As Lawrence Lessig has pointed
out in his book, CODE and Other Laws of Cyberspace, a convergence
of law and technology in the United States, and in many other
countries, has caused a shift in the balance of rights between
copyright holders and users of copyrighted materials. This
convergence has been exacerbated by the unprecedented concentration
of media ownership in both scholarly and popular media channels
of information dissemination.
Traditional user rights under copyright law such as Fair Use
and First Sale are becoming increasingly irrelevant as technological
licensing restrictions limit what uses libraries and end-users
can make of copyrighted material. The recent extension of the
term of copyright in the United States ensures that copyrighted
works created after 1923 will not enter the public domain until
2017, at the earliest. And the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
puts the full force of criminal law behind any attempts to override
technological protections, even for traditional Fair Use purposes.
Yet while technology is creating new ways to limit access to
information, technology is also enabling the creation of alternatives
to restrictive copyright and licensing terms. Efforts are underway
to create or broaden the intellectual commons in many areas of
the arts, science, and literature, including in the very important
area of scholarly publishing.
For the purposes of the conference, “intellectual commons” means
a “space” in which anyone may use information without
asking permission, either because no permission is necessary
(e.g., in the case of material in the public domain); or because
permission has already been given for certain uses through the
grant of an “open access” license such as those offered
by the Creative Commons project ().
These initiatives are in their formative stages, and need much
study and discussion to become a well understood and used part
of the creative and scholarly landscape. We hope this conference
will make a contribution to both wider understanding and to wider
use of the commons approach to information storage and sharing.
The conference should be of interest to scholars, librarians,
teachers, authors, artists, entrepreneurs, non-profit agencies
and others who produce and/or use information.