One problem Wikisource has encountered throughout its history is establishing which texts are public domain and therefore useable, and which are not. Various rules of thumb were developed, but these are vague and often so conservative as to provoke calls of copyright paranoia.
A new registry may resolve this problem by providing the "most comprehensive" searchable database of works, providing such information as copyright status, links to digital versions, and where to purchase a paper copy. The registry, which will be public and free, is based on the same MediaWiki software used by Wikisource and is supported by Jimbo Wales, Wikimedia Foundation founder.
The plan calls for the project to be developed in two stages. In the first stage, the database will be populated with a comprehensive registry of works, mostly taken from Access Copyright's Rights Management System, which is the largest database of its kind in Canada. The second stage will expand the project to include works published in other countries.
"Quick and easy access to legally available content is vital as we move further into the digital age," Access Copyright's legal affairs director Roanie Levy said in a statement. "The public domain registry has limitless possibilities and will place Canadian cultural content at the leading edge of the public domain."
"The public domain is our shared cultural heritage, and the best ground for the great new ideas of the future," Jimbo Wales stated. "Without access to the public domain, we are cut off from our past, and therefore cut ourselves off from our future."
"Canada has a rich cultural heritage of literature, music and fine art that is in the public domain just waiting to be freely enjoyed," Creative Commons Canada's Marcus Bornfreund. "The problem until now was that there was no easy way to identify whether or not works are in the public domain."