Subject: Re: Software as a public service
From: Bernard Lang <>
Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 00:45:24 +0100

* DV Henkel-Wallace <>, le 14-03-05, a écrit:

> - If the government pays for software _to be written_ (i.e. either by 
> contractors working to government specification or by government 
> employees) I think that such software should be explicitly placed into 
> the public domain, including source.  Much as I love the GPL I think 
> its use in this context would be unjust.

and why is it unjust ?    ... other than ideology ?

It might be if it is actually competing with an existing product.  But
then it may be considered unjust, whatever the licence.
  But the state may have other obligations or criteria of public
welfare that justify it. I think that is not quite the same as eminent
domain, and it may vary from country to country.

On the other hand, if it does not compete with an existing product,
everyone is treated the same.  So why should it be unjust.  Why should
a community of people (public money is not necessarily state money)
have less right than a company to choose a licence in its own best
interest ?

So the only issue is
  - effectiveness of the licence with regard to optimal use of public
    money (even though criteria may be debatable)
  - obligations of the state, given accepted context of such

Typically, in my institute, that runs mostly on public money, there is
no fixed policy.  Licences are chosen so that whatever we produce will
have maximum effectiveness ... more or less.  And there are lots of
criteria, many being non quantitative (economic development, ensuring
support for the software or making researchers happy for example).

But I am very surprised to see such weak interest in interoperability,
and open standards (meaning, of course, not encumbered by IP).
That is the main public policy issue.


Most of what we consider adequate or inadequate for the state to do is
just ideology.  So let's have some arguments.

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