Subject: Re: Software as a public service
From: Bernard Lang <Bernard.Lang@inria.fr>
Date: Thu, 12 May 2005 17:12:12 +0200


Laws vary from country to country, and from time to time.
The Bayh-Dole act did not existe before 1980.

Then there is practice.

In France we now have an organisation called ADULLACT (see
adullact.org, in French), that aims at helping administrative bodies
and local governement to pool their resources and their software
investment.  The software produced is generally free (mostly GPL, I
think).  The association can finance new software or improve existing
software.  It is all on a voluntary basis ... and it is organized so
that the rule for public procurement are respected (i.e. the
association follows those rules on behalf of the members).

Nothing compulsory, nothing imposed by law. It is done because it
appears to all as the best economic and technical solution, and
preserves the openess of calls for tenders.

Though it is mostly directed to meet the specialized need of the
members, the code is available to all.

Bernard


* Stephen J. Turnbull <stephen@xemacs.org>, le 12-05-05, a écrit:
> >>>>> "Joe" == Joe Corneli <jcorneli@math.utexas.edu> writes:
> 
>     Joe> It seems a bit curious that a contractor working for a gov't
>     Joe> agency wouldn't be considered to be a gov't employee for the
>     Joe> term of employment.
> 
> Not at all.  An employment relationship involves many specific
> obligations and privileges on both sides.  This is just a sale of
> goods or services.
> 
>     Joe> maybe the law about gov't employees should be extended to
>     Joe> apply to gov't contractors, lest everything be outsourced and
>     Joe> the law apply to nothing?
> 
> Do you really think that the contractors are getting something for
> nothing?  This would dramatically raise the cost of software in the
> short run.  It is not obvious to me that the taxpayers should be asked
> to subsidize the software industry in that way.
> 
> Given the benefits of open source, it's not obvious that they
> shouldn't, either, but I don't think it's a great idea.  The reason is
> that the government notoriously sucks at "marketing in the necessary
> sense", ie, telling people that the government has something that
> people might want and they can have it for free.  Do you know how much
> free money is left lying on the table every year?  By program count
> it's something like 20% of all available grants aren't applied for!
> By money, it's a small fraction but still runs to a couple billion $ a
> year.  Do you think that the government would be better at marketing
> free as in free beer software?  Uh-uh.
> 
> The contractor, on the other hand, has a strong incentive to market
> that software, which is a first-order win (the software gets used,
> even if the contractor sucks up all the profit).  Furthermore,
> contractors that do make substantial profits in this way will proceed
> to lower their bids (taxpayers rejoice!) and expand their business to
> distribute even more software, a second-order win.
> 
> Note that since the software would be PD (under current practice for
> government product), the contractor would _not_ open its sources, and
> would have strong incentive to file off the serial numbers, give the
> software a nose job, and get it a false ID.  So the burden really is
> on the government to market that open source.  The net effect of your
> proposal is simply to ensure that all government contractors would be
> continuously liable to harrassment from the FSF et al under FOI.
> Sure, you'd be able to pry out the occasional high-value software, but
> the chilling effect on the whole industry and the general increase of
> costs would be pretty fearsome.  Lawyers 1, Freedom 0.
> 
> I guess you could change the rules to demand that contractors copyleft
> the software, but that would be evil, in my opinion.  That would
> purely be a subsidy to the "free as we define it" software movement,
> because copyleft is inherently incompatible with everything, including
> most of itself.  Probably violates separation of Church and State!
> 
>     Joe> And can they _own_ copyrights, or do the copyright
>     Joe> assignments then (effectively) become assignments to the
>     Joe> public domain?
> 
> They own them.  For implications, see below.
> 
>     Joe> One might imagine that FOI would imply that anyone can _read_
>     Joe> the things that gov't agencies own copyrights to, right?  But
>     Joe> if FOI applies, then doesn't that in and of itself imply that
>     Joe> the works are PD?
> 
> No.  The works are still copyrighted; unless the FOI law says otherwise,
> you are not free to modify or republish.  Heck, you might not even be
> allowed to _run_ it!
> 
> -- 
> School of Systems and Information Engineering http://turnbull.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp
> University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
>                Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
>               ask what your business can "do for" free software.

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