Subject: Re: A few here may have an opinion on this
From: "Benjamin J. Tilly " <ben_tilly@operamail.com>
Date: Wed, 23 Oct 2002 23:55:39 +0500

Brian Behlendorf <brian@collab.net> wrote:
> On Wed, 23 Oct 2002, Benjamin J. Tilly  wrote:
> > http://newsvac.newsforge.com/newsvac/02/10/23/1247236.shtml?tid=4
> >
> > A Washington State senator is trying to make it government
> > policy to not support research that produces GPLed
> > software because the GPL is a license that "would prevent
> > or discourage commercial adoption" of technologies.
> >
> > Yeah, right.
> 
> Everyone knows my biases, but I think there's a pretty reasonable point
> here.  A "university" license would, in my opinion, be the most
> appropriate license for government-funded software to be released under.
> Simply by virtue of being compatible with all other existing licenses,
> Open Source or not, it makes the software more widely usable, and thus
> more valuable to society as a whole.  Since a properly-formed university
> license is compatible with the GPL, it would also not prevent government
> funds from going to funds that are based on GPL software, for example the
> Linux kernel.  If I were a senator I'd be tempted to sign onto such
> legislation.  I'd look very closely, though, for any easter eggs left by
> software vendors from Washington State.

This movement is specifically aimed at keeping the
government from distributing things like its security
enhancements for the Linux kernel.  There are two issues
here.

 1) If the government wants to use open source
    software, and that software does not meet the
    government's needs, then it is reasonable for the
    government to improve that software.

 2) Governments are better suited than private
    enterprise to address the tragedy of the commons.
    Security in particular suffers from this, and
    actions meant to improve computer security should
    address popular software, regardless of license.

Both of these are legitimate public policy concerns which
make it appropriate for the government to do security
work on open source projects like Linux and Apache.
Microsoft doesn't want the government to do this work for
the obvious reason that it legitimizes competition to
Microsoft, and does it in an area where they are weak.

As far as I am concerned, that is Microsoft's problem.
When Microsoft sells to the government, they undoubtably
are paid money for a contract that is contingent upon
certain features being developed.  And the government
spends money giving private companies - Microsoft
included - feedback on security issues.  Why are these
actions OK when a purely private interest (such as
Microsoft) is the direct recipient of the public
largess, but not when it is an open source community?

Cheers,
Ben
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