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Putting the public in the public domain: The public library's role in the re‐conceptualization of the public domain

Tamara Sheppard (Emporia State University, Kansas City, Kansas, USA)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 15 May 2009




The purpose of this paper is to attempt to highlight the imminent corrosion of the public domain brought about by the pervasive lack of recognition within the public at large regarding what the public domain is, what it stands for, and what it is meant to accomplish.


Utilizing the diverse theories of proponents of the public domain, this analysis proposes a re‐conceptualization of the public domain which acknowledges its significance to the creative process itself, and subsequently stresses the importance of public awareness and participation to its continuing survival.


While remarking on the efficacy of a number of digitization ventures in the promotion of the public domain, it is concluded that mere awareness of the plight of the public domain is not enough. What the public domain desperately needs to subsist is the presence of an active citizenry that is dedicated to preserving its interests. Moreover, the public library is emphasized as the ideal vehicle with which to elucidate the public and secure their involvement in a campaign to safeguard an endangered public domain.


This paper expounds on the necessity of bringing the public and the public domain together so that both are empowered to dispel the restrictions that have arisen from an excessive copyright protectionist regime and so that both are enabled to defend themselves from any further encroachments on their ability to progress and mature within their own cultural bounds.



Sheppard, T. (2009), "Putting the public in the public domain: The public library's role in the re‐conceptualization of the public domain", New Library World, Vol. 110 No. 5/6, pp. 207-218.



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