Read these words carefully.
Just because something exists in a public domain, doesn’t mean that that something is public domain.
Let me paraphrase.
Just because a picture is posted on a website, doesn’t mean that it is free for all users without consequence.
The World Wide Web came into existence (more or less) on April 30, 1993. You can read the details here. It came into existence by CERN’s release into public domain, the code for a World-wide Web, an Editor and a Browser. By offering these things free, it created the public domain of the internet as we know it today.
The problem comes with things that reside in a public domain. An erroneous assumption has grown that these things are free. They are not. Consider a highway. It is a conveyance for all to use. If you find something on the highway is it free? Let’s put a finer point on the question.
- If you find an unopened candy bar on the road side, would you eat it?
- If you stumble upon an unprotected email, would you read it?
- If you find a wallet with cash and credit cards on the highway, is it yours to do with as you please?
- If you come across a user id and password would you use it?
- If you find a car parked on the side of the road, can you take it as your own?
- If you find a copyrighted picture you love would you claim it as your own?
Which of these scenarios, if acted upon, are crimes?
The Internet is a Public Domain. It is a public conveyance for information.
Items which are considered public domain, are items for which there is assumed no ownership or at minimum public ownership and the usual intellectual property rights do not apply.
Just because an item exists upon or travels through a public domain does not mean it is public domain.
True, the item may be public domain but it is far more likely that it is not.
Rikk Flohr © 2011