Public domain pros and cons



  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,194
    The question in the thread was with regard to which license is closest to public domain (i.e. totally free of copyright). You argued that OFL is closer to 'the spirit of public domain'. I argued that something like MIT is closer to the actuality of public domain. I don't think either of us is wrong.

    To be clear, I'm not 'recommending' a particular license model. I think both constrained and unconstrained open licenses have their place, and I'm not ideologically committed to either. For me, the choice what license to use is very much project-specific: I look at the thing — sometimes discuss it with colleagues, as you and I discussed the licensing of Slabo —. and figure out what seems to make most sense for that thing. For Slabo it was OFL with the option for Apache 2.0. For the Biblical Hebrew OTL layout, it was MIT.

  • ...

    This has been done countless times. If a group of authors creates a piece of software and releases it under the GPL3, and accepts contributions from more people, all under the GPL3, at any point in time, the group can convert the GPL3-licensed product to another license (even closed-source), provided that they obtain permissions from all (exactly all) authors and contributors (i.e. the copyright holders).
    The way around it is to only accept contributions from those who sign a, this way you'll remain a single copyright holder.
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 305
    edited May 24

    that's right, and that's the "modern" way, though usually being practiced only in projects that are being run by a larger entity.

    Either way, my main point was that the copyright holders are not bound by the licensee side of terms of the license they publish their code under, because they're not the licensees.

    Dave's thinking is completely off-beat on that. Since he's been rising this point  again and again over the past few years, I have a suspicion that he's only doing it so that I can step in and explain publicly again and again how the facts really look. ;) 

  • Katy MawhoodKaty Mawhood Posts: 165
    Adam Twardoch said:
    They cannot revoke a license that has been granted “perpetually and irrevocably” (which the OFL doesn’t do, BTW), but they can always release their work under a different license. 
    End user perspective: We circulate information on libre licensing internally, as attached. If there are errors, or amends or additions – that'd be grand to know.

  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 948
    edited May 25
    In an open-source license such as the OFL, the licensee is “any person”, but this obviously does not include the copyright holder.
    Wow, does that mean I could have commercialized my typeface project that I (very loosely) based off another typeface I had previously released under OFL?   :open_mouth:

    (Actually, that might have been explicitly forbidden by Google's funding contract, not by OFL, come to think of it.)
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 305
    Indeed, contracts with project sponsors or entities that commission some typeface may limit your freedom, of course. For example, if you sign a contract with a company where you retain copyright over your typeface but grant them an exclusive license for a 5-year period of course restricts you from licensing that typeface to other entities. That's a very common model in the book or music publishing industry. 
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 807
    edited May 26
    Adam kindly you are the one who is deeply mistaken. For a start, copyright licenses are not contracts. But the important point is that you didn't read what I wrote. I am not talking about a single rights holder. I am talking about 2 rights holders whose work is intermingled.

    You say "because they're not the licensees," oblivious to the fact that they are both licensors to each other and therefore ALSO licensees to each other. And thus bound to only distribute under ofl and no other licensing.

    So all your cute named gx fonts that now have the original author and you as two copyright holders can't be distributed by the original authors under anything other than the OFL. 

    I of course welcome your next Jack Reacher impression, but I will continue to Sherlock Holmes ya

    Katy, document looks good

    Christian, yes
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 305
    edited May 26
    Dave, you know will that any copyright holder has the power to enter a contract that amends or modifies the terms of the license they have published the code under.  

    That is the very basis why people who publish fonts under the OFL can sign a contract with Google Fonts, or that any contributor to many opensource projects can sign a CLA, or that an OFL author can sign a contract with a distributor that, for example, relaxes the RFN clause.

    The copyright holder is free to transfer the copyright to another entity (e.g. to another copyright holder). A translator of a book can transfer the copyright to the original author. Or indeed two authors can sign a mutual agreement that establishes the base for them publishing their joint work under a different license. 

    I can publish all the work on my “cute GX fonts” under a license. If I’m not in touch with the original author, I can publish it only under the OFL. But since the original author has all the rights and the fact that he had published his work under one particular license does not bar him from publishing it under different terms (unless of course he has additional contractual obligations with another party that further limit his freedom), that original author is very well empowered to grant me, the “translator”, different licensing terms. 

    The original author can transfer his copyright onto me, I can transfer my copyright onto him. This can be done via a contract, a testament, or via general legal provisions e.g. by inheritance in cause of death. Or are you going to argue that the fact a font has been published under the OFL makes copyright transfer impossible, therefore nobody inherits copyright over fonts published by a now-deceased designer?

    I may impersonate Jack Bauer or Jack Reacher (preferably the former), but you need to realize that the fact that most of Sherlock Holmes being now in the public domain does not make you magically inherit his skills ;) 
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 305
    edited May 26
    Ps. Of course in a mutual situation, each OFL co-author of a work that has been previously published independently is both licensor of his own work and licensee of the other.

    But since both authors are copyright holders, they can exercise their rights as licensors to publish under different terms, transfer copyright and so on. So they can grant additional rights and provisions to each other. If the original author grants me a special license, I become the licensee of that special license, and then my relationship with the original work is no longer governed by the public license. 

    This does not “take back” the public license of the previously published work of course, for others (even though the OFL unfortunately does not explicitly state that the license is perpetual and irreversible, which is a big disadvantage of that license, but most people can implicitly infer the licensor’s intent that the license is perpetual and irreversible).

    Now, as we both know, many authors of OFL-licensed fonts are under contractual obligation with 3rd parties, and those contacts may limit what they may do, especially if the OFL work has been developed under that very contract. But this is a completely different issue (though an important one). 
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 305
    edited May 26
    Ps2. There is a good reason why the OFL stipulates that the copyright notice is included in the license text and in the fonts. That copyright notice isn't just for decorative purposes. It clearly sets apart the licensors (copyright holders) from the rest who are licensees. And those licensors have much more power over the work, that's the whole point. 

    Ps3. In the hypothetical scenario that you're right: there are two OFL font authors (no 3rd party contracts in place, just the OFL). They decide to combine their work and publish it under the CC0 license or under a commercial license. They enter a mutual agreement where they grant each other licenses with terms that go beyond the OFL terms.

    You say they're not at legal liberty to do that. Yet they still go through with it.

    Whose rights do they infringe? Only their mutual rights, as they are the copyright owners, i.e. the only licensors involved. Who can sue any of them? Only the other one. But they have entered a mutual agreement that clarifies that they won't, because they have granted each other special licenses. 

    So, case closed. 
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 305
    edited May 26
    Copyright licenses may not be strictly speaking “contracts” in the U.S. sense of contract law, but that’s only true in the U.S. jurisdiction, and other Comon Law jurisdictions (because copyright law there is separate from contract law). However, in the WIPO copyright sense, in many jurisdictions, especially Civil Law countries, copyright licenses are “just” contracts. Also, on April 25, 2017, the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in “Artifex v. Hancom” that “[The GNU GPL] provides that the Ghostscript user agrees to its terms if the user does not obtain a commercial license. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant used Ghostscript, did not obtain a commercial license, and represented publicly that its use of Ghostscript was licensed under the [GNU GPL]. These allegations sufficiently plead the existence of a contract.”
  • Katy MawhoodKaty Mawhood Posts: 165
    This is off-topic, but it's quite entertaining:
    Several companies have parodied this belief that users do not read the end-user-license agreements by adding unusual clauses, knowing that few users will ever read them. As an April Fool's Day joke, Gamestation added a clause stating that users who placed an order on April 1, 2010 agreed to irrevocably give their soul to the company, which 7,500 users agreed to. Although there was a checkbox to exempt out of the "immortal soul" clause, few users checked it and thus Gamestation concluded that 88% of their users did not read the agreement.

    Grappling with the license / contract terminology:
    IP licensing form[s] sub-branches of law born out of the interplay of general laws of contract and specific principles and statutory laws relating to these respective assets.

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