The Many Faces of the Public Domain
Edited by Charlotte Waelde and Hector MacQueen
Chapter 5: The Public Interest in the Public Domain
Gillian Davies Copyright is a ‘tax upon the public’ … [it should] not last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good. (T. Macaulay) 1 Introduction The public domain in copyright parlance means all literary and artistic works and other subject matter which are no longer protected by copyright or related rights because the term of protection applicable to them has expired. When the term of protection comes to an end, the works fall into the public domain, meaning that they may be freely used in any form or manner by anybody, either for private use or for public purposes, whether for commercial gain or otherwise. There is no requirement to ask for authorisation from the authors of the works or to pay any remuneration for the use. The protection of the international conventions also falls away, as recognised by the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC), which provides: This Convention shall not apply to works or rights in works which, at the effective date of this Convention in a Contracting State where protection is claimed, are permanently in the public domain in the said Contracting State. Works also fall into the public domain if they are not eligible for copyright protection for any reason, such as lack of originality, and, in countries where compliance with formalities is still required, if these are not complied with. It is possible that a work as such is not in the public domain but a particular right Hansard, House of Commons,...
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