Subject: Re: Open Source and Government agencies
From: Frank Hecker <>
Date: Sun, 27 Feb 2000 10:38:41 -0500

Tim O'Reilly wrote:
> I just recently got this query from a customer, and wondered if anyone
> on this list had any comments, based on experience with government
> agencies.  My inclination is to suggest he do what Larry did, which is
> just to do it, but it sounds like he's already asked his higher ups, so
> that is not an option.

I agree with Rich Morin on this point: if the software is developed by a
U.S. government employee or employees then it is and must be in the
public domain, and hence anyone (other the U.S. government itself) can
copyright the software and (re)release it under a license of their
choice. And to expand on what Crispin Cowan wrote, I think this ability
of others to copyright and license offers some possibilities.

Perhaps Mr Asquith should consider something like the following: Find
someone outside the government who is willing to be "custodian" of the
developed code, provide a copy to them, and have them copyright it and
release it under an appropriate free software license. Then Mr. Asquith
can submit future changes directly to the code custodian for
incorporation in the free software release, while continuing to make the
original code and any future changes available for public domain release
to anyone who wishes to get it.

If non-government free software developers like the code and want to
extend it themselves, then there should be enough momentum behind the
free software version that it will remain useful and available even if
someone creates a proprietary version of the original public domain
code. If other people start actively developing against the free
software version and if Mr Asquith wanted to further ensure that that
version remained the most used and useful version, he could release his
future (public domain) changes and extensions to the public _only_ in
the form of patches against the free software version, and not continue
releasing complete versions of his public domain code (except for the
original one).

Frank Hecker            work:        home: