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Balancing act – Expanding the focus

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By Todd Cohen

DURHAM, N.C. — Despite deflated assets resulting from last year’s plunge in Red Hat stock, the foundation created by executives of the Durham-based publisher of the Linux open-source operating system has expanded its focus.

The Center for the Public Domain, formerly the Red Hat Center, aims to champion efforts to balance the rights to intellectual property with public access to knowledge.

“Since it’s very important to support the marketplace, it is equally important to understand the value of publicly accessible information and to allow both sides to flourish,” says Laurie Racine, the foundation’s president.

The $5 million-asset foundation was endowed with $30 million in Red Hat stock pledged when shares were near their peak. But the foundation did not get the shares until they had lost most of their value.

The foundation, which has since sold the stock, initially focused on promoting the free and open exchange of information, and making technology accessible and easy to use, manipulate and understand.

In addition to roughly half of the $4 million it pledged over four years to ibiblio, a digital library it is developing with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the foundation handed out $615,000 in grants last year and has awarded $556,000 this year.

The foundation, which also sponsors original research, conferences and collaborative programs, is giving $280,000 over two years to help create a fellowship program in intellectual property and the public domain at the School of Law at Duke University in Durham — and $150,000 for a related scholarly conference at the law school in November.

The foundation also will convene major funders this fall to explore intellectual property issues, and is creating a Web site to feature public-domain resources in the areas of law, culture, technology, science and advocacy.

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