Subject: Re: Can OSI specify that public domain is open source?
From: John Cowan <>
Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2011 16:59:30 -0400

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.

No saves, Antonio, loke es morirse en su lingua. Es komo            John Cowan
kedarse soliko en el silensyo kada dya ke Dyo da, komo
ser sikileoso sin saver porke.            
                        --Marcel Cohen, 1985