Working Group 6 and Open Knowledge Foundation. Open access of scientific research has received a very large coverage during COMMUNIA proceedings: the 2nd COMMUNIA Conference in Turin was dedicated to Global Science and the Economics of Knowledge Sharing Institutions, the 8th COMMUNIA Workshop in Istanbul discussed Education of the Public Domain: The Emergence of a Shared Educational Commons, finally the 3rd COMMUNIA Conference in Turin investigated the issue of University in Cyberspace: Reshaping Knowledge Institutions for the Networked Age. Open access as voluntary renounce to exclusive rights was the focus of the 3rd COMMUNIA Workshop, Marking the Public Domain: Relinquishment & Certification, held in Amsterdam. Additionally, as detailed below, interaction between COMMUNIA and Creative Commons has been continuous throughout the duration of the project. The problem of orphan works is a fundamental concern of the COMMUNIA project. However, throughout the years, the focus has shift on the interplay between orphan work and memory institutions that received in depth coverage at the 6th COMMUNIA Workshop in Barcelona, Memory Institutions and the Public Domain. The emergence of new business models, an additional topic of the original description of COMMUNIA work, was investigated at the 7th COMMUNIA Workshop in Luxembourg, Digital Policies: the Public Domain and Alternative Compensation Systems. Finally, increased attention has been given to public sector information, especially by dedicating the 5th COMMUNIA Workshop in London to Accessing, Using and Reusing Public Sector Content and Data. Conversely, the question of the interaction of the digital public domain with the public sphere has lost some of its appeal and was finally left out of the scope of COMMUNIA investigations.

Besides growing in dimension and expanding the topics covered, the COMMUNIA Network has advanced the unity and the referential interplay of the European and international forces composing the network. The celebration of the Public Domain Day is an example of this networked effort and effect. At the same time, the last edition of the Public Domain Day celebrations tells how much the scope and the impact of COMMUNIA have expanded. The same flourishing has been witnessed at each new COMMUNIA meeting and appointment. On each occasion, new projects and strategic alliances for the public domain and for promoting open access to knowledge were envisioned and strengthened. The Public Domain Manifesto was an extemporary outcome of an idea expressed at the 1st COMMUNIA Conference. COMMUNIA has inspired to the members a common vision, an enhanced common understanding of traditional tensions that now can be tackled in a more targeted, interconnected and efficient manner.

A great deal of COMMUNIA efforts have been dedicated to interact with third parties valuing the promotion of open access and the public domain, especially in the digital environment. The project kept informal contacts, mostly through network members, with other relevant projects, including LAPSI, DRIVER, EPSIPLUS. Most prominently, the COMMUNIA Network has been collaborating, through meetings and shared members, with Europeana.[3] The many relations between the Public Domain Manifesto and the Europeana Charter were discussed at the 7th COMMUNIA Workshop in Luxembourg.[4]

The international dimension of COMMUNIA has propelled a fruitful interaction with the World Intellectual Property Organization to discuss the WIPO projects related to the promotion of the public domain. The WIPO position on the public domain was presented at the 5th COMMUNIA Workshop in London[5] and the 7th COMMUNIA Workshop in Luxembourg.[6]

COMMUNIA worked closely with Creative Commons teams around Europe and the world to investigate the best manner to protect an propel the public domain. Creative Commons public domain legal tools and infrastructure were presented at the 3rd COMMUNIA Workshop in Amsterdam.[7] In particular, COMMUNIA followed closely the development of the Creative Commons CC0 Licence and the Public Domain Mark. The Public Domain Mark was released in October 2010 by Creative Commons as a tool enabling works free of known copyright restriction to be labeled and easily discovered over the Internet.[8] The Public Domain Mark complements the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication which allows authors to relinquish their rights prior to copyright expiration.[9] Europeana – the major European digitization project - plans to make available through its portal millions of out-of-print books labeled with the Public Domain Mark by mid-2011.

By aggregating and coordinating efforts and public domain related projects with network members and third parties, COMMUNIA has sealed the emergence of a European public domain project. A new augmented vision of the role and value of the public domain is now shared by many institutional and civil society endeavours at the European level. The COMMUNIA vision will outlive the project and will be hopefully a fruitful source of additional efforts to promote the European public domain. In light of the exceptionally valuable synergy between the public domain and technological advancement, COMMUNIA believes that the European public domain project may finally lead to a politics of the public domain.

[2] See COMMUNIA, The European Thematic Network on the Public Domain in the Digital Age, EPC 2006 PD 610001 COMMUNIA, Annex 1, Description of Work (June 18, 2007), at 5.

[3] See Harry Verwayen, Europeana Business Model and the Public Domain, presentation delivered at the 3rd COMMUNIA Workshop, Amsterdam, Netherlands (October 20, 2008).

[4] See Jill Cousins, The Public Domain, the Manifesto, his Charter and her Dilemma, presentation delivered at the 7th COMMUNIA Workshop, Luxembourg (February 1, 2010).

[5] See Richard Owens, WIPO and Access to Content: The Development Agenda and the Public Domain, presentation delivered at the 5th COMMUNIA Workshop, London, United Kingdom (March 27, 2009)

[6] See Richard Owens, WIPO Project on Intellectual Property and the Public Domain, presentation delivered at the 7th COMMUNIA Workshop, Luxembourg (February 1, 2010)

[7] Mike Linksvayer and Diane Peters, Creative Commons Public Domain Legal Tools and Infrastructure, presentation delivered at the 3rd COMMUNIA Workshop, Amsterdam, Netherlands (October 20, 2008).

[8] See Diane Peters, Improving Access to the Public Domain: the Public Domain Mark, Creative Commons News, October 11, 2010,

[9] See About CC0 — “No Rights Reserved”,