Press "Enter" to skip to content

Center for the Public Domain (1999–2005)

Summary: The Center for the Public Domain, originally known as the Red Hat Center for Open Source, was founded as a short-term philanthropy venture by entrepreneurs Marc Ewing and Bob Young.  After their company, Red Hat, Inc., a pioneer in open-source software, went public and proved very lucrative, the founders turned their interest toward establishing a philanthropic organization to “sponsor, support, promote, and engage in a wide range of scientific and educational projects intended to advance the social principles of open source for the greater good of the general public.”[1]

Though they initially counted on having Red Hat, Inc. provide a large portion of the funding for this venture, Investors prevented this, making the Center much smaller than originally intended. This had the effect of narrowing the original scope of their investments to focus just on intellectual property issues.[2]  The Red Hat Center was closed by 2001 and replaced by the newly-incorporated Center for the Public Domain, “a nonprofit foundation that supports the growth of a healthy and robust public domain by establishing programs, grants, and partnerships in the areas of academic research, medicine, law, education, media, technology, and the arts.”[3] Ultimately, the Center worked to provide free online legal resources, sponsor public domain spaces, and provide resources on intellectual property.  Grant recipients included the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Creative Commons, the Free Software Foundation, and the Future of Music Coalition.[4]

[1] “Red Hat, Inc., Establishes Red Hat Center for Open Source,” company press release, Red Hat, Inc., November 1999, p. 1, accessed 11 June 2014 at

[3] Archived copy of the CPD web site’s home page, accessed on 11 June 2014 at