April 13, 2003  ·  Lessig

Doc has an interesting post about CC licenses and the public domain. As he rightly notes, we have no direct license that you can link to so as to place your material in the public domain. This is not because we wouldn’t like to offer such a license. It is instead because the law does not make such simplicity possible. While for most of our history, there were a thousand ways to move creative material into the public domain, most lawyers today are puzzled about whether there is any way to move work into the public domain.

We have tried to build a way, but it is not automatic. If you follow this link, there are a number of steps you can take to put material into the public domain. We believe that if you follow these steps, then your work is in the public domain. Again, there’s no way to be certain about this. But this is our best guess, given the murky state of the law.

Again, this can’t be automatic. But you can automatically license your content under an Attribution only license. The only requirement that an Attribution licenses imposes is that a subsequent adopters give credit. This is an important, but slight burden. And because our licenses are perpetual, this is quite close to a public domain dedication.

  • PJ

    What would it take to clarify the law? A test case? Can one be constructed? Like maybe: Person A publishes something and tries to put it in the public domain. Person B takes it and re-publishes it exactly. Person A then sues Person B for copyright infringement. Would the ruling on such a case help by setting some kind of precedent?

  • Lessig

    Yes, it is possible to imagine a test case. The problem is test cases can’t be made up. There really needs to be a conflict between the parties. Though I expect that if A puts something into the public domain using our procedure, the B might be able to get a declaration that it can rely upon the dedication. Has anyone thought about this procedurally?