Report on Public Domain Day 2011, Torino( Italy), 22 January 2011
For the first time in Italy the Public Domain Day was celebrated with a public meeting. The meeting was made possible by the joint efforts of Juan Carlos De Martin co-founder of the Center for Internet & Society NEXA at the Politecnico di Torino, Peiretti Federico, head of the PolyMath Project of Istituto Superiore Mario Boella and Angelo Raffaele Meo, former president of Accademia delle Scienze di Torino from 2006 to 2009, with the support of the Politecnico di Torino and within the context of COMMUNIA, the European Thematic Network on the Digital Public Domain. In the charming "Salone d'Onore" of the Valentino Castle in Turin, De Martin, bringing the greetings of the Rector of the Politecnico, said that copyright represented only a temporary condition of the intellectual work, while the Public Domain was its "natural state".
For the occasion, the actor Gianni Bissaca read some passages of works of Vito Volterra (who died in 1940), mathematician who contributed to the birth of the modern version of Politecnico di Torino in 1906 and Francis Scott Fitzgerald, American writer and author of the novel "The Great Gatsby”, who also passed away in 1940. Franco Pastrone, professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Turin, narrated the extraordinary events that marked the life of Volterra, who, besides the outstanding scientific contributions, which included the founding of the National Research Council of Italy (CNR), was one of twelve (out of 1,200) Italian university professors that refuse to swear the oath of loyalty to fascism in 1931, thereby, losing his tenure, a condition further exacerbated, since Volterra was Jewish, after the shameful approval of the Racial Laws in 1938.
With regards to works of fiction, Ernesto Ferrero, director of the Torino International Book Fair, after an interesting overview of copyright history in Italy since before the Unification of the country in 1861, pointed out that writing, thanks to the digital revolution, becomes more easily a collective work within a context in which we need to find a balance between the expansion of Public Domain, and the remuneration of the individual. However, Ferrero said, seventy years after the death of the author that characterize the current copyright conditions are an excessive term of protection which constitute an obstacle to the spread of culture.
This view was also shared by Pietro Rossi, the current president of the Academy of Sciences, which highlighted the great effort for scanning documents and publications belonging to the library of the Academy, so that they could be available to the general public. Maurizio Ferraris, professor at the University of Turin, has focused on a philosophical point of view of the concept of Public Domain. It makes a vital contribution to the condition of "ideal objectivity" in which writing takes place and becomes a basic requirement in a situation in which we witness the proliferation of new forms of "documentality" (the key concept of prof. Ferraris's recent research).
During the morning was also presented the digital version of a book entitled "Storia del Politecnico di Torino", written by Giuseppe Maria Pugno in 1959. Since the book is as useful as rare, it was digitized and distributed online under a Creative Commons license for the occasion of the Public Domain Day. The book is currently available on the portal that collects the digitized works of the Library System of Politecnico di Torino. The history covers the years from 1861 to the outbreak of World War II.