The Public Domain

Facts and Ideas  
Facts and Ideas

     A while back, I got into a lengthy discussion with an individual on whether or not the facts in the material he had published was protected by copyright or not.  The discussion went back and forth for quite a while and in the end we agreed to disagree.

     For the record, I hereby place every fact and idea in this article into the public domain for any one to use.  However, I retain all rights under United States copyright to my original expression of these facts and ideas.

    While the above statement appears to place my facts and ideas into the public domain, the fact of the matter is that they are already there.  Even if this article states newly discovered facts or expresses ideas that's never been expressed before, those facts and ideas are in the public domain as soon as they are recorded.

     The fundamental basis for this is that facts and ideas cannot be copyrighted. 

      Ideas are specifically excluded from copyright by the United States Code, which states:

In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

    The copyright code does not quite so specifically state that facts are excluded from protection. 

     Court rulings, however, have clearly established that only that which has been independently created by an author with some minimal amount of creativity can be protected by copyright.  Anything in his work that isn't original, creative expression by him cannot be protected.

     Facts can never be original, creative expression.  While an author may be the first to express a fact, he has not created it.  At best, he is the discoverer of a fact and discoveries, just like ideas, are excluded from copyright.

     Since the facts and ideas that I have written here are excluded from protection by copyright, they are, therefore, in the public domain.

2004 Mike and Karen Goad