Dedicated to the Public Domain

At the bottom of every page on this website, I have a little Public Domain icon. If you hover over it, it says:

To the extent possible under law, Ryan Mulligan has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to www.ryantm.com.

I do not want to copyright my work, and I want to make it available to anyone who wishes to use it.

I feel morally compelled to put my work into the public domain. To the extent that my work is copyrighted or patented, I am warranting the government to use force against people to compel them to the terms of copyright and patent law. If I am able to free my works into the public domain, the government loses a justification for using force against the copier. When someone uses copyright law, they are condoning the copyright system and the governmental enforcement of it. It strikes me as uncivilized to see someone copyrighting their work. They are reminding me that their big pal, the government, can come around and force me to do or not do something if they do not like what I have done. I do not want to put the people that I meet in life into that kind of position. I do not want them to have to worry about what governmental actions I might invoke on them at a later time period.

Some people are not that worried about this governmental action because they believe that they will make the right decision about who to censor and who to let freely use the works. But we do not live forever, who can guarantee that our estate will be so wise and benevolent? Even if you did carefully construct your will and estate to wisely choose who should benefit from your works, the government might choose to enforce the copyrights against people they did not like and wanted to harass. To me, it is better to take this off the table while I am still around.

I feel that work in the public domain is inherently more valuable. It can be freely remixed, translated, expanded, fixed, distributed, and sold. Encountering such unencumbered information in the world is refreshing and exciting. What might people do with my work or other works in the public domain? This might be a good time to remind you that the source code of my website is available for anyone to see and modify. Please make a pull request or an issue if you notice something is wrong!

When you see a work in the public domain, you do not have to wonder if you can use it. You can. You do not have to consult anyone before using it. You just use it. There is a constant overhead or resistance to using the works of most people. With a public domain dedication, you are greasing the wheels of sharing and improving the value your work delivers to those who come upon it. You are maximizing the number of people that can benefit from it.

Using a public domain dedication seems more consistent with reality. There is no force or logical reason stopping us from copying and reproducing items we see around us. On the contrary, almost everything we do is naturally copied from other people. Can you imagine if someone copyrighted a language, or patented walking? The concept of copyright and patents do not seem grounded in a reasonable understanding of reality. I see them as a ideology created by people trying to monopolize activities who convinced enough people that they should give in to their base desire to be unique and their narcissistic belief that they are capable of producing some idea that the world owes them for.

It feels good to do work that is open and freely available. I know that when I share it, there is no catch. There is no trap laid out for unsuspecting people to fall in and get on my bad side. I am giving my work as broadly and as freely as I can.

I hope that you will consider doing the same. Unfortunately, the government has made the default be that works are copyrighted. Set your work free with a public domain dedication.

published 2015-04-21

Questions or Feedback? Email ryan@ryantm.com or tweet @ryantm.