Subject: RE: Please add "Public Domain" to "license" list
From: "Lawrence E. Rosen" <>
Date: Sun, 16 Mar 2003 11:45:42 -0800

There is nothing to prevent you from taking public domain software (or
artwork, or music, etc.) and incorporating it into open source software.
There is no copyright on public domain works.  You don't need a license
to do so.  You don't need guidance or permission from OSI or anyone else
to do so.

You're being cautioned, however, to make sure that the work you believe
is public domain really is in the public domain.  


> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Johnson [] 
> Sent: Sunday, March 16, 2003 11:36 AM
> To:;
> Subject: Re: Please add "Public Domain" to "license" list
> On Sunday 16 March 2003 06:12 am, David A. Wheeler wrote:
> > All I'm looking for a clear statement from the OSI that 
> public domain 
> > source code is open source software. That's all. Are you 
> saying that 
> > US government software released to the software
> > cannot be used as open source software?   I doubt that's what you
> > mean.
> Don't let any of our criticisms on this topic lead you to 
> believe that 
> none of us want OSI recognition of Public Domain software as Open 
> Source Software. That is not the case. There are of course 
> some who do 
> feel that way, but many others including myself think it would be a 
> useful thing.
> But you have to realize that there are many problems that would come 
> along with this recognition. The first problem is that of domains. 
> Public Domain is in a completely different domain that why OSI is 
> trying to define. PD has no copyright, while the OSI is trying to 
> define a classification of software that has copyrights. It's like 
> complaining that the Atlantic Salmon isn't listed in the Big British 
> Book of Birds. If you feel that the purpose of bird books is to list 
> all animals, then of course your complaint would be valid, 
> but that is 
> not the purpose of bird books.
> The second problem is much more serious. How do you *know* 
> that a piece 
> of software is in the public domain? You can know that Apache is Open 
> Source because it has the necessary attributes of a copyright and 
> license that can be used to verify its status. But it's very hard to 
> tell if a particular work which claims to be public domain really is. 
> This is because merely stating that you are placing your work 
> into the 
> public domain is insufficient. Most works that claim to be public 
> domain are in fact not. A recognition of Public Domain by the 
> OSI could 
> lead a lot of people into legal quagmires.
> So here's a question to you. What is your pressing need for such a 
> recognition? What problem is the lack of such recognition causing?
> -- 
> David Johnson
> ___________________
> --
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