## What are the public domain calculators?
New digital technologies now make it possible for the public to access a vast quantity of cultural and historical material. Much of this material is in the public domain, and ongoing digitisation efforts will mean that much more material in which copyright has expired will be made available for the public to enjoy, reuse, and redistribute.
However, copyright laws are complicated, and for the layperson it may not be clear how they apply in relation to a specific work. Though there are many international and multinational copyright agreements and copyright organisations, the exact details of copyright law vary from one country to another. Different countries have different legal systems and traditions – and copyright laws reflect these differences. Hence, given that different works are in the public domain in different countries, the status of a work cannot be universally established but rather needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis for every jurisdiction. Furthermore the public domain is a resource that has characteristically been negatively defined: i.e. the public domain is everything that is ”not” protected by Intellectual Property laws, or in which protection has expired, and many works in the public domain which are available online may not be clearly marked as such.
The public domain calculators aim to make it easier for everyone to establish whether or not a given work is in the public domain in a given jurisdiction. Knowledge about the copyright status of a given work is necessary in order to be able to reuse or exploit it, whether this is putting new material online, reusing material that is already online in new ways, or building new digital services which reuse or incorporate public domain works.
## Where does the idea for the public domain calculators come from?
The Open Knowledge Foundation began work on its first public domain calculator in 2006 for the Public Domain Works project, which provides an overview of sound recordings which are out of copyright in the UK, on the basis of metadata provided by the BBC and private collectors.
In 2007, Public Domain Works began working with the Open Library project in this area, and there were several discussions about creating a set of algorithms for determining public domain status in different jurisdictions.
At the first COMMUNIA workshop in 2008, the Open Knowledge Foundation proposed collaborating with legal experts in the network to create a set of public domain calculators for different jurisdictions in Europe. The project was also discussed at the first meeting of the EU funded COST A32 project. At the third COMMUNIA workshop, the OKF presented on the calculators project and a Working Group was created to work on public domain calculators across Europe.
Finally, in 2009, Kennisland and the Institute for Information Law (IViR) at the University of Amsterdam started working on a set of calculators for Europeana, the European Digital Library, in the framework of Europeana CONNECT. With the support of the National Library of Luxembourg, IViR conducted research into the question of the duration of the protection of subject matter in which copyright or neighbouring rights subsist across Europe. The research effected ultimately resulted in the production by Kennisland of a set of copyright flowcharts, each corresponding to an examined jurisdiction. The website [www.outofcopyright.eu](www.outofcopyright.eu) provide a simple interface between the user and the often complex set of national rules governing the term of protection.
## How do the public domain calculators work?
The objective of the public domain calculators is to make it easier to identify public domain works in any given jurisdiction, by automatically processing bibliographic metadata. By connecting the questions from the national copyright flowcharts with the answers found in the bibliographic metadata, it becomes possible for the public domain calculators to determine whether or not a certain work is in the public domain, given certain details such as date of publication, date of death of author, and so on.
The are three main steps required for the proper operation of the public domain calculators:
1. The first stage is to develop a series of flowcharts representing copyright law in various jurisdictions. This work is currently being undertaken by various institutions and through a community of legal experts in each country. With their assistance, errors can be spotted, details can be added – and the flow diagrams can become more accurate over time.
2. The second stage is to convert these flowcharts into code, so that they can be understood by a machine and to develop software modelling the process of determining the copyright status of a given work. At this stage code can be used as the basis of web services where information about works is provided by the user (‘manual’ calculation). This approach has been implemented by IViR and Kennisland through the creation of [www.outofcopyright.eu](http://www.outofcopyright.eu).
3. The third stage is to combine the software algorithms with large datasets about authors and works (e.g. from libraries, cultural heritage institutions, and other structured data sources) to generate lists of which works are in the public domain in a given jurisdiction (‘automated’ calculation). This work is currently being done with [www.publicdomainworks.net](http://www.publicdomainworks.net).
## What is the current status of work on the calculators?
Following is an overview of the current state of work on the public domain calculators:
* The Open Knowledge Foundation Working Group On the Public Domain has established a network of legal experts in over 20 countries who are reviewing and contributing towards the legal mapping, and the creation of a series of flowcharts.
* In the framework of Europeana CONNECT, Kennisland and the Institute for Information Law (IViR) completed work on calculators for 30 jurisdictions. A web interface for users to do manual calculation is now live at [www.outofcopyright.eu](http://www.outofcopyright.eu). Planning has started for work to enable automated calculation.
* Tulane University has created a US orientated calculator with a web interface to allow manual calculation. While they are sharing some material with Europeana for the purposes of peer review, their research is generally closed and their software is patented. The future direction of the project is unclear, as is the extent to which their efforts will be integrated with other initiatives around the world.
* The Open Library started working on a calculator for the US, and had been collaborating with various individuals and organisations to implement one for Canada. Work in this area is currently inactive.
* Based on the existing flowcharts which have been developed so far, the OKFN Public Domain Working Group has developped an automatic public domain calculator, which is currently operational as a preliminary version at [www.publicdomainworks.net](http://www.publicdomainworks.net). It is currently in the process of being properly implemented and integrated with new datasets, as well as with the metadata from [DBpedia](http://dbpedia.org).
Other relevant developments:
* Europeana, the European Digital Library, is currently in the process of negotiating a licence for the metadata contributed by a wide variety of cultural heritage institutions. If this data is made available under an open license, it would be extremely valuable to help map the status of European cultural works.
* Around the world, momentum is building in the library sector to open up bibliographic metadata for others to reuse. The Open Knowledge Foundation Working Group On Open Bibliographic Data is also in discussion with publishers and other cultural heritage organisations about opening up data which would facilitate work on automated calculation.