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Re: Some licensing questions regarding celestia

On Mon, 01 Sep 2003, Rick Moen wrote:
> but nobody can cite any clear indication of what the legal effect of
> such as declaration is: There has been no relevant caselaw.

I'm not surprised that there is no relevant caselaw, however, it's
common to assume that placing (or dedicating) the work in (or to) the
public domain is enough for the work to be in the public domain.

You should be able to find caselaw involving a case where a work was
improperly placed in the public domain (ie, the person dedicating it
to the public isn't the copyright holder,) but as the US system is a
law in action, you'll need to find a case where someone placed the
work into the public domain, and then withdrew that placement and
proceeded to sue people under it.

That's a tall order.

> o  It might be ruled to constitute an irrevocable licences for gratis
>    usage by anyone, for the remainder of the licence term.

This is the most common interpretation.[1]

> o  It might be ruled to actually _place_ the work in the public domain,
>    but this seems unlikely, as there is no statutory provision for doing
>    so, and it seems unlikely the owner could excuse himself from the 
>    duties of ownership through an act of will.

What duties of ownership? [Well, at least post 1968.]

> o  Or it might have some different effect entirely -- possibly various
>    effects in diverse jurisdictions.

See some of the previous threads involving authorship rights and the
wierd french and EU systems (Droit d'auteur). [Well, I guess the US
system might be wierd to the french and/or EU denziens. ;-)]

> Thus, if/when you see some package on the Net that's described as
> "public domain", beware: That usually just means that the person
> writing that descriptions is dangerously ignorant of copyright law,
> and you incorporate such code into larger works at your peril.

You always incorporate code into larger works at your peril. It's
always possible that the person claiming the copyright doesn't
actually own the copyright of the code. I've heard of it happening in
multiple instances. [See the current SCO debacle: no one even seems to
know what code they own!]

Regardless, the standard sane aproach, is to assume that a "This work
is placed into the public domain" statement is equivalent to a
relieving yourself of the protection availed to you by copyright law,
or equivalent to a widely permisive irrevocable license.[1]

Don Armstrong
"There's no problem so large it can't be solved by killing the user
off, deleting their files, closing their account and reporting their
REAL earnings to the IRS."
 -- The B.O.F.H..


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