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From Joel West <svo...@gmail.com>
Subject RE: Public Domain Software
Date Sat, 05 Mar 2005 06:05:20 GMT
Lawrence Rosen wrote:

> US government works (e.g., works authored by an employee of the US
> government) are not subject to copyright in the US.  They are in
> the public domain and available to everyone for any purpose
> whatsoever. [I'm] describing a statutory requirement that needs no
> license to be effective.

There's fairly common exception to the public domain rule that's been in use for at least
30 years.

As a general principle, private firms who invest their own dollars are able to own the copyright
(or extra-government rights) to code developed with Federal $. Procurement officers often
grant such rights either because they're stupid or lazy or because they get a cheaper price
(and don't care about the rest of the world). They might even recognize that creating COTS
software will cause investment and innovation.

On 9:37 PM -0800 3/4/05, Lawrence Rosen doth scribe:
> On 12:30 AM -0500 3/5/05, Noel J. Bergman doth scribe:
>> OK, I had thought that was the case.  So then what do we make of works
>> that should fall under that category, and yet have the GPL attached to them?
>> Or some other license?

> They may be licenses for works that were written not by government employees
> but instead by contractors -- which are not in the public domain. Or they
> may be licensing errors by government employees who don't know the law.

Larry, the OSI approved the NASA Open Source Agreement. It seems to allow code to be used
but requires that the code always remain under the NOSA. O'Reilly explains it well
but it still seems to violate the PD principle.

More seriously, there's a lot of GPL code at LANL.gov and Sandia.gov. (There seems to be less
at LLNL.gov). It could be they started from a GPL project, or it could be (as Larry said)
that some lower level FSF fans haven't read 17 USC 105.


Joel West, Research Director
Silicon Valley Open Source Research Project	http://www.cob.sjsu.edu/OpenSource/

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