Should public domain artworks like music, sculpture and paintings, which are part of our cultural heritage to be made accessible only via access to difficult to reach and not-always-open museums in which we need to often pay also an entrance ticket?
If we pay our state to create public works like art, music, architecture, research, is it right that these creations are then exploited for commercial uses by a restricted few?
If through the taxes that I and you pay, the government decides to commission an art piece, major event or concert, should this event be made accessible only to restricted few while allowing private interests to profit through it (via management of sponsorships, logistics or support)?
Could we not have access to all of the above, for free and via the Internet, simply because "public works" and "public domain" should be in accessible by everyone?
Photo credit: Gabor Palla
It would seem that not only this is going to be a sacred right of any citizen, but it would be a very beneficial evolution of how we consume and give access to art and culture.
If you like the idea that we should consume more of our original culture and less of the prepackaged one that Michael Jackson would prefer us drink, then what better opportunity do we have, than leveraging the pervasive distribution potential of the Internet, its very low costs of maintenance and setup (compared at least to the infrastructures like museums and archives) that
host today most of our valuable art?
If we could provide unlimited access to the marvelous paintings of Michelangelo and Raphael, if we could facilitate easier access and playful interaction with the great musical heritage of Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Vivaldi and Respighi, if we could make it easy to download pictures of all the great cathedrals, fountains and palaces that our Italian centuries-old cities are filled with, wouldn't we create a much greater opportunity for our young generation to appreciate and learn from all such beauty?
Photo credit: Tatyana Postovyk
If taxpayers money could allow for maximum access and fruition of all this art, knowledge wouldn't society benefit at large?
If taxpayers money supported the financing of movie, radio programs and podcasts, events and whatever else facilitates greater accessibility to this wealth, rather than wasting hundreds of millions of euros for pathetic TV shows and films that are not only uneducational but which are often restricted to only adult audiences, could we gain something as a society?
If we allowed more people, especially the young and the creative, to have more access to the tools of creation, editing and reproduction that are available today in the digital universe, and made it possible for them to use all of the public domain to investigate, research, report the insights hidden into each one f these treasures, could we learn a little more about life than when we go to see/hear another love story movie/song?
I don't know, but I ask you to think about this.
Why is it that the greatest treasures and art masterpieces, all residing in the public domain, are not easily accessible, downloadable and redistributable via the Internet?
Nonetheless they are in the public domain, most of these work of art, are rather inaccessible. Many of them are inside museums and archives which are not always easy to reach (and which require access fees)and which prohibit visitors from photographing, duplicating or re-using them in any format.
Others have become the licensed properties of stock agencies, record labels or other private interests which charge hefty fees for their re-use and publication.
And guess where is the greatest collection of public domain art, architecture, music and human knowledge that should not be in the private hands of anyone?
Yes, right here in Italy.
It is therefore with some notable appreciation that I am following the passionate efforts of the Creative Commons Italian community as it launches and fuels with energy a new very inspiring initiative called
"Scarichiamoli! ("Let's download them!").
Here is what they say in their latest press release issued a few hours ago:
The February 2005 meeting at the Italian Senate has been an important milestone in shedding new light on what are the opportunities and interests that could emerge from the campaign labeled: "Scarichiamoli! (Let's download them!).
Public access to know-how and free use of intellectual work represent a common denominator for different movements (Open Access , Open Content , Open Source , Web Accessibility ), which are concerned with varied problems, but which in the respect of their own mission and principles can't refuse to acknowledge a fertile common ground: An open development of the
Based on this assumption, our request, to the Italian State and to relevant government organs, for a Web portal, a meta-search engine, a P2P client and other technological solutions targeted at creating popular and secure channels for the popularization of Italian culture, must reflect the successes that the above movements have achieved and which represent an extraordinary
valuable set of resources for society: For example, the requested system will need to use free software, to support the OAI-PMH  protocol, to comply with WCAG 1.0 specifications , to make available all public domain works .
These will include music, writings, images, and any other intellectual work free from commercial utilization rights. And also, works released with a free distribution  or an open content  license.
Each and everyone of this works must be freely downloadable, without any breaching of the law (it is evident that downloading a file doesn't automatically mean that an illegal act is being committed, but before downloading it is essential to know if downloading that specific content is illegal or not: transparency guarantees security and freedom).
It is on these premises that the proposed change to the 11th section of the Italian law on intellectual property rights  can gain credibility and weight: works financed with public money not only need to be perpetually  exempt from exclusive commercialization rights (patrimonial author rights  and related rights ) but need also to be publicly accessible and usable(downloadable) .
The initiative of the Italian Creative Commons community is gaining increasing attention from the Italian general public as well as from the "net community" as it provides a premiere opportunity for a true participative democracy based on an intelligent use of the Internet.
The Scarichiamoli! initiative is a true reflection of the good potential of the Internet converging with the increasing awareness of users that such uses are not only well within their rights, but actually represent an effective first step in
allowing new technologies to create a more inclusive scenario when it comes to access one nation's whole cultural heritage.
 http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition.php
 The right to authorship and the right to a work integrity (author's moral rights) are inalienable rights, imprescriptible and irrenounceable: nonetheless an intellectual property work has entered the Public Domain, the author and the heirs (in the case the author has died) continue to exclusively benefit from these rights.
 Free software licenses and licenses for its related documentation.
 Intellectual property licenses different from software and its related documentation, in which some rights are reserved.
 Art. 11 Italian Law of April 22nd 1941 n. 633: To the State administrative units, [to the National Fascist Party], to the provinces and town jurisdictions is reserved the author's rights on those works created and published under their names and with their budgets.
The same right is granted to private entities who do not operate for commercial goals, except for special agreements made with the authors of the published works, and also granted to the academies and to other public cultural centers relative to their collections and publications.
 Right to publish the work; right to use the work commercially; reproduction rights; transcription rights; performing rights; right to publicly communicate the work; distribution rights; translation rights; editing rights; re-publication rights; rental and leasing rights; lending rights; rights to authorize third-parties to lend the work out; rights to authorize third-parties to borrow the work out.
Relative to the software: Reproduction rights, permanent or temporary, partial or total of the computer software with any means or device; right to translation, customization, and upgrade and modification to the software, and re-distribution rights to the derivative work. Right for allowing any form of public distribution, including sale or rental of the software or of copies of it.
 Rights of phonographic records producer, rights of the producers of cinematographic, audio-visual, image-based works, rights relative to radio and television broadcasting, artists and executor rights, rights relative to works published or made available to the general public for the first time after the expiration of the author's patrimonial rights, rights related to critical and scientific works in the public domain, rights relative to theatrical scripts and drafts of them, photographic rights, rights to mail letter exchanges, portrait rights, rights to engineering works, and other rights referred by Italian Law of April 22nd 1941, n. 633.
 For scientific literature please see the "Berlin Declaration":
Establishing open access as a worthwhile procedure ideally requires the active commitment of each and every individual producer of scientific knowledge and holder of cultural heritage. Open access contributions include original scientific research results, raw data and metadata, source materials, digital representations of pictorial and graphical materials and scholarly multimedia material.
Open access contributions must satisfy two conditions:
a) The author(s) and right holder(s) of such contributions grant(s) to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship (community standards, will continue to provide the mechanism for enforcement of proper attribution and responsible use of the published work, as they do now), as well as the right to make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use.
b) A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of the permission as stated above, in an appropriate standard electronic format is deposited (and thus published) in at least one online repository using suitable technical standards (such as the Open Archive definitions) that is supported and maintained by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well-established organization that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, inter operability, and long-term rchiving.
What do you think?