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Move to public domain #135

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merged 3 commits into from Oct 17, 2013

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@benbalter
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benbalter commented Aug 25, 2013

Right now the project as originally published is a work of the United States government and thus is not subject to domestic copyright protection. Subsequent non-government contributors retain their copyright and license their work under either the MIT or CC-BY licenses for code and text respectively. This pull requests is intended to facilitate a discussion on the desirability of moving the project entirely to the public domain.

Issues to discuss

  • Will a requirement that contributors waive all rights discourage (chill) casual contributors?
  • Contributor friction added by using a non-standard licensing scheme
  • Standard-setting implications beyond this project
  • If public domain is so great and all that, why isn't all non-commercial open source software public domain?
  • International copyright (e.g., if another government wants to fork and use?) @david-a-wheeler?
  • Dedication of current ©️ holders rights
  • Obligatory OGC review because 🔨

Current ©️ holders

If you would like to manifest your intent to relinquish all copyright claims to your prior contributions to the project, both code and text, under the terms described in this pull request, please reply with (at least) a 👍 (or a 👎 if you would prefer not to do so... which is your choice).

🇺🇸 Contributors

List built using this simple script and the GitHub Contributors API. I checked off those contributors who I knew to be government employees... please let me know if I was over inclusive in any case.

Thoughts?

@jpmckinney

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jpmckinney commented Aug 25, 2013

👍

@benbalter

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benbalter commented Aug 25, 2013

Some more explicit CC's due to anti-spam restrictions: @listrophy, @calvinmetcalf, @jedsundwall, @acouch, @tauberer, @leahbannon, @lourinaldi, @meiqimichelle, @dotmike, @GUI

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benbalter commented Aug 25, 2013

@pborreli

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pborreli commented Aug 25, 2013

👍

7 similar comments
@GUI

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GUI commented Aug 25, 2013

👍

@JoshData

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JoshData commented Aug 25, 2013

👍

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dsmorgan77 commented Aug 25, 2013

👍

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mhogeweg commented Aug 25, 2013

👍

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nice-giraffe commented Aug 25, 2013

👍

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lourinaldi commented Aug 25, 2013

👍

@scor

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scor commented Aug 25, 2013

👍

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meiqimichelle commented Aug 25, 2013

👍

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calvinmetcalf commented Aug 25, 2013

👍

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@dotmike

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dotmike commented Aug 26, 2013

👍

@willpugh

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willpugh commented Aug 26, 2013

+1

On Sun, Aug 25, 2013 at 6:56 PM, Mike Endale notifications@github.comwrote:

[image: 👍]


Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHubhttps://github.com//pull/135#issuecomment-23240362
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@DruidSmith

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DruidSmith commented Aug 26, 2013

👍

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@jhawk28

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jhawk28 commented Aug 26, 2013

👍

@listrophy

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listrophy commented Aug 26, 2013

👍

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russellpwirtz commented Aug 26, 2013

👍

@david-a-wheeler

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david-a-wheeler commented Aug 26, 2013

I think dedicating the textual material to the public domain is a very reasonable idea.

Historically it has been challenging to dedicate works to the public domain in some jurisdictions; see http://creativecommons.org/about/cc0 if you want some of the detail.

However, there's a solution: the Creative Commons CC0 license. Just dedicate the material using CC0 as the "license" and you're all set. Go here for the details and steps for using it:
http://creativecommons.org/choose/zero/

Note: I actually recommend the MIT license, not CC0, for software. The MIT license provides a minor shield against lawsuits that the CC0 does not provide. That said, it's the authors' choice of what to do.

@waldoj

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waldoj commented Aug 26, 2013

David, government works (debatably) can't be CC0, as they are devoid of any copyright protection. The idea here, as I understand it, is to ensure that government contributions to this website are under the legally appropriate terms, and that means that private contributions must be at the same level, which is to say public domain.

@benbalter

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benbalter commented Aug 26, 2013

@david-a-wheeler what are your thoughts on the unlicense as included in this pull request? Same disclaimer of liability as MIT, but with an explicit public domain dedication?

@waldoj the argument, as I understand it, is that government works are public domain, but under the license regime as it stands now, non-government contributors retain their copyright, thus we'll have a government policy that is encumbered by commercial copyright restrictions, even if in this case, they are as least restrictive as they can be, while still using the common terms of the open source community, and do not affect the rights of users.

Here, the MIT/CC or License/CC0 do the same thing for the government contribution (to explicitly state what rights users have), but with the pull request, non-governemnt contributors will inject their work into the public domain, rather than retain copyright, even though, there is no legal implications of doing so from a user's perspective. They can do whatever they want with it either way (and under these terms, absent suing the author).

I know @konklone's a big proponent, and may be able to articulate the why better. I'm just the messenger here. 😄

@david-a-wheeler

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david-a-wheeler commented Aug 26, 2013

Actually, US government works do NOT need to be devoid of copyright protection. The prohibition only applies inside the US; the prohibition doesn't have anything to do with what happens outside the US. Which is why, if you want collaboration outside the US, you still need to declare a license or use some other way to ensure it's safe for everyone. This is one of those many legal technicalities that makes people angry at lawyers.

First, the TL;DR version: If you want something in the (copyright) public domain, use the CC0. That's what it is for.

Still here? Okay, let me try to explain.

A "work of the US government" - i.e., a work developed by a federal government employee as part of his official duties - does not (normally) have copyright in the US. But it CAN have an enforceable copyright outside the US. A lengthy explanation, from US government lawyers, is available from CENDI. See "Frequently Asked Questions About Copyright Issues Affecting the U.S. Government" (CENDI/2008-1 October 8, 2008), especially question 3.1.2 and what it leads to:
http://www.cendi.gov/publications/04-8copyright.html#312

You can go read the law and commentary yourself; it's at 17 USC 105 along with the related notes:
http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=granuleid:USC-prelim-title17-section105&num=0&edition=prelim

This fact is even exploited by the NASA Open Source Agreement (the "NOSA"). I'm not a fan of the NOSA for other reasons, but my point is that NASA lawyers did consider this:
http://opensource.org/licenses/NASA-1.3

So if you want international collaboration, the legal status of the material needs to be clarified SOMEHOW. This is usually done by including some sort of license. Or a dedication that it's in the public domain (in the copyright sense).

A few warnings:

  1. All of this only applies to US federal government employees. If a contractor writes something, it's the contract that governs. I wrote a paper about what happens next: https://www.thecsiac.com/journal_article/publicly-releasing-open-source-software-developed-us-government#.UhvZwT_3PNo
  2. It turns out that there are some weird special cases. In some cases some government employees (in the US Postal Service or NIST at least) CAN create works that are copyrighted inside the US (as well as outside it) when they do something as part of their official duties.
  3. The term "public domain" turns out to have 2 conflicting definitions. Usually people mean "copyright public domain", that is, it effectively has no copyright limitations and you can do what you want. But export control laws and regulations also use the term "public domain", which I'll call "export control public domain". Export control public domain just means "available to the public, possibly for a fee". So Microsoft Word is public domain (in the export control sense), and is NOT in the public domain (in the copyright sense).

Oh, usual caveat: I'm not a lawyer, not your lawyer, and not a government lawyer. But I can point you to stuff lawyers have written!

@andrew-wolfe

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andrew-wolfe commented Aug 27, 2013

👍

@seanherron

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seanherron commented Aug 27, 2013

Just as a note, I know Marina pulled in several changes in the past week but they don't appear reflected in your list (for instance, I made several commits but don't seem to be pulled in here).

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MarinaMartin commented Aug 27, 2013

@seanherron I think I incorporated them into the as-yet-not-accepted #44.

@konklone

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konklone commented Aug 27, 2013

I'm definitely a 👍 (though I'm not a contributor), and am really happy to see this happening. I don't know if there's anything left for me to articulate, after @benbalter, @waldoj, and @david-a-wheeler's explanations.

I'm a big fan of the Unlicense for code, too -- we use them in each licensed project over at /unitedstates. This is great.

@jedsundwall

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jedsundwall commented Aug 27, 2013

👍

@benbalter

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benbalter commented Aug 27, 2013

@seanherron @MarinaMartin additional commits from the above-listed contributors are fine... the commit count was there mainly to be explanatory (and to show of my API-foo). 😄

If there are new contributors, we'll need to get their consent before this can be merged. Note, however, that this would not apply retroactively to any pending pull requests from new contributors. We'd have to either get them to 👍 here, or comment on the individual pull request and get their consent before merging.

If/once this pull request is merged, any contributor who submits a pull request submitted for that point forward will have constructive notice of the contribution terms.

@haleyvandyck

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haleyvandyck commented Sep 20, 2013

fantastic. i think we are down to one final approval -- @jonasalmeida, what do you think?

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JoshData commented Sep 26, 2013

I emailed @jonasalmeida. However his commit ea528a1 is almost certainly not protected by copyright law since it's a one-word substitution. So I would heftily suggest we just move on.

@benbalter : Can we get your +1? :)

[Edit: @jpmckinney : Thanks for emailing acouch.]

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benbalter commented Sep 26, 2013

To summarize the above, excellent discussion (roughly):

Current status

  • The project content is currently licensed under CC-BY
  • Project code is currently licensed under the MIT license which allows copyright to remain with the contributor, and grants all usage rights to software consumers, under the condition that they disclaim liability
  • "It's a government work, so it must be public domain" is not a valid assumption on the internet where collaboration with non-domestic contributors is highly likely. Some means of clarifying downstream users' rights is necessary.

Content

  • There is a consensus to move from CC-BY to CC-0 for content

Code

  • Unlicensed is a perfectly valid public dedication for software and mirrors MIT in many ways
  • CC0 is a valid public dedication for both content and code, although notably more lawered (in length and review) than the Unlicense
  • Releasing code under MIT is functionally equivalent to a public domain dedication
  • Despite this functional equivalence, there is a community desire to prefer contributors relinquish all ownership claims to government policy or their means of publication

Editorial

Dicta

  • As with most technical challenges, I'd argue for pragmatism over purity
  • I'd argue that, in general if there's no practical difference between MIT and public domain, it's better to stick with what developers know and use, not what the government (or wonks) prefer or find morally superior
  • I'd argue that, in general open source software should prefer simple, common licenses over complex ones (again, optimizing for the developer experience and encouraging contribution)

Recommendation

  • Here, since this is a mixed content/code repository, rather than bifurcating or dual licensing the project, lets just CC0 the whole thing for simplicity sake.

Next steps

(assuming there's general consensus)

  • Resync the contributor list with any new contributors since the list was generated
  • Get new approval, as necessary
  • Update this pull request to reflect CC0 for all code and content
  • :shipit:
@seanherron

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seanherron commented Sep 26, 2013

@rrbaker and @ultrasaurus are government employees, so we should be good on
that front

On Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at 4:02 PM, Ben Balter notifications@github.comwrote:

Needs a [image: 👍]

Updated List (using the same script as above)

  • @haleyvandyck https://github.com/haleyvandyck (70 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=haleyvandyck
    )
  • @MarinaMartin https://github.com/MarinaMartin (32 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=MarinaMartin
    )
  • @benbalter https://github.com/benbalter (20 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=benbalter
    )
  • @jpmckinney https://github.com/jpmckinney (17 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=jpmckinney
    )
  • @andrew-wolfe https://github.com/andrew-wolfe (9 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=andrew-wolfe
    )
  • @jqnatividad https://github.com/jqnatividad (8 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=jqnatividad
    )
  • @gbinal https://github.com/gbinal (6 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=gbinal
    )
  • @DruidSmith (5 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=DruidSmith
    )
  • @feomike (5 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=feomike
    )
  • @stevenvdc (5 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=stevenvdc
    )
  • @mhogeweg (5 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=mhogeweg
    )
  • @willpugh (3 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=willpugh
    )
  • @JoshData (2 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=JoshData
    )
  • @philipashlock (2 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=philipashlock
    )
  • @jonasalmeida (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=jonasalmeida
    )
  • @listrophy (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=listrophy
    )
  • @calvinmetcalf (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=calvinmetcalf
    )
  • @danmunz (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=danmunz
    )
  • @jedsundwall (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=jedsundwall
    )
  • @acouch (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=acouch
    )
  • @leahbannon (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=leahbannon
    )
  • @lourinaldi (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=lourinaldi
    )
  • @meiqimichelle (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=meiqimichelle
    )
  • @dotmike (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=dotmike
    )
  • @MikePulsiferDOL (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=MikePulsiferDOL
    )
  • @GUI (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=GUI
    )
  • @nsinai (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=nsinai
    )
  • @pborreli (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=pborreli
    )
  • @rrbaker (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=rrbaker
    )
  • @wilhelmbot (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=wilhelmbot
    )
  • @rypan (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=rypan
    )
  • @ultrasaurus (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=ultrasaurus
    )
  • @dsmorgan77 (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=dsmorgan77
    )
  • @jhawk28 (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=jhawk28
    )
  • @nice-giraffe (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=nice-giraffe
    )
  • @pschweitzerusgsgov (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=pschweitzerusgsgov
    )
  • @russellpwirtz (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=russellpwirtz
    )
  • @scor (1 contributionshttps://github.com/project-open-data/project-open-data.github.io/commits?author=scor
    )


Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHubhttps://github.com//pull/135#issuecomment-25198977
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@benbalter

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benbalter commented Sep 26, 2013

@rrbaker and @ultrasaurus are government employees, so we should be good on that front

Done. Unless there's any objection, I'd let the CC0 recommendation sit for a bit for others to weigh in, but I think once the pull request is updated, we should be able to 🚢 this.

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jpmckinney commented Sep 26, 2013

For my part, I've never had any issue with CC licenses. From my experience, people very, very rarely read the actual CC license text, and instead just read the official "human-readable summary" like http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/ which is easier to read than most licenses.

In terms of impact on developer experience and encouraging contribution, personally, I've written nearly 200 pull requests on GitHub and I've never even checked what license the project was released under. But that's just me, and maybe most people actually make decisions about whether to contribute based on licenses (as opposed to, say, utility).

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benbalter commented Oct 1, 2013

@haleyvandyck et. al., when you reboot, I'd say this is 👍, and ideally should be the first pull request merged so that we don't have to retroactively seek a more permissive license / public domain dedication from additional contributors.

🏆 🔓

@benbalter benbalter referenced this pull request Oct 3, 2013

Closed

Bring back CC0 #61

@NoahKunin

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NoahKunin commented Oct 17, 2013

Ready for @haleyvandyck to close this epic and worthy PR down! I know some agencies (my own included) are raring to go on getting some public implementation done.

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haleyvandyck commented Oct 17, 2013

This is wonderful-- thanks so much everyone! Happy to make this the first real post-shutdown merged pull request 🏆

haleyvandyck added a commit that referenced this pull request Oct 17, 2013

@haleyvandyck haleyvandyck merged commit 0c6fdfc into master Oct 17, 2013

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@benbalter benbalter deleted the delicense branch Oct 17, 2013

@JoshData JoshData referenced this pull request Oct 17, 2013

Closed

Mention POD #2

@JoshData JoshData referenced this pull request Nov 5, 2013

Merged

Add CC0 as a license #126

dvogel pushed a commit to dvogel/congress that referenced this pull request Feb 8, 2014

@artob artob referenced this pull request Sep 11, 2014

Merged

Add support for Unlicense #5

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