Subject: Re: Can OSI specify that public domain is open source?
From: Chad Perrin <>
Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2011 15:09:52 -0600
Wed, 7 Sep 2011 15:09:52 -0600
On Wed, Sep 07, 2011 at 04:59:30PM -0400, John Cowan wrote:
> Chad Perrin scripsit:
> >
> > As I understand things, there is no particular requirement for an
> > open source license to be non-removable to meet the standards of the
> > OSD.  If we assume for the moment that the public domain can be
> > applied to a work without issues, the fact a derived or modified work
> > can be licensed differently does not make it less "open source", as
> > far as I'm aware, and the same could be said for an open source
> > license that includes a clause that allows relicensing (such as the
> > WTFPL).  Am I mistaken?
> No, you are correct.  But consider these scenarios:
> You (who are not a federal employee) modify a work named "foo" that has
> a BSD license and publish the modified version.  It is still under the
> BSD license without further action.
> 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.

The original is still public domain, though -- and a public domain notice
can be attached to the newly modified work.  I don't really see how this
alters anything I said (quoted above).

I agree it's suboptimal.  It's very suboptimal.  I try to talk people
into using a copyfree license instead of the public domain somewhat
regularly, in fact.  Public domain still meets the requirements for open
source software, as far as I'm concerned, for jurisdictions where the
public domain applies to that software.

Chad Perrin [ original content licensed OWL: ]

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