Open Source License Question

Robert Kern rkern at
Wed Oct 27 21:42:09 CEST 2004

Jeremy Bowers wrote:
> On Wed, 27 Oct 2004 13:09:51 +0000, Neil Hodgson wrote:
>>I would
>>love to be able to just renounce copyright on my work but it no longer
>>appears possible.
> To the best of my knowledge, nothing prevents you from doing that. Usually
> all you need is a "This work is placed in the public domain by the
> author", and it would probably be a good idea to add a date and a name,
> though later modifiers can freely remove it.


Actually, in the US, nothing *allows* you to release something into the 
public domain. For new works, it's a category that only exists for works 
whose copyright has expired by time or works created by the US government.

Even when a work is legitimately public domain in the US, it is somewhat 
murky whether such status exists in other Berne Convention countries, too.

In short, the concept of dedicating something to the public domain is so 
murky that I've abandoned it. Slapping an MIT license on my work is so 
much easier and clearer.

> As long as you understand that if someone uses your software to power
> their Alan Parsons Project "Laser" and holds the Earth hostage for ONE
> MEEEEEEELION DOLLARS that you have no recourse whatsoever, that's fine.
> (Obviously an extreme, but it is worth pointing out the relinquishing all
> rights really means *all* rights;

That's not *quite* true. Even for works that have unambiguously fallen 
into the public domain, the author retains certain rights called "moral 
rights." For example, it is impermissible to change a public domain work 
  and still claim that the author wrote the whole work including the 

Robert Kern
rkern at

"In the fields of hell where the grass grows high
  Are the graves of dreams allowed to die."
   -- Richard Harter

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