Subject: Re: Software as a public service
From: Joe Corneli <jcorneli@math.utexas.edu>
Date: Thu, 12 May 2005 11:34:13 -0500




       Joe> It seems a bit curious that a contractor working for a gov't
       Joe> agency wouldn't be considered to be a gov't employee for the
       Joe> term of employment.
   
   Not at all.  An employment relationship involves many specific
   obligations and privileges on both sides.  This is just a sale of
   goods or services.


What you (SJT) say here (and in your more detailed exposition) makes
sense.  Thanks for clearing these things up for me.

Let me just say that if (we were in the weird scenario in which) the
government had some vested interest in keeping its documents out of
the public domain, what you say suggests that all they have to do is
hire contractors to do everything.  FOI would still make documents
available for fair-use review, but there would be none of the "free"
stuff associated with with PD documents.

Is this possibility a likelihood at all?  I don't know what the
government (or we the people) might stand to gain by keeping things
out of the PD.  But anyone with 2 red pennies to rub together knows
that competitive bidding and the free market are an attractive way of
doing business.  So it might turn out that the government has a vested
interest - not in keeping documents out of the PD per se - but in
working with private contractors to do increasingly high level gov't
functions.  E.g. maybe instead of NASA, in the future, we'll just have
the space division of Virgin.

Then free market forces might decide whether the related sources were
public domain, GPL, or proprietary, or whatever else.  (The vested
interests of the government and/or the public in this matter might
come into play here too, again, if there are any.)

It seems like sort of a historical fluke that gov't works would be
PD-as-in-freedom and not just public-as-in-FOI.  But I haven't had a
chance to look at the links from Frank Hecker about this yet... maybe
they explain that.