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Re: Some licensing questions regarding celestia

On Mon, Sep 01, 2003 at 08:24:57PM +0200, Mika Fischer wrote:
> How far does one have to go in regard to data? A few examples.
> - Data published on the web:
>   http://www.obspm.fr/encycl/cat1.html lists stars with possible planets
>   around them.
>   Is one allowed to use this data in a program?
>   Basically for me this is just information and it doesn't make sense to
>   restrict that.

In the U.S., mere facts are not subject to copyright protection, and
there are no separate laws extending copyright-like protection to
databases of facts.

In many European jurisdictions, copyright-like protections to extend to
databases of facts.

One possible ass-covering maneuver might be to perform some sort of
transform on the format of the data before distributing it.  For all I
know, this is necessary for the data to be useful to celestia in the
first place.

> - Data announced on the web:
>   http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2001/pr-07-01.html
>   which leads to:
>   http://obswww.unige.ch/~udry/planet/new_planet.html
>   which has the data.

What's the question here?

> - If one creates a 3D Model from published data, what is the legal
>   status of this work? Can it be GPLed? Can it be put in the public
>   domain?

In the U.S., if your 3D model of published factual information is not
"original" in its "expressiveness", it doesn't warrant copyright

The application of an algorithmic, transformative process to factual
data that results in a 3D model historically has no real grounds for
copyright protection in the U.S., but I imagine we'll see that principle
come more and more under attack as Hollywood studios use CGI more and

On the other hand, if you used a 3D model so generated as inspiration
for an oil painting you produces, your oil painting would, in all
likelihood, be under your copyright in the U.S.  (Unless it was a work
for hire, in which case it belongs to your employer, etc.)

Regarding the public domain question:
* If the facts upon which the model was based were in the public domain,
  AND the transformation that produced the 3D model introduced no
  "original expressiveness" through which (in the U.S.) copyright can
  attach, then the 3D model not just *can* be put in the public domain,
  it automatically *is* in the public domain.
* To my knowledge, in the U.S, a statement from all the copyright
  holders of a work is sufficient to place it in the public domain, if
  they want to do so before it would otherwise pass into the public
  domain through expiration of copyright (now somewhere between 1 and
  2 million years after the death of the last suriving author if the
  copyright is held by individuals, and 100 billion years in the case of

[1] This parenthetical is a facetious exaggeration.  I think.

G. Branden Robinson                |     No math genius, eh?  Then perhaps
Debian GNU/Linux                   |     you could explain to me where you
branden@debian.org                 |     got these...       PENROSE TILES!
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |     -- Stephen R. Notley

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