Communia and the quest to save public domain

01 January 2020

Welcome to a brand new season of White Market Podcast and, of course, to 2020! As you may have expected, in this season we will be talking a lot about music but we couldn’t really step into a new year without celebrating Public Domain Day.

For our comeback, we're bringing you an interview with Anna Mazgal from the Communia Association, one of the policy organizations that has been working most closely with public domain issues. Communia actively pushes for European legislation that safeguards the public domain, as well as users’ rights. Their recommendations are grounded in research in copyright and intellectual property, but they also draw from the work of practitioners and people who have to deal with copyright on a daily basis: educators, creators, artists and, really, pretty much anyone who uses the internet.

According to the Wikipedia, “the public domain consists of all the creative work to which no exclusive intellectual property rights apply. Those rights may have expired, been forfeited, expressly waived, or may be inapplicable” somehow. In the European Union - with the exception of Spain - copyright on published works expires 70 years after the author's death. This means that the (most) works of those who passed away in 1949 are now under the public domain in (most) EU member states.

Here are some examples of works that are now under public domain in Europe:

  • the music scores by Richard Strauss, Joaquín Turina and Nikos Skalkottas
  • the novel "Gone With the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell and all her works
  • the works of Literature Nobel prize-laureates Maurice Maeterlinck and Sigrid Undset
  • the works by art-deco pioneer Alexandra Ekster

As we move towards implementing the new EU Directive on Copyright in each member-state, Communia has been publishing a series of documents to help legislators navigate through the text the best way possible. The guidelines are clear and detailed, spanning from protecting the public domain to implementing new provisions that allow the use of out-of-commerce works, but also exceptions for digital and cross-border education, as well as protections against technological overrides of copyright exceptions.

Happy Public Domain Day and happy new year!


This interview was recorded a long time ago and Anna Mazgal hasn’t been part of Communia for quite a while, but she still works towards the same goals as part of the Wikimedia team.