The public domain is the realm of material—ideas, images, sounds, discoveries, facts, texts—that is unprotected by intellectual property rights and free for all to use or build upon. Our economy, culture and technology depend on a delicate balance between that which is, and is not, protected by exclusive intellectual property rights. Both the incentives provided by intellectual property and the freedom provided by the public domain are crucial to the balance. But most contemporary attention has gone to the realm of the protected.
The Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School is the first university center in the world devoted to the other side of the picture. Founded in September of 2002, as part of the school’s wider intellectual property program, its mission is to promote research and scholarship on the contributions of the public domain to speech, culture, science and innovation, to promote debate about the balance needed in our intellectual property system and to translate academic research into public policy solutions. The Center’s Faculty Co-Directors are James Boyle, David Lange, Arti Rai and Jerome Reichman. Its Director is Jennifer Jenkins. The Center is supported in its operation by a generous founding gift and by grants from foundations.