In November of 2001, Duke University School of Law held a conference on the public domain; the "outside" of the intellectual property system, the material that is free for all to use and to build upon.1 So far as we could tell, this was the first conference on the subject, which is surprising when one realizes the central role of the public domain in our traditions of speech, innovation and culture. In many ways, this imbalance-the hundreds of conferences, centers and initiatives that have intellectual property as their focus, and the comparative dearth of attention on the public domain-provided the best explanation for the event.

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