Subject: RE: Please add "Public Domain" to "license" list
From: "David A. Wheeler" <>
Date: Sun, 16 Mar 2003 06:12:23 -0800 (PST)

I understand that you recommend that people not release to the public
domain. But there is ALREADY source code in the public domain, and in
some cases it is legally REQUIRED that the softare be released this way
(e.g., government software).

All I'm looking for a clear statement from the OSI that
public domain source code is open source software. That's all.
Are you saying that US government software released to the software
cannot be used as open source software?   I doubt that's what you mean.

Now, I _do_ understand that usually, if you don't state a license,
the software is NOT public domain.  If that's an issue, then the
OSI should tell everyone about that land mine.

If you don't want to list it as a "license", then feel free to
add a paragraph on the front page of licenses that clarifies that.
Here's a shot at it:
"Note that public domain source code (source code with
no copyright at all) is also open source software.
This is true, for example, for software written entirely by
U.S. government employees while exercising their official duties.
Note that most software without a copyright statement is
NOT public domain software.  Many lawyers recommend that ordinary
developers do NOT release software to the public domain, because
of the legal issues and risks in doing so.  This issue does not
apply to the U.S. government, because the U.S. government cannot
be sued unless it gives specific permission to someone to do so."

Please, I'd like the OSI to clear this up.  Thanks.

license-discuss archive is at