Public Access to the Public Domain: Copyright Week

It’s Copyright Week, and many organizations are highlighting the need to make works in the public domain readily accessible. One of the many challenges we face sounds almost paradoxical: works in the public domain are often not publicly available. The Internet Archive hosts several projects to address that concern.

RecapRECAP:  Created by Aaron Swartz and automated by a group at Princeton University, RECAP brings free access to some two million court documents from a million cases.

Google Books: Aaron Swartz collected 900,000 public domain books on Google’s site; we’re currently adding more.

FOIA and Government Documents: The Internet Archive hosts over 160,000 from DocumentCloud, including Freedom of Information Act and other government documents.

Digitization of Public Domain Books: The Internet Archive works with over 500 libraries to digitize public domain books to offer them to the world for free with no restrictions at all. We’re grateful to the libraries that are funding this amazing resource.

fedflix_logoFedflix: This joint venture between the National Technical Information Service and Public.Resource.Org provides free access to 8,700 U.S. government training and historical films such as the film below, Blast Measurement Group in Operation Sandstone.

3 thoughts on “Public Access to the Public Domain: Copyright Week

  1. Gerard Arthus


    Several comments; something which is missing from this article are the thousands of volunteers who are scanning and placing materials into the archive. It is nice to have libraries and government entities funding things; but real sacrifice is made by those who are using their own resources to digitize and upload materials.

    Concerning ‘tpb’, those uploads were great and they are a useful addition to the Archive; however, uploading materials is quite easy; I could upload hundreds if not thousands of items daily if I wanted to. The scanning, recording, and digitization of the works is a much more labor intensive process though and at least I find it more interesting. I think some of the more interesting materials have been placed up by individuals, in particular the Creative Commons Licensed items. I find it interesting that the Archive has concentrated almost exclusively on paid staff to do administrative work, when there are I am sure many individuals who would be willing to give their time in a volunteer capacity. For me, there is literally no difference between volunteering to do something for free or, in getting paid to do something and then donate that income to a worthy cause. I have asked several times in the past why volunteers were not allowed to work as staff, but no answer has ever been forthcoming. It is a little disconcerting to see acclaim being given to things being done with government or corporate money, but virtually no recognition of the significant grassroots assistance which is being provided to the Archive daily by literally thousands of individual volunteers.


  2. Volker Schatz

    One organisation holding a large amount of public-domain data is A few months after donating to them, I was rather unpleasantly surprised that accessing the music with anything other than Flashplayer now requires a registration, and downloading uncompressed content incurs a yearly subscription fee. Some music recorded by musopen themselves is available on the internet archive, but only as (lossy) MP3 and unmastered multi-track wave files, no uncompressed wav or flac suitable for listening. Is there a chance that we will see open access to this public-domain music in the future?

    Please do not misunderstand me: I support musopen’s mission, and I understand that they have costs beside web hosting, especially since they want to record more PD music. But while other non-profits such as Linux distributions reduce their hosting bill by inviting mirrors, musopen seems to have gone the opposite way and combined basic free access with paid-for premium services not unlike commercial content providers.

  3. Craig Bourne

    I am not alone in hoping to see the full archives, and all past issues, of the Daily Worker digitized and made freely available.

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