Publication Details

This article was originally published as Lee, K-S, The digital public domain : from a spatial metaphor to citizen’s cyber-right, The journal of media economics & culture 8(3), 2010, 287-318. Original journal article available here


This essay explores the term “public domain,” consciously sug- gested in discourses of liberal U.S. legal scholars, to be a problem- atic feature of copyright law. By critically reviewing popular spatial meta- phors of the public domain as a sanctuary against the copyright regime, this article argues that the public domain should be regarded as part of the public rights of citizens, and restoration of the citizens’ rights could be accomplished by pushing the liberal discussion of the public domain into the more counter-property ideal of a Marxist tradition. As alternative models of copyright and for underpinning the public domain, emergent forms of public licensing demonstrate how a new democratic deal be- tween creators and the public can be rebuilt, without any governmental intervention or proprietary desire. These public licensing models go be- yond the “formal” perspective that the tension between property and the public domain must be resolved within the scope of the legal codes and with the support of government as a mediator. Changing the direc- tion from the critical analysis of copyright to alternative models of copy- right will encourage a general attitude change in copyright research and promote experiments to build the public domain as a part of public rights in actual reality.