CREATe’s First Working Paper of 2015 Considers the Value of the Public Domain

We are pleased to announced the release of CREATe’s first Working Paper of 2015, the twenty-seventh in the series to date. Copyright and the Value of the Public Domain by Kristofer Erickson, Paul Heald, Fabian Homberg, Martin Kretschmer and Dinusha Mendis documents the results of a year-long knowledge exchange initiative undertaken between the Intellectual Property Office, researchers at the University of Glasgow CREATe Centre, and more than two dozen UK businesses and innovators, to explore how value is generated from the public domain. The study was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

The overall purpose of the project was 1) to map the size of the public domain and frequency of its use; 2) analyse the role of public domain works in value creation for UK businesses; 3) assist creators and entrepreneurs to identify business models that benefit from the public domain. In addition to these outputs, the intellectual contribution of this project was to arrive at a sufficiently precise definition of the public domain that would permit measurement of its value, and secondly, to critically appraise theories of creativity and innovation that explain how value might be generated from non-exclusive use of ideas and works available to all. The non-rival, non-excludable nature of the public domain would seem to limit its appeal to creators in a competitive market. Any observed commercial uptake of public domain material consequently raises important questions: What stimulates creators to invest in transforming or re-publishing public domain works? How do firms gain and sustain competitive advantage when exploiting freely available public domain materials? What policy options are available to promote market uptake of public domain materials, and what are the likely impacts?

In order to address the objectives of the project, a number of specific empirical field sites were chosen. Each of the studies is expanded in detail in the report. The studies consisted of 1) an analysis of strategic choices by UK firms to exploit public domain materials; 2) a quantitative, computer-assisted study of uptake and reuse of public domain materials by independent creators on Kickstarter; 3) a matched-pairs analysis of the effect of inclusion of public domain images on selected sub-pages of Wikipedia, to assess the value added to the platform by the availability and use of such works.

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