Re: Tagging of UNCOPYRIGHTABLE material

J Lovejoy

Hi all,

Going back to Michael’s original post as seems like we got on a tangent regarding CC public domain mark (which seems like an easier discussion).

I think we need to be clear on what we are talking about:  license short identifiers which correspond to an actual license or public domain text, e.g., Apache-2.0,  or data for use in SPDX specification fields related to licensing (e.g., 3.15 Declared License) which may use an SPDX license expression or NONE (no license info at all) or NOASSERTION. 

In the case of no license info you describe below, NONE would be appropriate.

In terms of definitively declaring something as UNCOPYRIGHTABLE  - I think that is a very dangerous proposition. While there may be some clear cases where copyright does not attach, only a judge can make that determination. To have an option to use in an SPDX document like this would invite incorrect use or people making legal determinations that could very well be incorrect.  I believe we may have discussed this topic in the past, but have not dug into the archives to find evidence.

I do think there is some similarity to repeated requests for a generic public domain tag - we wrote up a rationale for not having that so we’d remember. That rationale write-up is here: (it’s not a draft, but I can’t seem to change the URL…)

I’m not entirely clear on the exact use case here, so please do let me know if I’ve missed something!


On Mar 9, 2020, at 3:45 AM, michael.kaelbling@... wrote:

How should I correctly tag uncopyrightable material?

The U.S. Copyright Office states in that some materials are "uncopyrightable because they contain an insufficient amount of authorship."  Examples they give include: names, titles, and blank forms.  Also uncopyrightable are "mere" lists of contents and simple sets of directions.

Currently I have a project that includes empty files as placeholders and markers.  Because such files are uncopyrightable, I am not sure how to tag them.  "NONE" and "NOASSERTION" seem inappropriate.  "NONE" does not imply that none is possible, and "NOASSERTION" is not the same as an assertion of the uncopyrightablility of an object.  It seems inappropriate to claim an unenforceable copyright and license it.

Can we add an UNCOPYRIGHTABLE keyword or license to SPDX?  An UNCOPYRIGHTABLE keyword, like NONE, would not the name of a license file.  While an UNCOPYRIGHTABLE.txt license file could contain text like "this file is inherently uncopyrightable, but you may replace it with copyrightable content".

As a bonus, scans would then be free of false-positives about "missing" copyrights.
SPDX-FileCopyrightText: UNCOPYRIGHTABLE is very different from SPDX-FileCopyrightText: NONE

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