[License-discuss] MakeHuman, CC0 and AGPL

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Thu Oct 26 01:26:28 UTC 2017

On Wed, Oct 25, 2017 at 12:12 PM, Lindsay Patten <blindsaypatten at gmail.com>

> Can you clarify whether you can you put a copy of a work in the public
> domain while maintaining a license on another copy?  Or is it the work
> itself that is placed in the public domain, and any ability to enforce
> copyright on any copies has been surrendered?  My understanding was that
> works are placed in the public domain while copies are licensed, and that
> placing a work in the public domain renounces any copyright claim you might
> have on any copies regardless of what license they may have been previously
> released under.  You seem to be saying that a particular copy of a work can
> be placed in the public domain while other copies remain under copyright
> restrictions?
I oversimplified.  A work in the copyright sense is really an expression of
the abstract work.  Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is an abstraction existing
in people's minds (originally only Beethoven's mind) and not in itself
subject to copyright, whereas each draft of it that he wrote down, as well
as each recorded performance of any draft, constitute different expressions
("fixations" in copyright jargon) of the abstract work.  Likewise, multiple
editions of a book are separate expressions. Each expression exists in one
or more manifestations.  For example, a specific recording of the symphony,
which is an expression, can be manifested as a vinyl disk, a cassette, a
CD, a digital version.  The manifestations of a book might be as a
hardback, a paperback, an e-book, or in a single-volume vs. a multi-volume
version.  And each manifestation typically exists in multiple copies.

Copyright status attaches to the expression: if a specific expression is in
the public domain, then all manifestations and copies are too. .  The 11th
Britannica (an expression which manifests as a set of books and several
websites)  is in the public domain, whereas the 15th Britannica is not.
Licenses can attach to an expression, a manifestation (you may have one
license for a CD and a different one for digital audio), and exceptionally
to a copy.

CC0 is both a public domain dedication and a license.  If the dedication is
effective, then it affects all the manifestations (on a website or a
CD/DVD-ROM) and copies.  If it is not, then the permissive license affects
only the copies it is attached to.

> With regard to bundled exports, it would help me to look at a concrete
> case.  Say we have an export from MakeHuman that consists of three files
> 1) A 3D mesh that was created starting with a 3D mesh that comes with
> MakeHuman and transformed by the user using MakeHuman.
> 2) A meta-data file containing information about the character and its
> appearance created by the user using MakeHuman
> 3) A texture in the form of an image file from the MakeHuman collection of
> texture images.
> Let's say the user chooses to take the CC0 option.  What is the copyright
> status of the three files?  Are all three files now in the public domain?
> Can the user, or a third party use the individual files without being
> restricted by the AGPL license that would apply if the CC0 option hadn't
> been taken?  Or is it only the particular combination of the three that is
> in the public domain while the individual files are still under copyright?
> If it is only the combination that is in the public domain, does it revert
> to AGPL if you make any modifications?
I can't answer this specifically.  But in general, a work that combines
public-domain material and copyrighted material is itself subject to
copyright, provided the copyrighted material is used under license.
Obviously, if the creator of the combined work and of the copyrighted
material are the same, such a license isn't hard to obtain.

John Cowan          http://vrici.lojban.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org
My confusion is rapidly waxing
For XML Schema's too taxing:
I'd use DTDs / If they had local trees --
I think I best switch to RELAX NG.
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