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Public Domain Day 2010 in Poland

The second edition of the Public Domain Day celebration was organized at Warsaw's National Library by the Coalition for Open Education, a group of non-governmental organizations and institutions working in the fields of education, science and culture and promote open access to knowledge. Attended by representatives of NGOs, libraries, cultural institutions and lawyers, the debate focused on the current state of the resource-sharing culture in Poland.

During the event, members of the Coalition also hosted a multimedia presentation on the public domain, held a workshop on cultural resource sharing led by Dr. Alek Tarkowski (Creative Commons) and Jaroslaw Lipszyc (Modern Poland Foundation). Piotr Waglowski introduced a legal analysis of problems related to the public domain.

The most important concern emerging seems to be the lack of public domain protection, thus creating a ripple effect with difficulties and problems at each step. In Poland the whole issue is poorly understood and supported, starting with its very legislation: the translator of the Berne Convention (to which Poland is a signatory) used the official term of ‘nation public ownership’. [11jan10]

While digital libraries provided historical source materials also involving National schools and social networks, some publishers took advantage of those works entering the Public Domain on 1. January 2010: Jirafa Roja Publishing House just released a special edition of "Narkotyki” (“Drugs") by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. Actually his works were already in the public domain but the 2001 copyright extension law (70 years after the author death) prevented them to be freely used for another 8 years. Ans similar controversies abound in the cultural landscape.

Another problem is the technical security or works’ appropriation by a commercial database, which may restrict access to works in the public domain works, regardless of the principles of law. These actions are controversial, because according to globally accepted principles, nothing can hinder access and define the scope of use of works for which protection has expired.

During the public debate, various speakers pointed to the worrying trend of extending copyright indefinitely, thus threatening the efforts made so far by education and culture institutions to expand access to culture and arts, which in turn might result in increasing the cost of education.

Overall the Public Domain Day celebrations demonstrated that an actual public domain environment requires a series of complex and mutually dependent regulations. Activities aimed at introducing a system of legal protection in the public domain are grounded in legislation. Abandoning these actions could only increase the erosion of the whole system based on open access and free use of cultural goods.

[Edited report by Karolina Grodecka, Jarosław Lipszyc, Kraków, Warszawa]

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