Public Domain License

Karsten M. Self kmself at
Tue Aug 28 20:14:00 UTC 2001

on Tue, Aug 28, 2001 at 04:31:22PM +0100, Daniel MD (IM-Thinking at wrote:
> Hello again,
> If i release a program code, under Public Domain, can others make it 
> private domain ?

There's an open legal question as to whether it's possible to "release
to the public domain" any copyrighted work.  Current standardized
(Berne/WIPO) copyright law states that copyright is imparted in original
works of authorship at the time of fixation, and persists for a period
of time (life plus 90 years for individual works).  There is no
provision in law for copyright to be revoked from a work.  Larry Rosen
raises this question frequently.

There are certainly works which have text attached to them stating that
they are released to the public domain, or words to the effect.  The
conventional understanding is that this means the work is licensed for
use without conditions.  I'll refer to this as an unconditionally
licensed work.  This raises additional questions of things important
under contract law, such as consideration, which may be lacking, and
would raise questions as to the validity of the license.

> Let's say i release the code of a Java game, under Public Domain,
> basically i'm giving the source code to the world, right ? Or can
> let's say CompanyB, oh public domain that's nice, let me change a
> couple of names, modify some sprites, re-skin this code, and off you
> go with a $19.99 price TAG to shelves of a MegaStore?

Subject to various interpretations and factors, I'd say that yes, a
company could generally take an unconditionly licensed work, and create
a derived work which was licensed proprietarially.  The proprietary
license would not apply to the original.

> Thank You for your time, Compliments, and Have a Nice Day...
> Daniel MD [DanielMD at] of IM-Thinking Consulting

IANAL, this is not legal advice.

Karsten M. Self <kmself at>
 What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?             There is no K5 cabal     
   Free Dmitry! Boycott Adobe! Repeal the DMCA!
Geek for Hire              
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