Going Public

2004-08-08

While at IETF 60 last week, I got to thinking about the ethics of publication. To publish something is, literally, to make it public. Last year, I decided that whenever I publish something I would put it directly into the public domain. This may seem fairly radical: why not just go with the flow and let my works pass into the public domain 70 years after my death? The problem with this line of reasoning is that politicians and pressure groups are quite likely to extend copyrights again and again (you don't think the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act was the last such abomination, do you?). In fact, it would not surprise me if some future Congress decided to extend copyrights indefinitely, in which case my works would never pass into the public domain. One solution would be to will all my works into the public domain at my death, but it seems more straightforward to place them into the public domain immediately. To me, the public domain has become an ethical issue: if I ever want my works to pass into the public domain, I must choose to do so now rather than to have their fate driven by oligarchic legislators and corporations.


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal