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Public domain vs. Shareware software

William R. Pearson wrp at biochsn.acc.Virginia.EDU
Wed Jul 11 18:43:19 EST 1990

In article <9007111918.AA05592 at genbank.bio.net> ACM at vuvaxcom.bitnet (Association for Computing Machinery) writes:
>> Can someone tell me the difference between public domain software and
>> shareware software?
>> Are they the same?
>        Public domain software is software which comes completely free.  You
>don't have to pay anything at all to anyone for the software itself.  ...
>        Shareware software is software which is distributed freely, but a fee
>comes along with the software.  For shareware software, you can copy and
>distribute the software freely; however, if you use the software for an
>extended period of time (ie. you didn't just look at it and delete it), then
>you are expected to pay whatever fee the author asks that you pay to support
>the author's ongoing work.  ...

	This is somewhat misleading.  "Public domain" is a legal term that
implies that anyone can do anything with the property.  If you want to
publish Shakespeare's plays and can get a hold of the originals to copy
from, you can do so.  In the computer field, works are sometime placed
in the "public domain;" they can then be re-sold by anyone who wishes
to.  One should not confuse freely available (such as GNUemacs) with
public domain.  An author can copyright a work to prevent others from
selling it and then make it freely available.  Not all free things are
in the pubic domain, and it is not uncommon to pay for things that are
(such as works of Shakespeare).

	Shareware is almost always copyrighted or lisenced with the goal
that users pay for their use at some point.

Bill Pearson

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