I knew that Europeana groks the Public Domain, but not this much…
As part of their “Open Culture 2010” conference that I’m keynoting tomorrow (sneak peek), Creative Commons have launched the PDM (Public Domain Mark) upon the world – and Europeana will be the first to use it.
Unlike the other Creative Commons “products”, which are all copyright licenses that permit you to give permission-in-advance for how you want your creative work to be used, the PDM is merely a notification that the item in question has no copyright whatsoever. This is why it is called the PD “Mark” and not PD License – which would be a contradiction in terms. Europeana has also published a handy list of “usage guidelines for PD works” that enumerate the good practices that should still be followed even though there is no longer any copyright. These include “give credit when it’s due” and “show respect for the original work”.
Wikimedia and other sites have been using the C-with-a-line-through-it for a while to represent the concept of the Public Domain. What makes the Creative Commons PDM different then is that it is machine-readable rather than merely a logo, which makes it consistent and discoverable. This will enable you to find PD content on the internet using “search by license” techniques that are commonly available in places like Google and Flickr. As such, it allows GLAMs and other organisations to depreciate the use of the “know known copyright” tag and, when known, make a clear statement of Public Domain. Europeana is encouraging this with its partners so that end users (notably Wikimedians) can quickly find good quality, relevant and unencumbered cultural content to reuse.
You can read the full Creative Commons press release here, FAQ here. I sincerely hope that Wikimedia Commons will take up use of this PDM as a matter of principle so that our PD content can be made even more findable.