Monday, February 13, 2017

How to do Public Domain the Right Way

I ran across this excellent article today in the Tech Times.  It describes how the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art has as of 7 February 2017 released approximately 375,000 high resolution images of its copyrighted artwork under the Creative Commons Zero ("CC0") license.

While I certainly appreciate the Met's effort to share its collection with the world, from an open source attorney's perspective I applaud their choice of the CC0 license to do so.

It doesn't happen very often, but when I run across software intellectual property in the public domain, it can be challenging to trace the provenance back to an explicit grant upon which I feel comfortable advising a client to place their reliance.  Since to my knowledge the earliest software was created in the 1940's and 1950's, it has probably not been in existence long enough for statutory periods to run.  Therefore a grant is best.  I have found some very simply one sentence grants that have to serve on occasion and from a practical standpoint have not been successfully challenged.  But I am much more confident in something with additional substance that attempts to cover specific ground such as:

  1. List of IP rights being addressed
  2. Waiver of those rights
  3. Fallback clause to try to catch any exceptions or loopholes created by specific jurisdictions or future changes or interpretations of law
  4. Limitations of Warranty and Disclaimers to protect the grantor(s) and retain patent and or trademark rights
In my mind the CC0 is best of breed for accomplishing a grant to the public domain and is an excellent vehicle for most such efforts.

Now I just need to work some of these cool Met images into my next presentations :-)

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