I recently set up a public OpenPGP key server in the US that synchronizes with the predominant global key pool. I now have a server on my hands containing gigabytes of user-generated content (e.g. names, comments, the keys themselves, etc.).

I assume based on the commonplace of such systems that I am legally permitted to distribute that content, as that is, after all, the point of a key server.

But I'm not comfortable just making that assumption. Is there a definitive explanation of the content's copyright status, or at least a similar situation involving other user-generated content to which I can make reasonable comparisons?

I've skimmed the web interfaces of various key servers and have found nothing to the effect of a terms of service document. Normally with this kind of question I'd ask the primary source or distributor of the data, but as this is a decentralized dataset I'm not sure where to go. I expect that other key server operators are in the same position as myself.

  • I don't know the answer to that question, and after checking a bit, doesn't seem to be clear anywhere, but considering that those keys are related to privacy and security, redistributing them outside of a key server seems wrong. There is no forum or place with clear rules where you can read about or ask the question? If there is a related forum, they sure will know the right answer.
    – PatomaS
    Feb 21, 2014 at 7:27

1 Answer 1


If there isn't a TOS policy preventing the user's copyright, the creator of the key would have the right to claim a copyright for any information that is not considered just a fact. If they wrote a bio, then they have the right to claim a copyright for that. However, info such as their name cannot be copyrighted because it would be considered a fact. See this for Copyright limitations, exceptions, and defenses.

Similarly, the keys could not have a copyright since they are also considered a fact.

To be safe, I would provide a link to the bio and other similar text on the original server, and store everything else.

Of course, it all depends on who has a better lawyer. You could be even safer by emailing and asking for permission.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer and do not offer legal advice. What I wrote in this comment is not legal advice. For legal advice, get a lawyer.

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