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PUBLIC DOMAIN (Here are my thoughts on it)
If a document doesn't have a copyright, it may be in the public
domain. Some of the HOWTOs are like this. But I recall once seeing a
statement that if you failed to include a license, then it would
default to the LDP license. But if there's no copyright notice, then
it probably doesn't need a license. Even if it was not the authors
intention to place it in the public domain, people are likely to treat
it as if it were in the public domain.
Public domain is where there is no copyright on the work and includes
cases where the copyright has expired. I believe that most government
documents are in the public domain. Anyone may copy and sell or give
away such a work. However one may also modify the work and then
copyright the modified work. This means that the original is still in
the public domain and may be still freely copied and modified. But
you can't make copies of the copyrighted modified work (unless its
license allows it).
For free documentation, public domain has both advantages and
disadvantages. I thinks the the disadvantages outweigh the advantages
as I'll explain shortly. But first I'll explain the advantages. The
advantages are that anyone can use it. You can use all or part of it
and license the result under any license you want. If you copyright
the derived work but have no license for it, then no one may make
copies, distribute it, or modify it. Even so, the fact that it is
based on public domain documentation should have a public benefit by
reducing the price of the resulting work, since it required less
effort to produce.
For software, public domain is a real problem since if someone
modifies the code and sells the result, you will likely never know
about it since the source code will never be released. For documents
in the public domain, finding out about them being modified and
copyrighted is easier. The modified work is not concealed by binary
code as it is for software.
Now if one finds that someone else has modified their "public domain"
document and copyrighted it without a license, then one may make their
own modifications to the document, based in part on the copyrighted
modifications. This is possible because facts are not copyrighted.
One can't just copy the copyrighted doc or even paraphrase it. But
one can note the new facts presented in it, double-check the "facts"
elsewhere, and then put them into the original doc using their own
words. Then there would be a new free? "public domain" document which
is even better than the non-free one that someone else has
What would happen if all LDP docs were public domain? One scenario is
as above. If we had a large number of people working hard on
documentation, we might be able to make our docs better than
commercial ones that lifted our "public domain" and used them as a
head start. Commercial firms would give up and leave the field to us,
although they might print up our docs for people who want printed
But unfortunately there is a scenario at the opposite extreme: Most of
our docs would be modified by commercial firms. But due to a shortage
of volunteers, etc. we would fall far behind in keeping our docs
up-to-date. The commercial docs would be so much better that our docs
would not be of much use or benefit. This could lead to the demise of
The actual scenario would likely fall somewhere between the two
extremes mentioned above. Since I think it would turn out to be
closer to the "demise of the LDP" extreme, I'm stronly opposed to
using "public domain" at this time.
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