Can the legal holder of copyright place a work in the public domain?

Simple question: If one holds the copyright on a work, can they explicitly place that work in the public domain under current US law?

I know that a lot of people seem to believe that they can, but I also know that there is no provision in copyright law for placing a work in the public domain. People who support the idea resort to what seems to me to be handwaving.

Please note that I am not asking whether it is possible to release a work under a license that is functionally equivalent to placing a work in the public domain, I’m asking whether a work can actually placed in the public domain.

Is the only difference in terminology?

Well, what it comes down to is whether saying “I place work X in the public domain” has any legal meaning.

Does it matter? You could simply decide not to enforce your copyright. If you declared that you didn’t care about its usage, and that you wouldn’t seek legal action for infringement of your copyright, it would be in the public domain for all intents and purposes, right?

84 A.L.R.2d 462, Abandonment of Statutory Copyright

As long as the author is OK with that there might not be any functional difference. However proper public domain protects the user against an author who might change his mind. In a jurisdiction where certain rights can’t be disclaimed or transferred you have to be more careful when you rely on works from the pseudo public domain.

(I’m just waiting for someone to step in here and say “Just don’t copywrite it!” :wink: )

In addition, the copyright owner might die and his/her heirs might decide to enforce the copyright if it wasn’t it the public domain.

But could a work that was placed in the public domain by the copyright holder, be subsequently taken out of it by the former copyright holder? That does not conform to definitions of abandonment of property; for example, can someone who quits claim to property by quit claim deed later say, “I changed my mind”? (It matters not whether it is the original quit claimant or his heirs; the heirs cannot claim any more right to a property than the claimant held at the time of his death.)

To put it another way, intentional abandonment by overt act is not the same thing as granting a free license. The owner who grants a free license retains the right to withdraw the free license; the owner who abandons property does not retain any rights in it.

I’m hoping that nobody’s doing so because everybody knows that under current law, all print material is under copyright from the moment of its existence.

And that they all know how to spell copyright. (It’s the right to copy.) :slight_smile:

Well the reason you had to say that is that, despite your hopes, you know it’s not true. :slight_smile:

Exapno Mapcase is correct: under current U.S. copyright law, a work is under copyright from the moment of its creation.

Oh, god. Does not one get sarcasm, even marked by visible smilies? Twice?

And I didn’t say Exapno’s statement about copyright law is false. it’s Exapno’s hopes that are false. That’s why he had to explicitly correct me when he knew I was whooshing on both points.

The “smilie” can also mean “Ha! I’m right and you’re wrong!”

None of those cases happened after the Copyright Act of 1976. Does that matter?

And yet my smilie was ignored.

Really, yes, I knew you were kidding. But given the abysmal level of ignorance always displayed in copywrong threads, I wanted to get the right information out there before somebody came along and cited it. I thought I had worded it so that you knew that I knew that you knew.

It’s Walloon who doesn’t have a sense of humor. :smiley:

I think we’re in accord. The wording of my reply to your reply to my comment clearly indicates that I knew that you knew that I was kidding.

Yah, definitely. Maroon.

Well, sure. Who wants responsibility for orks? :smiley: