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Re: Status of US Government Works in foreign countries

Dear debian-legal,

I'd like to follow up concering this previous thread. As advised by Paul,
I contacted a month ago developers of X13. They seem to be very nice
people and they forwarded my request to the legal department.

Apparently, lawyers of the US Commerce Department didn't want to give up
property rights but they modified the license to say the following [1].

This Software was created by U.S. Government employees and therefore is not subject to copyright in the United States (17 U.S.C. §105). The United States/U.S. Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) reserve all rights to seek and obtain copyright protection in countries other than the United States. The United States/Commerce hereby grant to User a royalty-free, nonexclusive license to use, copy, and create derivative works of the Software outside of the United States.

Last sentence seems to be a dense endorsement of FOSS principles and, while probably not the cleanest way to state it, appears at first sight to comply with free software licenses.

Anyone have a take on this?


[1] https://www.census.gov/srd/www/disclaimer.html

On Mon, Jan 11, 2016 at 10:50:31PM -0500, Paul Tagliamonte wrote:
[ The following is the views of me, personally. They are not the views
 of either the Debian FTP Team, nor those of the US Federal Government,
 my employer ]

On Mon, Jan 11, 2016 at 09:35:15PM +0100, Rytis wrote:
US Goverment public domain issue has been discussed a few times in this
mailing list [1]. According to the interpretation by [2], this would
fall into public domain abroad as well and second part of the above
licence snippet may be unenforceable.

So, I mean, the US Federal Government *can* hold copyrights of works
they have not created, and US Copyright does, in fact, carve out all
rights for works produced by the Federal Government outside the US.

Folks doing modern things in Government do something like[1]

As a work of the United States Government, this project is in the public
domain within the United States.

Additionally, we waive copyright and related rights in the work
worldwide through the CC0 1.0 Universal public domain dedication.

[1]: https://github.com/department-of-veterans-affairs/caseflow/blob/master/LICENSE.md

Asking them to include such a notice would be neato. You can point them
to the work being done by 18F and USDS if you need to show them it's

FWIW, the Census people (I've interacted with them in the past) are real

I wonder therefore whether it is legally sound to state licence as
'public-domain' for the package and include the licence and disclaimer
text from the website. Would the package under this license qualify as
free, non-free or should be outside Debian?

Yeah, so, most Government folks are actually nice. You should email them
and say that you're interested in using the data / software that's
distributed outside the strict boundries of the USA.

That being said, I've *never* heard of the US Government enforcing this,
ever. That's not to say someone won't think that's a fun idea. Because,
trust me, someone will.

If it weren't an ethics conflict, I'd even email them and ask myself.

In my view, libtnt package in the main repo may be the one setting a
precedent here as it refers to the same (17 U.S.C §105), although its

precedent is meaningless - if anything, it just means the other package
gets pulled along with the new one :P

licence does not specify restrictions to foreign countries.

[1] https://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2005/04/msg00164.html
[2] https://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2005/04/msg00300.html



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