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Is an UNCOPYRIGHTABLE License (or keyword) needed? #poll


Kaelbling, Michael
 

The U.S. Copyright Office considers some works uncopyrightable "because they contain an insufficient amount of authorship", e.g. "words and short phrases ... titles ... names", "mere listing of ... contents, or a simple set of directions...", and  blank forms  (https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ33.pdf). 

SPDX-License-Identifier: NONE and SPDX-CopyrightText: NONE state that there is no license or copyright statement, but do not say that none is needed or possible.

SPDX-License-Identifer: NOASSERTION and SPDX-CopyrightText: NOASSERTION is similarly inappropriate.

A REUSE.software scan will produce false-positives if it has no way to distinguish the case of uncopyrightable material.  This issue came up because my group has empty files (placeholders) and blank forms (templates) in OSS.  Since we require a clean scan on each build, we have to maintain a workaround to eliminate the false positives.
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My apologies if you find this poll inappropriate: I thought I had submitted this concern weeks ago as a message, but I am now unable to find it -- nor have I got any response. Therefore I am taking this route to get my question addressed.

Results


Aaron Williamson
 

Hi Michael,

On Wed, Mar 11, 2020 at 11:33 AM <michael.kaelbling@...> wrote:
The U.S. Copyright Office considers some works uncopyrightable "because they contain an insufficient amount of authorship", e.g. "words and short phrases ... titles ... names", "mere listing of ... contents, or a simple set of directions...", and  blank forms  (https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ33.pdf). 

SPDX-License-Identifier: NONE and SPDX-CopyrightText: NONE state that there is no license or copyright statement, but do not say that none is needed or possible.

One concern with an "UNCOPYRIGHTABLE" identifier is that its existence could give rise to inappropriate application by authors. It's often quite difficult to conclusively determine whether a questionable work is copyrightable under U.S. law. So by making the identifier available, you may create a risk of false negatives, i.e. that it would be inappropriately applied to things that are in fact subject to copyright.

As you say, there is already a risk of false positives, insofar as people might apply a copyright license to something that is not subject to copyright. But in the case of false positives, the failure condition is that the license was not needed; either way, the consumer is ok. In the case of false negatives, where the "UNCOPYRIGHTABLE" assertion was used in place of a license by the author of a copyrightable work, the failure condition is arguably that there is no license. The "UNCOPYRIGHTABLE" assertion doesn't meet the criteria for abandonment of copyright under US law, so at best you'd be resorting to an estoppel theory based on the author's mistaken characterization. I admit the risk is not massive, but it's worth considering.

A related concern is that non-US, non-copyright protections (like a sui generis database right) may apply, which a FOSS license might be sufficient to convey but an "UNCOPYRIGHTABLE" assertion would not.

All that said, I agree that your use case -- tagging materials to be ignored by a scanner -- is a valid one. The only question is whether using "UNCOPYRIGHTABLE" would create more trouble than it's worth for the reasons given above.

Best,
Aaron


Steve Winslow
 

Hello all, there has been a related thread going on in the spdx-legal list: see https://lists.spdx.org/g/Spdx-legal/topic/71831424

As mentioned in that thread, I would note the Legal Team's comments on this from April 2013 at https://wiki.spdx.org/view/Legal_Team/Decisions/Dealing_with_Public_Domain_within_SPDX_Files

Best,
Steve


On Wed, Mar 11, 2020 at 11:33 AM <michael.kaelbling@...> wrote:

A new poll has been created:

The U.S. Copyright Office considers some works uncopyrightable "because they contain an insufficient amount of authorship", e.g. "words and short phrases ... titles ... names", "mere listing of ... contents, or a simple set of directions...", and  blank forms  (https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ33.pdf). 

SPDX-License-Identifier: NONE and SPDX-CopyrightText: NONE state that there is no license or copyright statement, but do not say that none is needed or possible.

SPDX-License-Identifer: NOASSERTION and SPDX-CopyrightText: NOASSERTION is similarly inappropriate.

A REUSE.software scan will produce false-positives if it has no way to distinguish the case of uncopyrightable material.  This issue came up because my group has empty files (placeholders) and blank forms (templates) in OSS.  Since we require a clean scan on each build, we have to maintain a workaround to eliminate the false positives.
-----
My apologies if you find this poll inappropriate: I thought I had submitted this concern weeks ago as a message, but I am now unable to find it -- nor have I got any response. Therefore I am taking this route to get my question addressed.

1. Yes - an UNCOPYRIGHTABLE License is needed
2. Yes - an UNCOPYRIGHTABLE keyword is needed
3. No
4. No - simply claim an unenforceable copyright and license

Vote Now



--
Steve Winslow
Director of Strategic Programs
The Linux Foundation


David A. Wheeler
 

> A new poll has been created…

I would prefer another option NOT in the poll (and thus have not voted): Treat it as just another license statement. There are multiple ways this kind of “uncopyrightable” assertion is made, and I think that specific form should be captured as a license statement.

 

New entries should be created for at least the “CC Public Domain Mark” and the situation where someone in the US government does it as part of official duties & doesn’t claim a copyright. There’s a discussion going on here:

https://github.com/spdx/license-list-XML/issues/988

 

Treating it like “everything else” means there are no special cases for SPDX, *and* you get finer-grained information.

 

For those who object & say that “there is no license”, well, “license” is just synonym for “permission”, and in this case the permission is granted by the way the legal systems work. So it’s a permission granted by the underlying mechanisms of law J.  I think the *users* of SPDX will appreciate the simplicity of *not* needing another special case.

 

 

From: spdx@... <spdx@...> On Behalf Of michael.kaelbling@...
Sent: Friday, March 6, 2020 5:51 AM
To: spdx@...
Subject: [spdx] Is an UNCOPYRIGHTABLE License (or keyword) needed? #poll

 

The U.S. Copyright Office considers some works uncopyrightable "because they contain an insufficient amount of authorship", e.g. "words and short phrases ... titles ... names", "mere listing of ... contents, or a simple set of directions...", and  blank forms  (https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ33.pdf). 

SPDX-License-Identifier: NONE and SPDX-CopyrightText: NONE state that there is no license or copyright statement, but do not say that none is needed or possible.

SPDX-License-Identifer: NOASSERTION and SPDX-CopyrightText: NOASSERTION is similarly inappropriate.

A REUSE.software scan will produce false-positives if it has no way to distinguish the case of uncopyrightable material.  This issue came up because my group has empty files (placeholders) and blank forms (templates) in OSS.  Since we require a clean scan on each build, we have to maintain a workaround to eliminate the false positives.
-----
My apologies if you find this poll inappropriate: I thought I had submitted this concern weeks ago as a message, but I am now unable to find it -- nor have I got any response. Therefore I am taking this route to get my question addressed.

1. Yes - an UNCOPYRIGHTABLE License is needed
2. Yes - an UNCOPYRIGHTABLE keyword is needed
3. No
4. No - simply claim an unenforceable copyright and license

Vote Now


Matija Šuklje
 

+1 from me on everything David said (quoted below for convenience)

cheers,
Matija

On četrtek, 12. marec 2020 22:19:38 CET, David A. Wheeler wrote:
I would prefer another option NOT in the poll (and thus have not voted): Treat it as just another license statement. There are multiple ways this kind of “uncopyrightable” assertion is made, and I think that specific form should be captured as a license statement.

New entries should be created for at least the “CC Public Domain Mark” and the situation where someone in the US government does it as part of official duties & doesn’t claim a copyright. There’s a discussion going on here:
https://github.com/spdx/license-list-XML/issues/988

Treating it like “everything else” means there are no special cases for SPDX, *and* you get finer-grained information.

For those who object & say that “there is no license”, well, “license” is just synonym for “permission”, and in this case the permission is granted by the way the legal systems work. So it’s a permission granted by the underlying mechanisms of law ☺. I think the *users* of SPDX will appreciate the simplicity of *not* needing another special case.
--
gsm: tel:+386.41.849.552
www: https://matija.suklje.name
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Jeremiah C. Foster
 

> +1 from me on everything David said (quoted below for convenience)

+1