Re: public domain dedications proliferation

Sebastian Crane

Dear Russ,

The points you make are very pertinent indeed. I think that statements
of the third type should probably be included in the SPDX License
List, as they are usually very distinctive and their wording may make
a difference to their legal interpretation.

If we were to add a Public-Domain identifier, strictly speaking I
believe it should only apply to the first type, where there can't be
'license text' because there is no copyright holder to license it!
However, I imagine there would be frequent misuse/abuse of this
identifier when something is genuinely public domain in one
jurisdiction but not all.

Best wishes,


On Tue, Aug 16, 2022 at 10:38:57AM -0700, Russ Allbery wrote:
"J Lovejoy" <opensource@...> writes:

I should have been more clear on what I needed input on ASAP - which
was, a) what info would be helpful to collect (now) about any public
domain dedication text found in Fedora?
I think it would be useful to understand the split between three classes
of things that I suspect SPDX will want to treat differently:

* A pure statement of public domain for the reasons spelled out in the
copyright law of some country, such as "this is a work product of the
United States government" or "the copyright on this work has expired"
(while no software, strictly speaking, probaby falls into the latter
category, data files within software projects may well do so). Those
will probably have to be broken down by country for the reasons stated
elsewhere in this thread. This is *not* for software where the author
wrote something under copyright and then attempted to relinquish that
copyright, but for things that fall within the public domain legal
definition (or at least the available information accompanying the
software asserts that it does).

* Software placed in the public domain (or at least attempted) by the
author without any other licensing statement. For example, the tz
time zone database: "This database is in the public domain."

* Software placed in the public domain with supporting legal wording as a
fallback for jurisdictions where that concept may not be legally
possible. For example, at one point the IETF suggested wording similar
to this:

The authors (on behalf of themselves and their employers) hereby
relinquish any claim to any copyright that they may have in this
work, whether granted under contract or by operation of law or
international treaty, and hereby commit to the public, at large, that
they shall not, at any time in the future, seek to enforce any
copyright in this work against any person or entity, or prevent any
person or entity from copying, publishing, distributing or creating
derivative works of this work.

There are numerous variations of this idea.

Separating these seems important from a cataloging standpoint. In
particular, I would argue that statements of the third form *are a
license* and should be tracked like any other license, because the wording
of the fallback provision may matter in some jurisdictions and should be
identified and merged using all the normal SPDX license tracking

Russ Allbery (eagle@...) <>

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