[cc-licenses] Using the CC public domain "license" for marking content not in copyright

Gavin Baker gavin at gavinbaker.com
Sat Nov 24 01:16:23 EST 2007

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This is part question, part suggestion for license development
(depending on the answer to the question). I think this is the
appropriate list; I apologize if I'm wrong.

I was interested in using metadata to mark material in the public domain
due to age (specifically, content from library digitization efforts --
in the U.S., such digitization is not copyrightable, I'm told). So I
looked at the CC Public Domain Dedication/Certification.

A few thoughts:

1.) Is there a way to specify whether a use is a certification (i.e. the
content is naturally in the public domain, the "license" just indicates
this) vs. a dedication (the copyright holder waives all rights)? I ask
particularly because I've heard people speak dubiously about the
legitimacy of the public domain dedication outside the U.S. Therefore,
it seems like it might be preferable to be clear that the "license" is
merely a certification rather than the active act of waiving copyright.
I'll refer to certification as marking PD content, whereas dedication is
placing content in the public domain.

2.) Quoting from the terms:
> The person or persons who have associated work with this document
> (the "Dedicator" or "Certifier") hereby either (a) certifies that, to
> the best of his knowledge, the work of authorship identified is in
> the public domain of the country from which the work is published [...]

This means the certification is jurisdiction-specific, and rightly so,
since countries have differing laws about the term of copyright. So why
isn't the PD "license" localized, like the 3.0 licenses, or why isn't
there a way to indicate in which country the work is in the public domain?

In this case, dedication and certification are somewhat at cross
purposes. The dedication is meant to act globally, like other CC
licenses. But a certification is simply a standardized, machine-readable
way to indicate the copyright status of a work in a particular country;
some works in the public domain (and thus eligible for the
certification) in Canada are still under copyright in the U.S.

3.) Why doesn't the PD "license" include the standard disclaimers and
waivers of liability, etc. that the main CC licenses do?

4.) (not necessarily a legal question) Why does the PD "license" have a
different generator form from the CC licenses?

Specifically, it seems to require extra steps that the main licenses don't.

The page also contains the warning that "the Public Domain Dedication
may not be valid outside of the United States." If we want to use the PD
"license" as a standardized way to mark content in the public domain
(which would be quite useful, IMHO), then warning about its possible
illegitimacy is counter-productive!

I'm not sure how these questions interact with the rumored CC-Zero
license, but I haven't heard much about that effort.

Anyway, it would be nice to have a tool better suited to marking PD
content, especially on the heels of the recent study of open content
licenses in UK cultural heritage institutions, as an alternative for
standardized marking/metadata for institutions in jurisdictions where
such digitization is not copyrighted.

- --
Gavin Baker
gavin at gavinbaker.com
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