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Public Rights in Copyright: What makes up the public domain?

A lecture by Professor Graham Greenleaf, University of New South Wales, Australia. With free food and wine reception afterwards.

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'Public domain' is an ambiguous term in copyright law. In its narrowest use it means those works in which copyright has expired due to the expiry of the copyright term. A slightly broader usage includes works that do not ever attract copyright protection, and those over which the author has renounced all claims of copyright. However, it has a more modern and expansive usage which encompasses all types of 'public rights' to use copyright works. Copyright theory needs a more precise and more comprehensive understanding of what is meant by 'public rights' or 'public domain'. Starting with a definition of 'public rights',  Professor Greenleaf will argue that, while some elements of public rights in copyright are universal (or nearly so), mainly because of the influence of international conventions and of the Internet, many elements vary between  countries. It is therefore necessary to speak of public rights in relation to a particular copyright jurisdiction in order to be precise. Professor Greenleaf will then proceed, by way of example, to categorise all the distinct public rights that make up the copyright public domain in Australia, noting how and where they differ from the UK. Such comparative analysis of public rights makes it easier, from a policy perspective, to identify deficiencies in our own country's public rights, and to argue for how they should be strengthened.


Professor Greenleaf’s work concerns inter-relationships between information technology and law: legal information systems and cyberspace law. Professor Greenleaf holds a research-only appointment as Professor of Law & Information Systems at UNSW Faculty of Law, plus a number of visiting international positions.  He is also Co-Director of the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) and associated international projects (particularly AsianLII, CommonLII & WorldLII). In 2012 he is doing research on data privacy laws in Asia, on  public rights in Australian copyright law, and on various AustLII-related projects.


Amory C501