There’s been a civic re-awakening around the idea that the public should have better access to the research outputs, educational content, and cultural heritage materials that its tax dollars create. Imagine what would be possible with broad, open access to publicly funded cancer research, crucial open data on climate change, and innovative career education and training materials.

Right now, this is not the case. Interesting and useful digital content developed through the generosity of public investment remains locked up by restrictive intellectual property laws, antiquated procurement processes, and incumbent commercial companies who want to protect their dying business models.

There’s a massive opportunity for our society to leverage the near-zero marginal costs of digital copying and the incredible connective potential of the Internet to increase access to knowledge, improve educational opportunities, and help solve some of the world’s toughest scientific challenges.

To do this, we need to work to develop smart, forward-looking public policies that flip the default from a closed, proprietary system to an open, participatory, and collaborative one.

There have already been some interesting and impactful policy changes, as will be explored more in this report. But we have a long way to go. Positive policy change is not inevitable. It requires committed advocates, open-minded policymakers, and ongoing public pressure and support for systemic changes that will improve access and opportunities for everyone. Let’s do it, together.

Tim Vollmer, Creative Commons