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   Re: A call for open source DTDs

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  • From: John Cowan <cowan@locke.ccil.org>
  • To: XML Dev <xml-dev@ic.ac.uk>
  • Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 13:17:26 -0400

Peter Murray-Rust wrote:

> IMO public domain is not appropriate. Very few documents are actually in
> the public domain - most have some sort of protection.

Many documents (in the U.S., any document published before 1923, YMMV)
are in the public domain.

> My understanding is
> that anyone can take a PD document, modify it *** and then copyright it***.

Not so, unless the referent of "it" is shifting.  The resultant 
modified document can be copyright as to the modifications, but not
the original.  Once in the public domain, always in the public domain.

> This could mean that the original authors could be prevented from using
> their own work.

Impossible.  They could at best be prevented from using the modified
form.  This is important for software where the PD version may be
unmaintained and so people have to go to the commercial version if
they want the latest fixes, but less so for more static kinds of

> I think it has to be that. DTDs are so important because they represent
> contracts between the author and the reader/user. If that contract breaks
> because the DTD is modified by someone and mutant versions are distributed,
> then  the author may get criticise for something that was not their action.

I think that the copyright laws are not the proper way to maintain this
principle.  After all, doubting users can always download the
authentic version from the author's website.  If you are truly
concerned, however, a rewritten version of the Artistic License
(http://www.opensource.org/artistic-license.html) may help you.

> It is also critical to protect authors' moral rights.

Unfortunately, authors (as distinct from sculptors, painters, etc.)
have no moral rights that international law recognizes as worthy of
protection.  I always insist on "the moral right to be known as the
author of this document", but this has no legal force, unlike the
analogous claim by a visual artist.
John Cowan	http://www.ccil.org/~cowan		cowan@ccil.org
	You tollerday donsk?  N.  You tolkatiff scowegian?  Nn.
	You spigotty anglease?  Nnn.  You phonio saxo?  Nnnn.
		Clear all so!  'Tis a Jute.... (Finnegans Wake 16.5)

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