Subject: Re: Can OSI specify that public domain is open source?
From: John Cowan <>
Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2011 17:48:44 -0400

Thorsten Glaser scripsit:

> What's it then? (Assuming it's big enough to actually warrant
> protection under copyright law, which this one seems to be.)

It's a proprietary work belonging to the United States government, who
could sue you in a German court for modifying or distributing it, at
least in principle.  Presumably they would not, having no incentive to
do so, and the court might decide that their Berne copyright had been
abandoned -- but it might not.

> If some (non-government) US American were to take VistA, change some
> amount of work in it, then publish the result -- with his changes
> under say the BSD licence -- what's it then, to us non-Americans?

A work belonging to that American, but licensed to you under the terms
of the BSD license, assuming the BSD license is valid in Germany.  The
same would be true in the U.S.

> This is amazing. In the end, could this mean that, for example, Colin
> Plumb's MD5 implementation, SQLite, and things like that are lost as
> non-redistributable to e.g. Europeans?

Not only to Europeans but to U.S. citizens as well.  These people have
likewise no incentive to sue, but the same might not be true of their
successors in law -- heirs, creditors, or what not.

> Wow. Can of worms. Wow.

Temporarily sedated worms, but ready to wriggle again at any moment.

John Cowan                         
        "You need a change: try Canada"  "You need a change: try China"
                --fortune cookies opened by a couple that I know