[License-discuss] Can OSI take stance that U.S. public domain is open source?

Kuno Woudt kuno at frob.nl
Fri May 2 20:22:31 UTC 2014

Hello Karl,

On 02-05-14 14:55, Karl Fogel wrote:
> This thread on GitHub gets (needlessly?) complicated.  It's about a
> public-domain software work put out by the U.S. government, and there's
> no clarity on whether calling it "open source" and citing the OSI's
> definition of the term would be appropriate:
>    https://github.com/ngageoint/geoevents/issues/2#issuecomment-41739913
> Someone cites our FAQ item on it (which, as its primary author, I found
> tickled my vanity :-) ), but really, I wish they didn't have to cite the
> OSI FAQ and could instead just say "yup, public domain is open source".
> The things we don't like about public domain (lack of explicit liability
> limitation, different definitions in different jurisdictions) are not in
> themselves counter to the OSD, after all.
> Thoughts?  Should OSI look for a route to say that public domain works
> (like ones put out by the U.S. government) are open source too, or is it
> just too problematic?

My understanding is that works by the U.S. government are not entitled 
to domestic copyright protection under U.S. law. The U.S. government 
asserts that it can still hold the copyright to those works in other 

So, that particular example seems problematic.

-- Kuno.

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