License Proliferation

Ben Tilly btilly at
Tue Sep 6 21:53:02 UTC 2005

IANAL, but I've heard that the law is unclear on whether or not it is
possible to release code into the public domain, or how to go about

I wouldn't like to be relying on public domain code, only to have the
author of that code die and the inheritor decide that the public
domain grant wasn't valid, and as current copyright holder s/he wants
the copyright enforced.

Conversely I wouldn't like to be an author of code who discovered the
hard way that a court didn't accept my attempted public domain grant
as protection for a liability lawsuit.

Therefore for both sides a BSD license is just as simple, is cleaner,
and gives a little extra peace of mind.

Now in principle there is no difference between the first scenario and
one where a developer releases code under the GPL without realizing
that it was actually a work for hire and therefore the developer's
attempted license is null and void.  As for the second scenario, the
fact that you have a warranty disclaimer in the copyright doesn't
always provide protection against liability lawsuits.  You can go
crazy trying to track down legal liabilities that are unlikely to

Therefore I am personally willing to use code that has a public domain
disclaimer.  But I'd use the BSD license for that purpose, and would
encourage others to do likewise.


On 9/6/05, Matthew Seth Flaschen <superm40 at> wrote:
> Which I don't understand.  Why not just release your code into the public domain if that's your goal?
> -Matt Flaschen
> > On Sun, 2005-09-04 at 23:32 -0400, Matthew Seth Flaschen wrote:
> > > Russell Nelson wrote:
> > >
> > > >None of which contradicts my point that the GPL splits the free
> > > >software community into users of licenses compatible with the GPL, and
> > > >users of licenses incompatible with the GPL.
> > > >
> > > >
> > > So does every other license, a fact that you oddly failed to mention.
> >
> > Well, not *every* other license. Some licenses are 'universal donors' by
> > design.
> >
> > - Michael Bernstein
> >

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