Subject: Re: International treatment of the public domain
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 16:02:53 -0500

Russell McOrmond scripsit:

>   If NASA has the ability to apply a license in a foreign country to a
> works that is in the public domain in the USA, then does not any other US
> citizen have the ability to apply a license as well?  If these other US
> citizens do not, then does NASA?

Why, because NASA, through its employees who actually write the works, is
the author.  The Berne Convention gives rights to the authors of foreign
works (relative to the country where the Convention is being applied), not
to randoms in those countries who had nothing to do with the creation of the

>   Does the concept of there being a "copyright holder" outside of the USA
> make sense when US legislation says that the US government creator does
> not receive copyright inside the USA?

Just as much as the notion that _Steamboat Willie_ has a copyright holder
in the U.S. but not in Canada.

>   Different countries treat this differently.  In Canada you can waive
> your moral rights, but cannot transfer them.

The Berne Convention forces all participants to recognize a limited subset
of moral rights, and the U.S. hews closely to that definition:  thus the
creators of works of visual art have moral rights, but writers, poets, and
programmers do not.

Nevertheless, I write on some of my programs the sentence "John Cowan claims
the moral right to be recognized as the author of this work."  My government
will not enforce this right for me, but I claim it anyway.

>   If the phrase "public domain" means "not protected by copyright", then
> the actual meaning of the public domain changes in every country as 
> copyright is different in every country.

Not the meaning, but rather the contents, of the public domain is indeed

"Well, I'm back."  --Sam        John Cowan <>
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