Public domain software is not open-source?

Rick Moen rick at
Mon Mar 3 19:16:57 UTC 2008

Quoting Ernest Prabhakar (ernest.prabhakar at

> If you're going to keep discussing this, at least try to make it into  
> relevant FAQs.

1.  Waiver of one's ability to assert a right is always an option, but 
even if one cannot re-assert that right, there are always heirs and
creditors who might.

2.  Abandonment of property naturally is a long-settled principle of
law, too:  The abandoned property and eschewat statutes of various
juridictions determine who next acquires ownership, if you _do_ lose
ownership.  (Many computerists confuse abandonment of property title
with its nullification.  One suspects this is a key bit of confusion
behind the notion of creating public domain materials by fiat.)

All of the rather random stew of US judicial opinions quoted by Ernie
(and, I would guess, posted by Terenkov) are consistent with the two
points, above.

To sum:  You can _purport_ to put your (unexpired) copyright into the
public domain.  If you do, the effect in any given jurisdiction may owe
more to the whims of a local judge than to anything else.  He/she may
rule that you've abandoned your property.  He/she may rule that you've
waived your personal right to enforce your various copyright rights
against others -- and might rule that your heirs/assigns/creditors could
re-assert that right.  He/she may rule that you've done nothing with any
legal effect.  

I sincerely hope OSI doesn't join those who mislead the public into
making such declarations in expectation of them having a deterministic 
legal effect that is consistent across jurisdictions.

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