Subject: Re: Can OSI specify that public domain is open source?
From: Chad Perrin <>
Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2011 17:23:42 -0600
Wed, 7 Sep 2011 17:23:42 -0600
On Wed, Sep 07, 2011 at 10:19:42PM +0000, Thorsten Glaser wrote:
> Chad Perrin <perrin <at>> writes:
> > it was public domain?  If that works (presumably anywhere), I should
> > start shipping code whose license terms I do not like to nations where
> > there essentially is no such thing as copyright, have an associate there
> > make a minor modification and relicense it, then import it back here.
> Asides from you probably not being allowed to do the initial shipping,
> that was the question which arose from this. That would at least “save”
> the BSD legacy codebase I inherited…

What's to stop me from, for instance, shipping something under the terms
of the GPL or a CC-BY-ND license to some other country that has no
copyright?  My point is that such a thing is, as far as I'm aware,
completely legal, as is removing those licenses in that other country and
applying the MIT/X11 License (for instance) because, of course, the
licenses are all non-binding where there's no law that enforces them.
Shipping the work from that copyright-free country back to the source
nation with the changed license terms, then distributing it under those
terms, would infringe copyright, however -- as I understand it.  If not,
I *really* need to start figuring out who I know in countries that don't
recognize copyright.

> On the other hand, this sounds too good to be true, especially in a
> legal context. That’s why I’m asking.

I only brought up that explanation of the idea of laundering licensed
works to point out how incredibly absurd it is to imagine that it would
not land someone in jail.  I would *not* recommend trying it.  If
something's public domain, and your country does not recognize it as
such, I think your best bet is probably to get in touch with the
copyright holder and ask for relicensing so you can use the work.  If
that doesn't work for some reason, see if you can get copyright declared
abandoned somehow within your country so you can then do whatever you
like with it.

I am not a lawyer.  This is not legal advice.  Please don't sue me.  I'm
just speculating.  I disclaim all responsibility for harm coming from the
stupidity of following advice inferred from what I said without actually
checking on the law.

(I loathe the need for such asinine disclaimers, by the way.)

> (There’s also the case where I got a tape of ditroff, no explicit ©
> notices but also no licence – it would be PD in the USA because it
> predates 1989, but I can’t use it as-is, leaving me with AT&T nroff,
> more than a decade older, under the Caldera licence.)

Err . . . how does predating 1989 make it public domain in the US?

Chad Perrin [ original content licensed OWL: ]

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