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Re: New 'Public Domain' Licence

On Tuesday 07 June 2005 06:21 pm, Jeff King wrote:
> On Tue, Jun 07, 2005 at 04:48:57PM -0700, Sean Kellogg wrote:
> > Yes...  because SO many works are released directly into the Public
> > Domain...
> I have been on this list for about 6 weeks, and I have seen no less than
> three active threads regarding public domain licenses. A minority,
> perhaps, but certainly there are people interested in this.

Oh, its true..  debian-legal sees lots of traffic on this topic.  Its actually 
really amazing when you think about it.  I think it would be really 
interesting to do a study on who is doing free software development and what 
kind of licenses they are using.  Is the GPL losing ground?!  Based on 
debian-legal traffic, it would sure seem so...  but I think that's because 
most questions about the GPL have long been answered.  Would be interesting 
to know...  the GPL 3.0 drafters should would love to know.

> > wishes of the few.  If you really want to ensure your works stay
> > forever free, then make sure you teach your mate and offspring (the
> > only folks who can exercise your termination right other than
> > yourself) the value of your decisions.
> I'm not worried about my works staying free. I'm worried about people
> who want to use my works being sure that my works will stay free.

Its a reasonable concern...  but think about the movie industry.  I make a 
movie and license a "I Write the Songs" from Barry Manilow.  Movie is a total 
failure in the box office, perhaps because it features a song by Barry 
Manilow, and falls into obscurity.  34 years late the movie is discovered and 
becomes a total cult classic with millions of back order copies.  I go to 
have millions of copies made up for sale when I get a call from Manilow's 
heirs...  they don't like the movie, are exercising their termination rights, 
and refuse to license back to me.  That's it...  I'm done, shows over.

Even this story of a hard working corporation just trying to make good movies 
failed to convince Congress to remove the termination provision.

> > I like the Public Domain, don't get me wrong...  but I dislike strong
> > armed corporations more, so I think the balance struck by Congress
> > works pretty well.
> Well, clearly I don't. :) The root cause of this problem is Congress,
> not an inherent balance. I don't *want* to license my work to a
> corporation in an irrevocable way. I want to put it in the public domain
> in an irrevocable way. But because there's no explicit way to do that
> (and I must fake my way through by using an extremely permissive
> license), both cases fall under the same category.
> With well-written legislation, they don't need to.

Thankfully the Copyright Act is not set in stone, and with efforts like iPAC 
and CDC, copyright reform will eventually come.  I doubt its going spell the 
end of copyrights as perhaps the FSF may want, but what it might do is write 
in some specific sections that provide statutory muscle to licenses like the 

I hope that when that reform comes, Congress seriously considers a definitive 
way to put works (copyright and patent) into the public domain.  As I see it, 
the availability of a clear PD dedication method shouldn't interfere with the 
termination policy, since anything short of a pure PD dedication would remain 
subject to termination.  It seems doubtful that a record label will accept an 
artist putting a work into the PD just to avoid a termination rights dispute 
35 years down the road.

> > You sound like a corporate lawyer...  they would love nothing more than
> > for the freedom of contract to be absolute.  Imagine situations where you
> > sign
> Now you're just being mean. I happen to agree completely with Glenn's
> statements. I'm not only not a corporate lawyer, but am spending
> considerable effort trying to figure out how in the world to just give
> away intellectual works which I have created on my own time. I'm sorry
> if that seems cold-hearted and corporate to you.

I'm really not trying to be mean.  These are the sorts of disputes I have 
everyday in law school.  Lawyers LOVE the idea of the freedom to contract.  
People who understand the world around them, have all the facts, and the 
ability to walk away should want an absolute right to contract.  But I 
believe the law has a responsibility to those who can't always look out for 
themselves, who need protection from those who would take advantage of them 
or deny them their rights under the law.  Its a fine balance, its not an easy 
one to achieve, and its the stuff of many a judicial opinion and law review 

If you can articulate a clear policy that meets both objectives, I know 9 
people in black robes in DC who would love to hear it.


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