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Re: Concerns about works created by the US government

On Wed, 2005-04-06 at 17:55 +0300, Sami Liedes wrote:
> [Please Cc: me when replying]


> The relevant US law says (title 17, chapter 1, § 105):
>    Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work
>    of the United States Government, but the United States Government
>    is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred
>    to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.
> This certainly seems to make the works effectively PD in the US;
> however it almost seems as if that was carefully worded to _not_ place
> works in the PD, only to make the US government unable to enforce
> their copyright under the US law.

Well, in the United States, a copyrightable[0] work that does not have
copyright is in the public domain. What this section says is that if I
die and leave in my will my copyrights to the United States Government,
then the work is still copyrighted; basically, only original works of
the US Government are ineligible for copyright[1].

> What I think it does NOT do is forbid the US government from enforcing
> their copyright in any foreign jurisdiction. I think this is just
> about the only imaginable reason why the title does not say "Any work
> of the US government is public domain" instead.

I think it doesn't say that for several reasons. First, this is the US
Code, and therefore only applies to the US and its territories and
possessions. Also, Congress tends to be xenocentric and assume that
everyone does things their way. Additionally, I would like to point out
that the United States would not have standing to sue in say, Germany,
because it is a foreign state and would therefore not be subject to the
laws of another country.

> I think that for an international project this might be a problem, at
> least in theory. I agree that the Debian project possibly cannot take
> into account all laws in all countries; however I think this is
> potentially a major issue since it probably would affect any other
> country under the Berne convention.

ICBW, but as I remember it, the Berne Convention only applies to
"nationals" of countries of the Berne Convention[2]. The United States
cannot be its own national.

[0] That is, a work that would meet the criteria to be copyrighted if
created by a natural person.

[1] I have a copy of the Handbook of Mathematical Functions with
Formulas [sic], Graphs, and Mathematical Tables, which is a work of the
National Bureau of Standards (now NIST), a branch of the United States
Government; consequently, it is ineligible for copyright.

[2] Article 3 of the Berne Convention (Paris Text, 1971):

(1) The protection of this Convention shall apply to:
      * (a) authors who are nationals of one of the countries of the
        Union, for their works, whether published or not;
      * (b) authors who are not nationals of one of the countries of the
        Union, for their works first published in one of those
        countries, or simultaneously in a country outside the Union and
        in a country of the Union.

(2) Authors who are not nationals of one of the countries of the Union
but who have their habitual residence in one of them shall, for the
purposes of this Convention, be assimilated to nationals of that



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