Panel on the Future of the Public Domain in Europe

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"A public debate about the future of the public domain in Europe and the role of evolving media and information infrastructures. The public domain can best be understood as the space of shared information, knowledge and communication resources that allow citizens free access to knowledge, ideas, and cultural expressions, as well as the means for discussing and sharing them. A thriving public domain is of vital importance for the democratic development of society, the free exchange of ideas and opinions, and thereby for the innovative power of society to find new solutions for emerging challenges.

The public domain is always a contested area, where different social actors assume their role in shaping its future. Public institutions have traditionally understood their role as central to the constitution of the public domain, alongside civic initiatives and interests, as the public domain offers the space for common and shared insights, ideas and expressions that create the cultural and social context, the ‘glue’ of society.

It is curious that while an ever increasing percentage of the European population gets their access to information, cultural expressions, and communication resources via networked media / the internet, public institutions perform only a marginal role in providing this access. While the public domain should be considered as complementary to that of the market the responsibility for digital and on-line access to information, expression and communication is left almost entirely to private actors.

In pluralist societies public institutions, including governments, have a clear responsibility for the public domain. In the view of Dutch media and cultural sociologist Wim Knulst these public institutions should ‘guarantee the diversity and quality of the public offering of information, expression and communication’ [1] This succinct formula, drafted in 1990 in view of an ever changing media and demographic context for cultural policies, is still perfectly apt today. Recent initiatives such as the Manifesto for the Public Domain have addressed this responsibility anew [2]. Our question is how this responsibility for the digital public domain will be filled in the immediate future?" (