The Public Domain here, there, and everywhere

robert_weir at robert_weir at
Tue Nov 2 14:27:40 CET 2010

It is also relevant whether this was a personal work, or a work-for-hire, 
or whether via other means (copyright assignment, for example) rights were 
vested in PKWARE.

In any case, my point is that the same laws that prevent me from taking an 
ISO standard and creating my own forked version of it, also protect 
standards and specifications from other organizations, including private 

The ZIP Application Note has had a copyright notice constantly since the 
start.  So however we want to interpret the old press release, we must 
interpret it as consistent with the contemporaneous copyright notice, as 
well as Info-Zip's contemporaneous acknowledge of the copyright, as well 
as common practice circa 1989 with open standards and specifications. 
Anyone who wants to suggest that PKWARE did something unprecedented back 
in 1989 (and unprecedented since as well) has an uphill battle to prove 
their point.  It is not enough merely to make a plausible argument.  You 
must make an argument that is more likely than the alternative 

We should also consider the NWIP ballot that failed and that many NB's 
expressed strong concerns with an attempt to simply take the Application 
Note (or a derived work like Info-Zip) and attempting to standardize it. 

A few examples:


"Unless the maintainer (i.e., PKWARE) of the original .ZIP Application 
Note agrees on this project and
clarifies which feature has intelectual property issues and which feature 
does not, we believe that this project
should not be added to the programme of work of JTC1."


"They [PKWARE] have published and maintain the ZIP specification in the 
form of a freely available "Application
Note". Efforts to formally standardize an existing technology with such 
broad adoption, without
participation of principal ZIP vendors will introduce interoperability 
problems throughout the market.

To make referencing ZIP in ISO/IEC standard developments easier, the US 
believes an alternate
and far more efficient approach to ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34 N 1414 would be for 
JTC 1 to approve the
ZIP Application Note as a Referenced Specification (RS) per Annex N of the 
currently published
JTC 1 Directives."


"The main driver of ZIP format should be participating (pkware), if not 
there is the danger of a fork
between standard and implementation"


"The proposed New Work item is based on a proprietary technology. The 
proposal for
standardization is not adequately supported by the direct involvement or 
commitment of the
technology owner in the standardization process."


"ZIP is a de facto standard since a long time. The main vendors of ZIP 
product collaborate on the
specification and since almost 20 years they published and maintained this 
specification for free.
France believes that it is up to them to decide whether they wish to 
follow a formal standardization
process and not to SC 34."


"The amendment right of ZIP format is owned by PKWARE Inc. in US. But SC34 
and PKWARE have
not made an agreement on the ZIP standardization since now. China suggests 
that SC34 do the NP
work after reaching an agreement between SC34 and PKWARE"


" prevent any potential future divergence from the ZIP community
specification, SC34 should direct its effort towards making the ZIP 
Application Note as a
'REFERENCED SPECIFICATION' (in accordance with Annex N of JTC1 directives) 
and call out for
the 'minimal features' from that RS required for XML document packaging. 
This should be done in
cooperation with the current owners of ZIP - PKWARE."

Now there was a small minority (a single NB, in fact) who convinced 
themselves that the issue was merely one of scope, and that if a Study 
Group were to be convened to discuss the scope, that all would be well. 
This small minority proposed this Study Group and is quite vocal on it. 
But unless a new proposal is made that satisfies the majority of voting 
SC34 NBs, the previous failure will surely be repeated.

I hope we can all agree, at the very least, that there is NO CONSENSUS on 
whether we should (or even may) base a new standard on the Application 
Note or derived work like Info-ZIP, without the explicit permission of 
PKWARE, and that further discussion us unlikely to lead to consensus.

I recommend that we move on to items where we might be able to achieve 
consensus and do something useful at the same time, for example:

1) We encourage PKWARE to update their Application Note to make it easier 
to profile it.

2) We encourage PKWARE to define a public defect submission and resolution 

3) ISO standards that reference ZIP Application Note directly would use 
the RER process. 

4) WG1 creates a profile standard based on the revised Application Note. 
This would require an RER as well.  IPR and maintenance would be clarified 
in the RER.



"Dennis E. Hamilton" <dennis.hamilton at> wrote on 11/02/2010 
12:30:53 AM:

> Subject:
> RE: The Public Domain here, there, and everywhere
> There is no public-domain copyright status in the US.  A work is 
> either in copyright or in public domain (because copyright has 
> lapsed).  Works are assumed born in copyright.
> The closest to a public-domain declaration is a quit-claim.  It 
> can't even be registered with the US Copyright Office.
> To make things a bit more decorous and traceable, there is a 
> Creative Commons no-rights CC0 license that provides a nice formal 
> way to make the quit-claim: <>.
> This did not exist at the time that Phil Katz did his work, but if 
> you can find enough authoritative declarations it would probably 
> hold up as a defense against copyright infringement.  But consult 
> your own lawyer about that sort of thing. 
> One problem, of course, is determining just what (US-defined, 
> including software) literary work is it that has been declared to be
> in the Public Domain.  That matters too.  Here, specificity is 
> important.  And none of this has anything to do with other forms of 
> IP such as patents and trademarks.
>  - Dennis
> -----Original Message-----
> From: sc34wg1study-bounces at [mailto:sc34wg1study-bounces at
> ] On Behalf Of Horton, Gareth
> Sent: Monday, November 01, 2010 20:42
> To: robert_weir at; ISO Zip
> Subject: RE: [sc34-wg1]
> Hi Rob,
> Just a small correction below on public domain:
> -----Original Message-----
> From: sc34wg1study-bounces at [mailto:sc34wg1study-bounces at
> ] On Behalf Of robert_weir at
> Sent: 01 November 2010 13:38
> To: ISO Zip
> Subject: RE: [sc34-wg1]
> [ ... ]
> If you talk to a lawyer, you'll be told that "public domain" has no set 
> meaning, except for creative works that are older than their statutory 
> copyright terms.  So this press release -- if genuine -- is at best 
> ambiguous.  As you know, it was "discovered" by one SC34 "invited 
> who then put on the ZIP Wikipedia page to give it credence.  The page 
> not even load for me right now.  And it is certainly not at a site that 
> immediately suggests authenticity. 
> >>>You mean a U.S lawyer maybe.  Dedicating works to the public 
> domain certainly has a set meaning in U.K law - all intellectual 
> property rights have been forfeited. I wouldn't be so sure this is 
> not the case in the U.S.
> >>>Maybe the U.S argument is that they are a form of copyright 
> license, which can be revoked at will, but since Phil Katz did not 
> do that in his lifetime ...
> >>>
> >>>Looks like UK-based implementors will be at an advantage ;-)
> >>>In addition, the statement on the format being released into the 
> public domain was also on PKWARE's own web site and still is, as of 
today (
>, so I think we can put that issue to 
> [ ... ]

More information about the sc34wg1study mailing list