On Tue, Aug 21, 2001 at 04:46:07PM -0600, Nate Williams wrote:
> > If you ever claimed to hold the copyright to software that has been
> > released into the public domain, you would be commiting fraud.
> Not if I'm the author of the software.
> I can release my software under as many licenses as I'd like, including
> putting it into the public domain.

"Public domain" is not a license agreement. You are retracting your
rights as a copyright holder when you put something in the public

> However, I can't retroactively take away the rights of anyone who has
> gotten my 'public domain' software.

You can't do anything. You have no more rights to the software than
anyone else does (except the ability to say you wrote it).

> That is all.  I can release the exact same code under a zillion
> different licenses, but once it's released, the people who have gotten
> it can do whatever the license they received it under with the software,
> and if that means 'public domain', that means they can do just about
> anything with it.

Again, putting something in the public domain is not a license
agreement, but the fact they can do anything with it is true.

> However, *I* (as the original author) can release the software to
> someone else, and if they aren't aware of the other (potentially more
> liberally licensed) versions, they can be perfectly happy with the
> software I've given them.

As can anyone else who gets their hands on the software.

> As the original author, you never lose your rights to the software,
> unless you assign your rights away to another entity, who knows has the
> same rights as you normally have.  That means they can release it under
> multiple licenses, 

Yes, the original author does lose his rights when the copyright
expires (which for things now-a-days only happens years after the
author dies) at which time the work becomes public domain or when the
author retracts his rights by explicitly placing the works in the
public domain.

> This is why folks can release software under both the GPL and BSD
> licenses, and folks who work for the government must release it as PD,
> and afterward someone takes that software and modifies it again, and the
> modified version is licensed another way.

Licensing has nothing to do with giving up a copyright. You can
release any software you want under any license and you still have
your copyright to the work. Again, placing something in the public
domain is NOT a type of licensing agreement. You are surrendering your
rights as the copyright holder.

Oh, and you mention the fine point that nothing produced by the US
Gov't is copyrighted.

> > If I have the only existing copy of some forgotten work by
> > Shakespeare, I could sell it however I want under any terms I chose
> > (licensing), but I cannot claim the copyright and be protected by
> > copyright law above and beyond what I put in my license. If someone
> > else finds a copy of it, I'm screwed.
> Again, you aren't the author, or you have not been assigned the rights
> by the original author (or whomever owned the copyright at the time).
> However, most authors still have their original rights to do whatever
> they please with their software, regardless of how they've released
> their software in the past.

But I am trying to point out that for something in the public domain,
everyone has the same rights to use the work. The original author has
the same rights to it as anyone else.

> Back to the original question, Charles Mott is the original author of
> said code, and he can release his software under any license he so
> pleases.

So can FreeBSD with or without his consent since it is public domain

> If someone has a copy of his software released under the PD
> license,

There is no "PD license."

> they are free to do with it as they please.  However, he can
> *also* release a version under the BSD license (which he has), and that
> version is now being distributed by FreeBSD.  This is all completely
> free and legal, because Charles is within his legal rights to do so.

And so is FreeBSD. Strictly speaking, the license might need to be
slightly reworded for public domain software, but there is no reason
FreeBSD cannot add the license to any public domain software it has.

But IANAL, and this is all pretty pointless since no one is ever going
to really care about the legal status of these few files.
Crist J. Clark                           [EMAIL PROTECTED]

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