What would it be then, a plural public domain?

Test reads: What would it be then, a plural public domain?

Welcome to a public reading list and glossary about the public domain and related themes started by Whose Knowledge?. Western European legal frames have constructed the Public Domain as an entirely intellectual property issue in which the views of Indigenous and minoritised communities have not been considered or systematically excluded.

The way in which a singular Public Domain has been theorised also doesn’t take into account what should or shouldn’t be shared, based on Indigenous and minoritised communities governance systems, methodologies, processes and ways of being. Concurrently to those discussions are thinkings on how to center ethical, respectful, and open sharing of knowledges which is stewarded by communities of origin — not by capitalist or coercive institutions.

Feel free to contact us on info[AT]whoseknowledge[DOT]org to send us your recommendations!


Public Domain

a term/concept in Intellectual Property (IP) law applied to works that are not subject to IP rights, especially copyright. In the GLAM world it’s usually a concept or state-of-being applied to work which is free from restrictions under copyright law either because the copyright has expired or because the work could not be protected by copyright. It is often conceptualised as an alternate status of creative work or knowledge that is not protected by copyright.

Tragedy of the commons 

According to the concept, should a number of people enjoy unfettered access to a finite, valuable resource such as a pasture, they will tend to over-use it, and may end up destroying its value altogether. Here are two further readings, adding to the debate about this concept:

Tragedy of the anti-commons

The tragedy of the anticommons is a type of coordination breakdown, in which a commons does not emerge, even when general access to resources or infrastructure would be a social good. It is a mirror-image of the older concept of tragedy of the commons, in which numerous rights holders’ combined use exceeds the capacity of a resource and depletes or destroys it.

Access to Knowledge [A2K] movement

The Access to Knowledge (A2K) movement is a loose collection of civil society groups, governments, and individuals converging on the idea that access to knowledge should be linked to fundamental principles of justice, freedom, and economic development


The World Intellectual Property Organization was created to promote and protect intellectual property (IP) across the world by cooperating with countries as well as international organizations.

The Undercommons 

The Undercommons is composed of six essays as well as an interview with Stevphen Shukaitis. The text includes criticism of academia and public policy (as a discipline), generally from a left-wing perspective. While densely written, the second and fifth essays generally suggest that universities are part of a societal structure that turns “insurgents into state agents” (the professional–managerial class, in socialist terms) and upholds existing capitalist society; the societal respectability that universities provide should be rejected.

Public Domain and Private Domain are intertwined

How can communal ways of knowledge production, sharing and dissemination relate with the public domain / private domain binary?

Domains of knowledge are not to be alienated from knowers and are best situated in the historical context 

Who benefits from the public domain and who is harmed?

Should this content be in the public domain?

How can we bring a new perspective to the “communal”?

On restitution of cultural heritage and digital rights

Can knowledge be owned and who should own it?

Who commoditises indigenous cultural heritage?

*Our compañera, Decolonizing Wikimedia coordinator, Mariana Fossatti shared this title [What would it be then, a plural public domain?] with her thoughts on Public Domain discussions.

Whose Knowledge?

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