On 2014-05-17 05:19, Marko Rauhamaa wrote:
Steven D'Aprano <steve+comp.lang.pyt...@pearwood.info>:

On Fri, 16 May 2014 14:46:23 +0000, Grant Edwards wrote:

At least in the US, there doesn't seem to be such a thing as "placing
a work into the public domain". The copyright holder can transfer
ownershipt to soembody else, but there is no "public domain" to which
ownership can be trasferred.

That's factually incorrect. In the US, sufficiently old works, or works
of a certain age that were not explicitly registered for copyright, are
in the public domain. Under a wide range of circumstances, works created
by the federal government go immediately into the public domain.

Steven, you're not disputing Grant. I am. The sole copyright holder can
simply state: "this work is in the Public Domain," or: "all rights
relinquished," or some such. Ultimately, everything is decided by the
courts, of course.

One can state many things, but that doesn't mean they have legal effect. The US Code has provisions for how works become copyrighted automatically, how they leave copyright automatically at the end of specific time periods, how some works automatically enter the public domain on their creation (i.e. works of the US federal government), but has nothing at all for how a private creator can voluntarily place their work into the public domain when it would otherwise not be. It used to, but does not any more.

For a private individual to say about a work they just created that "this work is in the Public Domain" is, under US law, merely an erroneous statement of fact, not a speech act that effects a change in the legal status of the work. For another example of this distinction, saying "I am married" when I have not applied for, received, and solemnified a valid marriage license is just an erroneous statement of fact and does not make me legally married.

Relinquishing your rights can have some effect, but not all rights can be relinquished, and this is not the same as putting your work into the public domain. Among other things, your heirs can sometimes reclaim those rights in some circumstances if you are not careful (and if they are valuable enough to bother reclaiming).

If you wish to do something like this, I highly recommend (though IANAL and TINLA) using the CC0 Waiver from Creative Commons. It has thorough legalese for relinquishing all the rights that one can relinquish for the maximum terms that one can do so in as many jurisdictions as possible and acts as a license to use/distribute/etc. without restriction even if some rights cannot be relinquished. Even if US law were to change to provide for dedicating works to the public domain, I would probably still use the CC0 anyways to account for the high variability in how different jurisdictions around the world treat their own public domains.


Note how they distinguish the CC0 Waiver from their Public Domain Mark: the Public Domain Mark is just a label for things that are known to be free of copyright worldwide but does not make a work so. The CC0 *does* have an operative effect that is substantially similar to the work being in the public domain.

Robert Kern

"I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma
 that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had
 an underlying truth."
  -- Umberto Eco


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