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Public Domain

WIPO's emerging activities in relation to the public domain (PD) are based on recommendations of member states, in the WIPO Development Agenda, for WIPO to:

  • "consider the preservation of the public domain within WIPO's normative processes and deepen the analysis of the implications and benefits of a rich and accessible public domain" (Recommendation 16), and;
  • "promote norm-setting activities related to IP that support a robust public domain in WIPO’s member states, including the possibility of preparing guidelines which could assist interested member states in identifying subject matters that have fallen into the public domain within their respective jurisdictions" (Recommendation 20).

In April 2009, the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) approved a Thematic Project on Intellectual Property and the Public Domain, which contains components on patents, trademarks and traditional knowledge, in addition to copyright and related rights, for implementation beginning in the 2010-2011 biennium. Activities under the copyright and related rights component of the Thematic Project will be regularly updated here. 

Scoping Study on Copyright and Related Rights and the Public Domain

The first result of the implementation of the Thematic Project was the publication of the WIPO Scoping Study on Copyright and Related Rights and the Public Domain, authored by Professor Severine Dusollier.

The scoping study includes an illustrative comparison of national legislations that directly, or indirectly, defines the public domain; and a survey of initiatives and tools, which may affect access, use, identification and location of public domain material.

In addition the author suggests few recommendations for further work to be undertaken by WIPO in regard to the public domain as far as copyright is concerned.

The scoping study has the objective of providing assistance to Member States by raising awareness of this increasingly meaningful theme. Moreover, the Study produces essential information for the evaluation of the possible benefits of a “rich and accessible” PD.

In addition, it is relevant to mention that in the context of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, the Secretariat published a “Note on the meanings of the term “Public Domain” in the Intellectual Property System with special reference to the protection of Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions / Expressions of Folklore”.

Selected documents