Implementing the Public Domain Dedication

December 20, 2007 in Legal, PDDL

I want to bring up an important issue in trying to implement the public domain dedication part of the Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication & Licence. The PDDL is made up of two parts — a dedication to the public domain of the “Work” and a back-up licence in case the jurisdiction involved doesn’t allow for a dedication into the public domain (dedicating your work isn’t necessarily allowed everywhere).

Giving up your rights to a work is a pretty big deal. That’s why most (if not all) legal systems require when a rightsholder assigns their copyright — totally and completely giving copyright over to another — they put it in writing and sign it. This is true in the UK and the US for example.

Dedicating a work to the public domain is relatively new territory, legally speaking, and so there probably won’t be a specific piece of legislation or court case out there in the relevant jurisdiction discussing how to dedicate the work to the public domain. But if there was, it would likely require a signed writing in order to make sure that rightsholders don’t give up their rights accidently — to prove that they thought about what they were doing and that they did it intentionally.

The parallel process of assigning a copyright (in existing law) is pretty important when arguing to a court confronted with enforcing the PDDL that it can and should be enforced as a public domain dedication, and it is very likely that the court would want to see a signed writing for the reasons discussed. It makes sense when you think about how dedicating your work to the public domain is a lot like assigning it to everyone on the planet simultaneously.

So once the process is complete for getting your feedback on the text of the PDDL, we will have to think about how we want the PDDL to be implemented. Because it should involve a “signed writing”, we can’t just have people link to the PDDL document when they want to use it, like people do for the Creative Commons licences. We’ll have to do something more like what CC currently does with their Public Domain Dedication tool, which involves a series of emails before the work is dedicated. Presumably the new CCZero will have the same or similar process.

Any thoughts on ways to implement this process would be most welcome. Please sign up for the discuss list here or comment on the site to add your voice.

One response to “Implementing the Public Domain Dedication”

  1. […] I mentioned on the Open Data Commons site that I thought that any application of a legal tool involving a public domain waiver should have a “signed writing” to make sure that people really knew what they were doing by dedicating a work to the public domain and also so that the dedication would fit existing or likely legal standards. (Read that post here). […]