Subject: Re: GNU and classified software
From: Frank Hecker <>
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 23:20:53 -0500

Seth David Schoen wrote:
> Frank Hecker writes:
> > The contractor would then be free to redistribute that work, including
> > NSA's modifications, to others under GPL terms and conditions. As it
> > happens, the contractor would be prohibited by US law from distributing
> > the work to anyone not authorized to handle classified material, but IMO
> > that is not a problem for the GPL, as discussed below.
> This is true, but there are some possibilities for error; for example,
> there's an argument that the agency could get in a lot of trouble if
> it ever accidentally forgot to provide the source code -- even in an
> isolated incident -- and a copyright holder found out and wanted to
> make an issue out of it.

I'm not sure why this would cause trouble. It seems to me that in such a
case the NSA could simply correct the problem by providing the source
code to whomever it distributed the software. Speaking for myself, I
can't see any way by which the copyright holder could force any sort of
public disclosure, or even force disclosure to any third parties
(including themselves) whom had not received the software from the NSA

> ... giving the software or a derived version to a contractor for
> commercial purposes is almost certainly not fair use, and is also
> arguably not use "privately in your own work or play".  So neither
> copyright law nor the particular FSF argument you quoted would prevent
> a hypothetical free software license from requiring public disclosure
> when derived works are shared with a contractor.

You are correct, as I noted in my previous message; "What is Free
Software" seems to be silent on this point. But I'm curious: do you (or
anyone else) happen to know of an actual free software license which in
fact requires public disclosure on private distribution?

Frank Hecker            work:        home: