Subject: Re: Can OSI specify that public domain is open source?
From: Chad Perrin <>
Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2011 15:21:56 -0600
Wed, 7 Sep 2011 15:21:56 -0600
On Wed, Sep 07, 2011 at 05:06:43PM -0400, Karl Fogel wrote:
> John Cowan <> writes:
> >You modify another work named "bar" that has a public-domain notice.
> >Let's assume for the moment that the work truly is in the public domain;
> >perhaps it is written by Barack Obama in the scope of his employment.
> >You publish your modified version.  Is the work still in the public
> >domain?  Arguably no!  It is now a proprietary work (though without a
> >copyright notice, so you will find it hard to sue).
> >
> >That's what makes public-domain notices really bad.  People assume that
> >they can be treated like open-source works, but they cannot, not without
> >highly unexpected consequences.
> No, this would be just as true if the original work had been under a BSD
> or MIT license.  You still couldn't assume that someone's random
> derivative work is under the same license as the original, unless they
> explicitly attached headers indicating that.

Derivative, involving additions under other licenses -- yes.
Modifications to the original -- no.  BSD and MIT licenses still require
inclusion of the license in modified versions.  The public domain example
requires re-dedication to the public domain, as I understand it, every
time someone modifies it.  The inheritance characteristics are notably
different.  I just don't believe that disqualifies it as open source
software, in the spirit of the OSD.

Chad Perrin [ original content licensed OWL: ]

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