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Re: New 'Public Domain' Licence

On 6/5/05, Glenn Maynard <glenn@zewt.org> wrote:
> On Sun, Jun 05, 2005 at 07:08:23PM -0400, Raul Miller wrote:
> > Fundamentally, the goal of public domain is to allow arbtrary non-free 
> > use of the material.  And the same basic goal holds for near public-
> > domain licenses.  This is why you see legal professionals in the field 
> > of copyright warning people that public domain probably isn't what 
> > they want.
> No disagreement here (except the implication that non-free use is the
> only goal--the goal is free use everywhere, and non-free use is just
> part of "everywhere").  Permissive licenses are close to public domain,
> and reasons for using the two are similar.

Change "everywhere" to "allowed for every person, regardless of 
the restrictions they then impose" and I'll agree with you.

"Everywhere" is rather silly -- there are many galaxies which will
never be graced with the presence of software package $FOO..

That said, both copyleft and public domain allow distribution to
any person.  The distinction is the kind of restrictions which are
allowed in the context of that distribution.  Public Domain allows
the receiver to impose arbitrary restrictions.  Copyleft restricts
the receiver from imposing arbitrary restrictions.

> If you wish your code to be freely usable, in as many contexts and by as
> many people as possible, the GPL isn't in the running. 

The accuracy of this statement depends on the specific number
you're trying to maximize.

If by "as many contexts and by as many people as possible" you
mean the product of context (measured as the number of restrictions
which apply) times the number of people, then you are correct.

> The GPL very deliberately makes a trade: in exchange for less free 
> use (eg. more restrictions), it tries to encourage "giving code back 
> to the commons" and all that.  GPL-licensed code is not usable, for 
> example, in proprietary software; or even in mostly-free programs 
> that simply have a few GPL-incompatible plugins for interoperability 
> (eg. OpenSSL).

This assumes that the restrictions imposed by OpenSSL would
stand up in court for software which has those plugins.

It also assumes that the authors of the GPLed content were
unaware that those restrictions would be imposed on their
software and that they object.

> That's not a bug, of course; it's explicitly intended to discourage
> proprietary development, and many people who use the GPL actively wish
> to do so, and don't consider that restriction a problem.  That's fine.
> But people who don't wish to do so--who, in contrast, don't consider
> proprietary use of code a problem, and wish to minimize political,
> practical and legal barriers to reuse--often prefer permissive licenses.
> If that's your philosophy, then you may well not want to force people
> to include your 20-line license, either, since that can introduce
> practical problems.  (I'm not sure why this seems to be a controversial
> statement; it seems self-evident to me.)

The situation here is that even though the legal properties of public
domain works seem self evident, in the general case they are not.

For example, there are cases where an author who has released
a work into the public domain may not be allowed to have a copy
of that work.  [A problem here could be proving that the work was
put in the public domain and proving that the copy was obtained
legally.  It might seem self evident that this would be trivial to
prove but in the general case it need not be -- especially if there
are many years involved where the detailed history of
that work gets lost.]

As long as people understand that that's a potential outcome for
the situation they're creating, I have no problem with people 
releasing their work into the public domain.  But I object to people
claiming that this kind situation is irrelevant.

If you're going to release things that you might later care about into 
the public domain, you should probably make some effort to retain 
documentation on the details of every such release.  (And you
should probably also give people some way of proving that they
received legal copies of a public domain work from you.)

The same probably should hold for "near public domain" copyright


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