Subject: Re: Open Source and Government agencies
From: Frank Hecker <frank@collab.net>
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000 14:08:25 -0500

shapj@us.ibm.com wrote:
> I personally believe that all software done under gov't contract should be
> distributed in a way that (a) makes the software free to use for all, (b)
> ensures acknowledgement of the original author(s), and (c) protects those
> authors from liability associated with subsequent use.

Note that some recent government contracts are doing something close to
this. One example is the S/MIME Freeware Library funded by NSA and
developed by JG Van Dyke and Associates; SFL has a license which on a
quick reading looks like it's OSD-compliant and also GPL-compatible:

http://www.armadillo.huntsville.al.us./software/smime/sfl_license.txt

(I should also note that this software is also more widely available now
with the recent loosening of  US encryption export regulations.)

Some other recent examples of government-funded software being released
under open source licenses include the Certificate Management Library
(also from Van Dyke and funded by NSA), the Certificate Path Development
Library (from Cygnacom, I believe funded by NSA), and the Collaborative
Virtual Workspace (from Mitre, I believe funded by various intelligence
agencies).

> I do NOT think the government should require GPL or OSD licenses because
> I don't believe that it is sound policy to mandate the economic environment
> of the subsequent use; on this issue the government should be neutral. I
> therefore don't think that proprietary use should be prohibited provided
> that open use is also possible.

I agree with your second point (allowing proprietary use) in the case of
software developed totally under US government contract. However I see
no problem with adopting a government-wide policy of using OSD-compliant
licenses, as long as the licenses are unrestricted enough that they both
allow proprietary use and are also compatible with the GPL, e.g.,
something like the X11 license.

Frank
-- 
Frank Hecker            work: http://www.collab.net/
frank@collab.net        home: http://www.hecker.org/