Re: "public domain" software licensing and copyright?
At 01:22 PM 10/18/00 -0500, Michael A. Miller wrote:
I'd like to package ImageJ: http://rsb.info.nih.gov/ij/
"ImageJ is a public domain Java image processing program
inspired by NIH Image for the Macintosh. It runs, either as an
online applet or as a downloadable application, on any
computer with a Java 1.1 or later virtual machine."
There is a copyright and licensing issue that I think needs to be
explored - the author tells me that
"ImageJ is in the public domain. No license is required.
There is no copyright. You are free to package the ImageJ
source code and JAR file with Debian Linux, but please
include a README file that points to the ImageJ Web page so
people can get documentation and updates."
I have asked the author to license the work according to one of
the GPL, BSD or Artistic licenses. Can anyone advise me as to
the need for that? Are there examples of "public domain"
software in Debian where the issues of copyright and license are
"Copyright" is a monopoly on the right to copy, distribute, derive from,
perform, etc. In order to copy, distribute, etc a copyrighted work, one
must get permission from the copyright holder.
A (copyright) license is the embodiment of permission form the copyright
holder, specifying exactly what the copyright holder is permitting you to
do, and under what conditions.
"Public Domain" is a condition in which a work has no legitimate copyright,
either because it expired or was repudiated by the author. No license to
copy, etc, can exist because there is no one to grant permission -- and no
one to deny it either. Anyone can do whatever they want with the public
domain -- including package it as a binary-only package in a non-free
product with no credit to the original author. There is no monopoly; it
belongs to the public.
It should be sufficient in this case to include the author's statement in
the COPYRIGHT file, since the statement you quoted is a clear repudiation
of his copyrights on the program.
I am not a Debian Developer myself... If you want a reasonably official
pronouncement, you might want to try debian-legal instead.