Subject: Re: For Approval: NASA Open Source Agreement Version 1.1
From: Ben Reser <>
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 00:34:08 -0800

On Fri, Feb 13, 2004 at 12:05:08AM -0800, Richard Schilling wrote:
> The OSI can do what it wants.  My preference is to see all discussions 
> the OSI endorses regarding licenses be done in the context of 
> legitimate legal analysis (which is done by lawyers) and well trained 
> laypeople.

You mean like Larry?  From what I understand he practices law in this
very subject matter.  I find it odd that you keep going on about
legitimate legal analysis.

Why don't you provide your analysis as to why you think it complies with
the OSD?  That's a hell of a lot more constructive than ripping on
someone elses intial thoughts.

> It's one thing if someone asks why a part of a license is important, 
> and then tries to apply the answer to some licensing goal.   It's quite 
> another if we just blast away at a new license on uninformed and 
> misguided knowledge.

Larry asked why it was necessary, I don't think he was blasting away
at their license.

> Absoutely.  No argument there.  They should.  The NASA license, 
> however, presents a unique opportunity for  The 
> organization can look at the language and concerns the license 
> addresses and use that as an acid test to see if their criteria needs 
> revising (a good standards body does that - and I have the impression 
> does).
> has several licenses written by industry leaders like 
> Sun, IBM, MIT, and others who have a lot of experience writing great 
> open source licenses.  The NASA license is a wonderful opportunity to 
> add a US government agency's license to that list.  When 
> puts all of them side by side and study what makes them unique, but 
> still qualify as open source, then has advanced the 
> state of open source licensing.

That's nice.  It's an opportunity.  But if the license doesn't comply
with the OSD then no matter how wonderful of an opportunity it is we
shouldn't certify the license.  This list exists to discuss potential

Larry's response is by no mean a definitive review of the license.  He
gave his initial thoughts.  Largely based up on the rationale for the
different license.  One thing that there is a general sense of is that
we don't tend to want to encourage the use of zillions of different
licenses when there is already a license that serves the same purpose.
Larry's response was going to the heart of that.  He was suggesting that
perhaps and existing license would really serve their needs.

> I believe that is a misguided concept in open source licensing that 
> some hold to.  Tracking the use of a product does not make a license 
> non-open source.  Open Source licensing deals with accessibility and 
> cost, but tracking, per se, is not even relevant to that 
> characteristic.  In fact, tracking the uses of open source is a *key* 
> marketing tool and the only way we can judge if an investment of time 
> into open source is paying off, is it not?

Complying with a registration system is not necessarily without costs.
While those of us that live in countries with inexpensive internet
access take net access for granted, not everyone has the same level of
access.  If such a registration requirement was included then it could
effectively stop the free distribution of the software to some people.

These sorts of issues have been discussed many times before.  There is
sound logic behind the complaints with clauses like this.  And it's
grounded in the priciples that you say it has nothing to do with.

> right.  See, that's objective - what you just said.
> I got the sense from the original poster overtones of "big bad big 
> brother."  Too much work goes into these licenses to take the 
> conversation in that direction - I felt the need to call him on it, and 
> I hope I called everyone making similar arguments on that point.

I don't think Larry was doing any such thing.  Hell he put a smiley in
there.  But seriously I don't think there is an OSI certified license
that includes an indemnification clause.  I don't think it's really
unreasonable to ask NASA to justify why they really need this clause.  

I think Larry's point was that the OSL would probably meet their needs
and is already approved.

Personally, I found it odd that they wanted indemnification but are
unwilling to provide it to contributors.  That doesn't seem right to me.
But perhaps that's just an oversight.

Ben Reser <>

"Conscience is the inner voice which warns us somebody may be looking."
- H.L. Mencken
license-discuss archive is at