Subject: Re: GNU and classified software
From: kragen@pobox.com
Date: Sun, 1 Apr 2001 06:01:53 -0400 (EDT)

jean_camp@harvard.edu writes:
> I believe that non-discrimination of distribution is a requirement under
> the GPL, as with OS software. You cannot simultaneously practice
> non-discrimination and require that a recipient has the military-given
> right to view secret/top secret/sensitive documents.

What section of the GPL do you believe specifies this?  By my reading,
the GPL does not say anything about how you may or may not choose to
whom you give copies of software; it only obligates you to do certain
things with regard to those to whom you give the software, and to
license the software to the public at large.

> I believe that non-discrimination is a central feature to OS and FS.
> (One I am, btw, not terribly fond of since it prohibits limits for
> safety-critical systems. Being able to prohibit use of software for
> safety-critical systems seems damn reasonable to me.)

Such prohibition does not belong in copyright licenses; it's perfectly
reasonable for a nuclear-plant operator to do a thorough safety audit
of existing unsafe code and fix its bugs rather than writing its own
from scratch, for example; and if it were to decide to write its own
after having read the unsafe code, copyright licenses that prohibit
the use of the original code for safety-critical systems could make it
liable for copyright infringement if it subconsciously copied parts of
the original system.

As an FSB, you're quite entitled to refuse to do business with
companies not in America, companies not willing to pay you, companies
you don't like the politics of, companies whose CEO slept with your
wife, or companies without any personnel holding an SCI for a
particular compartment.  You just can't require that your customers
not share your free software with companies not in America, companies
not willing to pay you, or companies without any personnel holding an
SCI for a particular compartment --- if you do, it's not free.

I don't know whether writing classified software constitutes imposing
such a requirement.