Subject: Re: International treatment of the public domain
From: Rod Dixon <>
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 15:39:24 -0500 (EST)

I do not have an answer to the specific question, but I suspect the answer
may reside in a treaty or an international agreement that is not a treaty.
The Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), for instance, allows works in the
public domain in the U.S. to be scooped out of the public domain
retroactively if those works whose source country is a member of the WTO
or the Berne convention meets a set of criteria that the U.S. has agreed
to. I doubt that this is a unilateral privilege so we may assume the
public domain shrank in 1994 and thereafter. Still, I am unsure how this
would affect an open source license since the license MAY be enforceable
in the U.S. or, possibly, an international dispute resolution forum
administered by WTO/WIPO


On Tue, 17 Feb 2004, Russell McOrmond wrote:

>   I believe that the OSI is not USA only, so I hope this question does
> receive some discussion.
> On Mon, 16 Feb 2004, Russell Nelson wrote:
> > writes:
> >  > So Americans can ignore the civil-servant version of the NOSA license with
> >  > impunity, but not so Australians.
> >
> > Interesting ... so what happens if an American citizen takes public
> > domain US Government software into Australia and starts redistributing
> > it there?  But I suppose that's a problem that the NOSA will fix, so
> > at least for this discussion it's a moot point.
>   What if any US citizen took this work that is under the public domain
> (for them) and applied a BSD (or any other) license and redistributed
> worldwide?  It appears that with US government created works that every US
> citizen has the right to apply licenses to the work, so whether any
> specific citizen (or a group) applied a NOSA license doesn't seem all that
> relevant.
>   Which license agreements apply to a Canadian like myself?  I would
> suspect any of them -- whether it be the NOSA agreement or the BSD or
> whatever other license an American wishes to apply to this public domain
> work.  If I don't like the NOSA agreement I can just call a friend in the
> USA who can offer me the work to me in a BSD license.
>   I think there is an interesting question being opened up by this
> discussion.  Given that term expiry is not the only way for a work to
> enter the public domain, and term expiry can be different in different
> countries (A Disney production gets 95 years in the USA but fortunately
> only 50 years in Canada), are the other methods to enter into the public
> domain also country specific?
>   It was always my understanding that a work that was released into the
> public domain by its author (Such as by a public domain dedication
> ) in the USA or any
> other country that this work was instantaneously in the public domain in
> all countries.
>   This thread is outside the topic of license approval so is likely
> considered off-topic. This is unless we want to consider the worldwide
> applicability of the Creative Commons "public domain dedication" as an OSI
> license approval question.
> ---
>  Russell McOrmond, Internet Consultant: <>
>  Perspective of a digital copyright reformer on Sheila Copps, MP.
>  Discuss at:
> --
> license-discuss archive is at
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