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GNU is Not Unix

President's Tech Advisors Comment On OSS 129

Tony Stanco writes: "The President's Information Technology Advisory Committee's "Recommendations of the Panel on Open Source Software For High End Computing" has issued its report and recommendations concerning OSS/Free Software. " Very postive -- says that the government should help develop more free software/open source software.
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US Pres. Tech Advisor Comm. Comments on OSS

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  • Wow, what an exciting moment. A govt. committee is thinking that...."An analysis of Open Source licensing agreements is needed, with an ultimate goal of agreeing upon a single common licensing agreement for Open Source software development.

    So, there are some promising things that may come out of the report."

    This is fantastic news! All of this, from a committee that is......"Defining a policy framework for accomplishing these goals". A govt. committee that is analysing and in the very process of defining a policy. Why, everyone in a US govt. agency must be paying attention to this committee!

    This is terribly exciting, and we must all pop out the champagne.

    Whew, now that I'm calmer, I'm wondering if there are thousands of these committees formulating policy decisions.

    As for the govt. "investing heavily in open source", I think that's how TCP/IP came about, along with practically everything that constitutes the Internet infrastructure, though they didn't have the GNU/free/open-source labels flying around. After all, the US govt. doesn't invest in proprietary MS or Sun research projects.

    w/m
  • I think they mean standards for work contracted to themself. I don't think they're about to regulate hobbyist programmers. Then again, if they consider programming to be dangerous, they might. After all, you need a license to fly a model plane. Then again, that's directly physically dangerous, so I doubt we need to fear licensing now.
    ---
  • I recall reading an interview in Linux Magazine where ESR stated that the government should basically be abolished, along with M$.
    I couldn't get to the actual report, but posts say that ESR was on a government commitee.
    Anyone know why he would do it?

  • I'm a bit puzzled as to how anyone could hope to "take control of" open source software.
    Also, I'm not sure what open-source software has to offer governments over and above what they've already taken from it.
    And lastly, I'm not sure governments have anything to offer OSS. Seems to me it got this far on its own, so who needs governments? who needs IBM?

    'Scuse me while I muse some more. I'm trying to figure out why this news might be important.

  • This is absolutely NOT off topic. Software patents are a MAJOR disaster for any kind of open source software. If the us government really wants to help they can put a leash on their own patent office. Of course, they wont, because even though they control the po, business controls the u.s. government. You notice how they say highend computing? Because they dont want to encroach on business.
  • I think companies would be more likely to use an MPL-style license than GPL. Under the MPL, they can keep some parts of their product closed, while letting other parts be developed by the community. It's really perfect for them. And it obviously works, too. Look how many contributors Mozilla has.

    We'll just have to see what kind of product they end up with.
    ---
  • Ugggh. I hate software patents as much as the next person, but your idea has a few holes in it.

    Letting "free software" violate the notion of software patents is impossible without trashing patent law altogether. Say I patent a software design for "half-click shopping". As part of my patent application, I'm required to provide enough detail so that one reasonably skilled in the art of software development can implement a half-click shopping software package (essentially open sourcing the idea while retaining the rights). When I'm granted the patent, I'm given a 17-20 year monopoly to prevent others from implementing half-click shopping software. Meanwhile, I lay waste to the industry, putting Amazon out of business by licensing the patent rights to Barnes and Noble and others. Fame, fortune and derision follow.

    If your proposed law was enacted, Apache could decide that what this world really needs is halfclick.apache.org, the Open Source Half-Click Project. There are all these mom-n-pop storefronts out there on the web who can't compete and license my patent (or afford my companies license fees for the software), so we'll just build them a free version that they can run to circumvent my government-granted monopoly. Since there's no charge for it, even my normal customer base (B&N) could go hire a few developers to contribute to this open source project and tailor a version for their needs. No money changes hands, but I clearly lose the one right I'm granted with the patent, which is the ability to decide who can use the patent.

    A more direct approach would be to fix software patents in the first place, and not drag open source into it. A cheaper, more streamlined way of resolving disputes without involving lawyers is the key step.

    That's not to say that open source doesn't have a role to play in regards to software patents. As the half-click shopping originator, I might find it useful to grant Apache a license to my patent, because innovations that arise from their work might themselves be patentable, and that only adds to the value of my patent (since derivative patents ultimately require licensing the original patent).

    IMHO, open source may become a very valuable weapon if combined with a streamlined arbitration approach to resolving the quagmire of software patent lawsuits. Open source the creation and registration of prior art, instead of the implementation of existing ideas. It's been discussed before, but it supports the ideals of the open source community as well, if not better, than free code. For example, we create an open "shadow PTO" that open source contributors can submit patentable ideas to in order to stake out ground we want to protect from the lawyers. By patentable idea, I mean a proposal that has enough detail that someone reasonably skilled in the art can construct it, and something that is novel. That would be a much better way of using the open source culture to thwart software patent abuses, and it would still protect the valuable aspects of patent law. A battle of the minds.
  • Doesn't the government have to release it public domain?
  • Instead of condemning the article which others have done here quite thoroughly, for the better, I'd like to step aside a second and wonder about the potentially good side effects of this report:

    • Legal validation of Free Software/Open Source licenses. If the government is looking to encourage open source software, could this lead to the long-sought-after validation of our prized licenses, since they'll want to make sure whatever licenses they're under stand up in court?
    • Open specification "encouragement". If they want a level playing field for Open vs. Closed software when making their considerations, could this give a push towards making sure specs for certain things (say, like various pieces of hardware and protocols, and even maybe DeCSS?) are available for use in Open Source software? (Somehow I doubt it, but wouldn't it be cool? :P ;)) At least if they want their software to interact, they'll need to make sure the OSS can communicate with the non-OSS...

    Then again, this is probably just asking for more laws to be made, which may not be so good, either.

    I'm not a lawyer, or very familiar with how these things might work, so is there anyone who is that might comment?

  • As everyone knows, the GPL is viral, which means that it has to stay open. That's actually a good thing for companies. A lot of companies are unwilling to release source because (among other things) they're worried about other people walking off with it and making money off of their IP. The GPL prevents that.

    GPL doesn't stop people from making money off other people's IP. It just stops from legally selling a closed source version. RedHat makes money selling GPL software written by other people. So does CheapBytes. You probably understand this already. In practice, stopping people from selling closed-source fruits of OSS labor seems to be enough.

    However, I still think the BSD-style license is most likely to be favored by corporations.

    BSD doesn't have the viral aspect to it. So, they can take BSD code, develop it, and then release the source or not. That "or not" is a nice option for corporations to have.

    Witness MacOSX, the various BSD-based devices, etc. Compare to the Linux-based devices, where half the time people end up screaming "GPL violation" because the company wanted to make customizations and keep them closed. Want to bet they would have used BSD in those cases had they understood the BSD vs. GPL issue?

    I think BSD is the license that will be favored in the corporate world. At least until the "we must protect our intellectual property" mindset really goes away. GPL is just ahead of its time. :)

  • it may be that the internet itself was laid by the gvt, but it didn't stay there. it also didn't go nowhere till individuals (universities) made practical use of it. that is so barely relevant anyway. the real point is, we really really really don't need any *cough*socialist*cough* help from big brother for our open source projects. his very nature is to keep things concealed, and that dohna work too well for me. let's let em keep doing what they ought, governing. i think we can handle the software.
  • hear hear! that's not what they're there for.
  • The Federal government should aggressively (!) encourage the development of Open Source software for high end computing;

    I can just see the tanks rolling into Redmond now with RMS on top of one making speeches and ESR leading the OSS militia on a raid on the MS source archive. Gotta love that crack
  • Back in the pre-PC days of CP/M and Z80, much software was PD because it had been developed as part of a US Government or university contract.
  • Linux may be a commercial competitor, but is a competitor in that every PC running Linux is one less Windows licence sold.
  • Oops.. That should have been not a commercial competitor.
  • You can't change a license retroactively. Also, many (most?) authors give you the option of redistributing under version x.x or later (your choice) of the GPL. (Sorry, I can't remember the version numbers...). In those circumstances, people wouldn't have any rights taken away by the change.

    Keep in mind that the GPL is a license that gives you extra rights to distribute---rights you wouldn't normally have under copyright law. The validity of the GPL is the only way people can justify freely redistributing code. If it were declared completely invalid, everyone (except copyright holders) distributing GPL code would have to stop. You would be shooting yourself in the foot by even challenging its validity.

    Not that there aren't more subtle attacks on and potential loopholes in the GPL. But presumably we have RMS staying up at night worrying about that and trying to make it ironclad in upcoming versions. That's a much bigger can of worms.

  • However, I still think the BSD-style license is most likely to be favored by corporations. BSD doesn't have the viral aspect to it. So, they can take BSD code, develop it, and then release the source or not. That "or not" is a nice option for corporations to have

    At the risk of simply rewording Xeno's post, BSD is the license that corporations want _you_ to use. If they have any code sitting around that they might consider releasing as open source, they'll generally prefer to release _their_ code under a more restrictive license. (usually even more restrictive than the GPL).

    I'm not anti-BSD. I think people who use the BSD license are being very generous, so I'd be ashamed to say anything against them. But if corporations are going to be contributing to open source software or, in some cases, generating it from scratch, I don't think free software can standardize on the BSD license. Corporations will want to get everything as BSD code and release everything under something more restrictive. The GPL is at least closer to providing a level of protection for the author that both hackers and corporations can live with.

    Whatever sort of free BSD lunch corporations might seem to want from open source developers, Xeno's point that they usually choose something closer to the GPL for their own code is telling.

  • This just suggests that government can't hold the copyright. It doesn't seem to eliminate the possiblity that government could fund only projects in which the authors have agreed to hold the copyrights and release the software under the GPL. Or am I missing something? I don't really know anything about the law on this...
  • Government will not tolerate an alternative to the ir capitalist New World Order, that they are trying to promote. Since RMS views free software movement as a product of socialist ideas, rather then example of "natural law", they deem his as a socialist.

    Does RMS really view it that way? Natural law arguments against copyrights and patents have a fine pedigree in American history, going back to Jefferson. I thought RMS was squarely in that tradition and took the view that freedom to spread information was a natural right and that copyrights and free licenses were merely a necessary evil given the current system.

    As someone else pointed out here, RMS is very frequently misrepresented. Through all the smoke, I can't figure out if he's a socialist or a radical libertarian; there are arguments for free software from both points of view.

  • After all, this was a proposal laid out by a committee encouraging formation of other committees to look deeper into OSS. What this means concretely is that this report will ultimately end up on the desk of some low-level government beaurucrat where it will age until being uncovered sometime around 2039. The only actual "action" I see anyone taking on this in the forseeable future is that there might be (gasp!) a meeting!
  • Got a problem with freedom?

    Do you accuse anyone who disagrees with you of opposing freedom?

    The GPL is also about freedom - but it requirse people who use it to respect the freedoms it represents. If Microsoft wanted to use GPL code, they would be free to do so. This would involve changing their attitude to a few things, which would be a good thing.

  • "A 'level playing field' must be created within the government procurement process to facilitate Open Source development" When the government starts to "procure" things, it means there will be a HUGE market. This is a bigger move than IBM supporting Apache servers and Linux in general.
  • ...spread your buns, look out coders here it comes!

    Nothing comes from autocrats without strings. You can be sure they will want special rights, or back doors, or {insert another bullshit idiology here}.
  • Or more specifically, the US government built what we now know as the original internet infrastructure. No one company would have built as open a system - profit is in proprietary approaches according to conventional wisdom.

    Seems like taxpayer funding for projects that acheive a greater good already has precedent in the area of technology.
  • The article seemed a bit hysterical in tone, given the actual content of the report [ccic.gov]. Goal 3 isn't "agreeing upon a single common licensing agreement", but rather includes "the use of common licenses should be encouraged". There's a huge difference.

    I think we can all agree that using common licenses is generally good. Specifically, it's good when our license is compatible with someone else's license, since then we can share/merge code etc. The government encouraging this behaviour isn't to be feared. Horrors! The fed wants us to be good neighbors! Oh wait, that's the point of OSS, isn't it...

    Also, the committee may not have RMS as a member, but it does have ESR, one of the other big TLAs. Why didn't ESR share this upcoming review with the OSS community? Who knows. Perhaps we should ask him. As to why the report didn't mention him, well, perhaps because it's not about the history of OSS? Sure, RMS will continue to have influence, but he's definitely not important in the scheme of a fedgov strategy. They're talking about ideas, not specifics. People are specifics.

    The committee included people from many different places, such as Michael Tiemann from Redhat [redhat.com], Tim O'Reilly from, well, O'Reilly [oreilly.com]... people from NCSA, Microsoft, Collab.net, NASA, DOE, the EU (international concerns, international committee, if only somewhat), LANL, SGI, NSA, Intel, IBM, MITRE, NSF, and many other great acronyms.

    So the committee surely isn't omitting any great group, except perhaps "the common man", if such exists in OSS. And many of the names are recognizable even to me, and I've only been interested in OSS for a couple years, and hardly involved. "All the usual suspects", as the article says. No fears here.

    All in all, the report looks like a Good Thing for the OSS community, on the whole.
    ---

  • Linux may be a commercial competitor, but is a competitor in that every PC running Linux is one less Windows licence sold.

    (I assume you accidentally omitted a "not".)

    Well, considering the number of people who run dual-boot systems, I would have to disagree. But that's not relevant here.

    The whole point of the proposal is to introduce a new legal distinction between commercial and non-commercial competitors, and to grant special rights to non-commercial ones.

    I'm not saying Microsoft or some other big players would like it, but it may be more palatable to politicians who have the bigger picture in mind. Since the products produced by non-commercial competitors are available to the populace at large, the only way that exemptions can hurt consumers is that some company decides not to waste money on R&D that they can't recover because of non-commercial competitors. But if there are non-commercial competitors who are making passable software clones which are freely available, then the populace has not lost anything anyway. And if Red Hat-like hand-holding companies pop up to maintain that free software, it can survive bit rot.

  • But from my understanding, the GPL is what has prevented RedHat, Caldera and the like from forking Linux and thus giving us yet more Unix splinters instead of a uniform architecture that is currently on around 24% of the world's servers and rising. If there's no obligation to release source, then how does everyone benefit? How does the pool of knowledge increase if everyone is hoarding their own information? Finally, the GPL doesn't require you to release the source when you change it, only if you ship it, so anyone can customise the code for their own use and don't have to release it if they don't want to. Sounds like the only freedom that the BSD license provides over that of the GPL is the ability to keep good ideas to yourself when you ship your closed-source product.
  • by emgeemg ( 182902 ) on Sunday September 17, 2000 @04:40AM (#773700) Homepage
    As evident by the article, the flamefest is already beginning. All the government has done is agree that OSS could be a good thing to put to use. Rather than applaud them for taking such a step, the article blasts them for how they came to their conclusions. Huh? What? The committee has ruled positively for OSS. What's the problem? Let's take a look at some of the critique the author had.

    1. How does a report to the President on Free/Open software development not even mention Richard Stallman?

    What the hell does that matter? Are the conclusions somehow invalid because the committee did not tout the accomplishments of RMS? This committee does not care about the holy wars that have been fought to get free software where it is today. They're looking at how viable the *software* and *methodology* of free/open software is a solution to goverment needs. So is free software about free software or just about RMS getting his props?

    2. This raises another question: who knew in the community that this committee was working on the report?

    Again, I fail to see the relevancy. If anything, the fact that this committee of "people who have the same old, corporate, command and control hierarchichal mindset" came to this conclusion without any influence from the free software community is a testament to the quality of free software. Oh, but they didn't invite RMS to be on the committee, nor did they make his favorite teas available to him (remember that article?) so their findings are invalid. Please spare me.

    3. Did anyone notice recommendation No. 3. the ultimate goal of which is "agreeing upon a single, common licensing agreement"?

    Why yes, I did notice. My god this is ridiculous. They haven't even *done* anything yet and the author is basically screaming "GPL VIOLATION!" already. Understand my friend that this a government we're talking about here. This is not XYZ company that is worried about losing some IP which would affect its bottomline. This is a goverment with very real NATIONAL SECURITY issues to deal with. I am certainly not saying that the law does not apply to them nor that they are exempt from license agreements. An observant reader who is not too busy crying fowl like the author of this article, will see recommendation No. 3. in a different way. The government knows that while they may be able to get away with quietly violation the GPL (and other free-ish licenses) for awhile, eventually they will be caught in the act and shit will hit the fan. So No. 3. is an importmant hurdle to get over and the committee would not have been doing its job if they had not mentioned it. Who knows what kind of license it will be. They might even decide on the GPL because let's face it, the government is not going to release the source to anything critical. I dont believe we're ever going to see nor would I want to see nuclear_launch_system-1.0 on freshmeat. Ever. Not in a million years. Say all the bad things you want about security through obscurity, but some things are best left secret and locked up in a vault behind 100 men (or woman!) trained to kill you with their bare hands.

    Mr. Stanco is jumping the gun a bit. If you are a true believer in free software then applaud the government for taking this first step. Instead of being critical of mistakes they haven't even made yet, offer ideas on how they can make free software work for them.
  • Actually, the link you want is http://www.ccic.gov/ac/pres-oss-11sep00 .pdf [ccic.gov]. The other link is basically a cover letter for the actual report.

    Yeah, the article is broken. It's got the wrong URL on the link to the PDF.
    ---

  • I don't see any indication of regulation in the report. None at all. What are you talking about?

    "I'm just wondering if it's possible too big a risk to take?" How can doing contract work for another customer possible screw things up? Horrors, I've just agreed to a contract that requires me to license that particular work under *insert license here*... oh wait, sounds like a usual contract job.
    ---

  • If GPLv3 requires internally used software to be released, then people who don't like that will just continue using GPLv2. Perhaps they'll make a modification to it, stating that future versions of the GPL cannot be used to relicense it.

    But basically, if people don't like the new license, they won't use it, assuming they're not sheep. Perhaps that assumption is a bad one, but I'll stick with it until I see good evidence to the contrary.
    ---
  • I think the US government should review open source liccenses and standardise on one..
    I however strongly disagree that the GPL hurts the author.
    The GPL is a bit borg-like.. RMS did this intentionally to encurage more open source develupment...

    Most of this is just people getting upset over nothing.

    But there can be problems there are liccens conflicts in government software...
    So a standard should be picked to prevent conflicts... Not becouse one liccens is borg-like..

    In my view the GPL offers more protection to the original author than any other liccens.
    They may not be protections a given author cares about.. but they are there..

    I just hope they don't go about writing YET ANNOTHER liccens.. we have enough problems as it is...
  • And what exactly is that general principle? That governmental software is somehow more inviting to crackers? That it is somehow less interesting for coders who might donate their time?

    The problem I have isn't with the example; it's with the specific principle the example was meant to illustrate. If the principle isn't valid for the specific case picked to illustrate it, it probably isn't valid for the general case either.

  • BTW... why would someone want to keep code a secret unless it's something unhealthy (such as a back door or embrace and extend)

    Geez, this is straight out of the People's Third Communist.

    Freedom means I don't have to explain to you why it is I chose to keep somethings private, and others public.

  • The GPL provides an increase in long term freedom, by sacrificing a little short term freedom

    No, the GPL increases the amount of code that is freely available - this has nothing to do with the inherent value of freedom itself. Its nice that we can download GPL'd source code, but we're not entitled to it.

    The BSD license provides an small increase in short term freedom by sacrificing long term freedom

    What long term freedom is being sacrificed?

  • Anyone know where to get the source anymore. Anyone have an old copy on a tk50? Cosmic evaporated a few years ago and that version of NASTRAN, 30 years of development, is as far as I can tell no longer available. If the government wants to promote free software, they should start with a review of old government software, like the Cosmic NASTRAN source, that is in real danger of becoming lost.
  • Stick with the issue - the GPL decreases freedom. [...]
    ...in this country you are allowed to be self-interested - although there are many countries that apply the RMS ideals to every day living...
    It's ironic that you trumpet the right to be self interested, while complaining about the GPL. You obviously don't get it.

    Let me spell it out for you: Developers choose to publish code under the GPL (in part) because they are self interested.

    Read that again.

    Let me explain. If I wrote some cool software on my own time, and I released it as BSD, and some corporation used it and improved it and then released it as closed source with an expensive license, then I wouldn't get to use those improvements. Since I'm self interested, I don't want that to happen. So I use the GPL instead.

    The GPL says "I'll share my code... but if you use it, you have to share too." So if you don't want to share, go away. Write your own code.

    The only people who complain about the GPL resticting their freedom is people who want the freedom to freeload.

    Torrey Hoffman (Azog)
  • Nowhere in the actual report does it use the word "agressively", and it potentially overstates the committee's enthusiasm; the actual quote from the report is;

    From The Report
    The report makes three recommendations. First, the Federal government should aggressively encourage the development of open source software for high end computing.

    Italics mine
  • I wish I knew who was going to protect us from RMS. I wish that person had appeared before RMS *forced* TrollTech to GPL QT. Hopefully that person will appear before RMS has forced Python to be GPLed.

    Authors can no longer just decide on a license that is right for them. RMS is using every tactic he can to thwart author's intentions for their software. When MICROS~1 does this, we call it FUD. When RMS does it, we call it advocacy.

    As to the (-1, Troll) comment, it's perfectly valid. Will you deny that MAN legitimate comments receive unfair moderation due solely to zealot moderators? Please note the cowardly "Overrated" down-moderation spent on this post. Nothing like "Overrated" to punish a non-believer without risking precious karma in metamod.
  • If the software is written by a civil service employee, it is in the public domain. If the software is written by a contractor, it depends on the contract.

    They do not have to hand out the source code just because it is in the public domain.

  • We're from the Government, and we're here to help you. . .

  • Sounds like the only freedom that the BSD license provides over that of the GPL is the ability to keep good ideas to yourself when you ship your closed-source product.

    BSD gives you freedom from all the annoying license incompatibilities caused by the GPL. If all software was GPL, there would be no license problems. This is the goal of the viral nature of the GPL

  • I'm from the government, I'm here to help you. We know what that means.

    Mostly nice meaningless words, the Open Source equivalent of motherhood and apple pie. Yep. We're all for it. But consider the one genuine proposed government action, and the other possible action that they did not propose.

    The people who brought me Clipper, Carnivore, DMCA, mandatory library filters, and all the rest now propose to tell me what copyright terms I should put on my personal donation to society. Riiight. Will they eliminate the First Amendment to accomplish this goal? I doubt it. But why did they propose this step.

    The real and powerful proposal that they did not make was:


    Require that in all electronic data exchange to or from the Federal government at least one acceptable format shall be an open format, without patent, copyright, or other restrictions on its use.


    This phrasing would permit things like PDF, since the format is open. It is Adobe's PDF generating software that is closed.

    This phrasing would prohibit the present practice of requiring exclusively MS Word formats, or other closed formats. These would only be permitted if there was also an open format available as an alternative.

    Then let the government stand back and let the public decide.
  • This is especially true when one realizes that Bruce Perens and RMS are currently in the process of updating the GPL so that even internally distributed software may count as software being distributed and hence should be Opened

    Are you sure?

    I attended a lecture by RMS in July at H2K and he specifically stated that he has absolutely no problem with companies and organizations taking GPL source, modifying it for internal use only, and not releasing the changes.

    RMS is probably the most mis-quoted person next to Jesus Himself in the history of this planet -- (and yes, I'm doing the same, I know...)

  • 1. The German government is helping to fund some important Open Source projects.

    2. The USG's involved in Open Source already [For example, the Beowulf Project came out of NASA.]

    3. You always have the source.

    4. Stupid laws will come anyway- but I'd rather see more Beowulfish stuff than Windows-based ships being towed back to port.

    5. My guess is that the single license would be applied to Government-funded projects. All in all, as long as they chose a BSD-style license it wouldn't matter one bit.

    Paul
  • I realize what they mean in that context... but since when does the government understand context ("I gave you the internet")
  • Sorry to disapoint you but most of the OSS software the goverment would be using would already be under the GPL or a GPL-based license, so there wouldn't be much of an opportunity for people like you to steal it or convert it to shareware anyway....

    hehe, Trying to troll me hey? :)

  • If Microsoft fails to compete with a free alternative, then they're out of the market, yes.
    Nowhere does it say that a corporation is entitled to a market -- yet.

    It's not like you have to pay for everything in life. In fact, the best stuff are usually for free.

    But what was your point? We're supposed to feel sorry for Microsoft? Or Linux should be made a single entity company so that Microsoft can buy it out? What?

    - Steeltoe
  • Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    If your proposed law was enacted, Apache could decide that what this world really needs is halfclick.apache.org, the Open Source Half-Click Project. There are all these mom-n-pop storefronts out there on the web who can't compete and license my patent (or afford my companies license fees for the software), so we'll just build them a free version that they can run to circumvent my government-granted monopoly. Since there's no charge for it, even my normal customer base (B&N) could go hire a few developers to contribute to this open source project and tailor a version for their needs. No money changes hands, but I clearly lose the one right I'm granted with the patent, which is the ability to decide who can use the patent.

    So the crux of this argument is that commercial competitors could still use some open source software which exploits a patent, although they could not write such software themselves without violating the patent.

    Maybe then, we should simply stipulate in addition that such software also cannot be used for profit or by commercial entities. Unfortunately, formulating a good definition of "use" looks like it might be very difficult.

    Open source the creation and registration of prior art, instead of the implementation of existing ideas. It's been discussed before, but it supports the ideals of the open source community as well, if not better, than free code. For example, we create an open "shadow PTO" that open source contributors can submit patentable ideas to in order to stake out ground we want to protect from the lawyers.

    I have to admit that I don't like this idea. There are just too many things that you would want to protect from patenting! You might reply, "but we only need to anti-patent the non-obvious things," but isn't that precisely the problem we are having now? The patent system is not rejecting non-obvious ideas. We might anti-patent a bunch of things, thinking that we've essentially covered the set of `arguably non-obvious things', and then along comes some company which decides to patent dynamic scope or something; oops, we forgot about that one because it was so obvious! But the PTO decides to grant it anyway. It's just the same problem in reverse.

  • I really think that the government should take a bigger interest in developing and mantaining open standards and protocols in software and on the internet. The ability for technology to successfully interact surely produces a more productive environment, and economically successful market, than the inovation starved atomosphere fuelled by the dirty tricks of the not so moral corporates. Bill G may whine about the morality of software piracy but until he realises that his companies actions are morally perhaps a step beyond those nemesis kids actions microsoft will continue to fail. Personally I think the software industry to continue to scheme, monoploise and deceive until it reachs the state of the rotten-cored music industry...
  • Nobody. We're supposed to be impressed by your example of two pieces of software being changed to GPL? Wow. That sure proves something.

    The authors of QT and Python are adults, not children, and your suggestion that they were forced to do anything is ridiculous. I've never heard such bullshit. Does Microsoft's FUD *force* you to use any of their software? I hope not, unless you are the worlds biggest moron who can not make choices for himself.

    And as for the (-1, Troll) comment, no it isn't valid. We all know it is a reverse psychology karma whoring technique, and I felt the need to bust him on it.
  • If the GPL is so bad, and the BSD license is the best, then why had BSD forked so often while Linux hasn't? Do you think this might possibly be why Linux has gotten so much press coverage compared to BSD? And do you think this might be why BSD fanatics are so snobbish?

    --
  • If they licensed it under a BSD license, obviously they don't *want* any say in the matter.

    It's an interesting solution to the entire Intellectual Property debate- BSD license advocates simply write software to write software without any pre-supposed downstream use issues.

    The GPL creates software as politics, proprietary licenses create software as property, and BSD licenses create software as software.

    For some things I think the GPL is a good thing on the whole, but to say that BSD-style licenses created a need for the GPL is silly. If everything where BSD-licensed, you'd have the same situation as if everything were GPL'd- it's the proprietary licenses that make the difference in either equation.

    I find myself in agreement with DJB on something- we'd all be much better off without any software licenses at all.

    Paul
  • The majority of Government software is written by contractors. (At three to four times the price it would be to hire people directly. This is called "saving money through outsourcing", or "pork", depending on whether or not you are in a position to snag one of these contracts.) Since the contractors do it rather than the government, and since most government contracts are silent on the issue of open source, the contractors own the code, and can therefore hold the government up for ransom on a continuous basis for maintenance fees.

    You would be flabbergasted and astonished to discover how many government websites are maintained entirely by outsiders at outrageous fees.

    --
    Michael Sims-michael at slashdot.org
  • Does source code for software comissioned by the Government not go into the public domain? If not, why not?

    Security comes immediately to mind as a possible answer. I don't just mean military-style security either, though that's certainly an important case, but also defense-against-crackers kind of security. I don't think the "more eyes and brains improving the code" theory would apply to the government. If there were an exploitable bug in some piece of IRS code, for example, does anyone really think there'd be lots of people offering them a fix? Hell no, everyone would be exploiting it. When there are practically no white hats and millions of would-be black hats, "security through obscurity" might not be a totally bad policy.

  • Sounds like the only freedom that the BSD license provides over that of the GPL is the ability to keep good ideas to yourself

    Yes, this particular freedom was once known as "privacy".

    Orwell would have loved the GPL - you increase freedom by decreasing freedom. Its lovely doublespeak.

  • >This is especially true when one realizes that Bruce Perens and RMS are currently in the process of updating the GPL so that even internally distributed software may count as software being distributed and hence should be Opened

    This sounds a bit FUD like...

    First Bruce Perens has nothing to do with revisions to the GPL as he is not part of the FSF.. the organisation in charg of changes to the GPL.

    Debian and the FSF could not comply with this change as the both do not release code they are testing. So Bruce Perens and RMS themselfs could not posably comply with thies requirements...

    And frankly keepping "internally sensitive" code secret is why 1970s computers were so easy to crack.. The whole notion of not sharing security precuations with others made you more secure resulted in a great number of people having no clue what precautions to take.

    A liccens is strings attached... releasing software under the BSD is NOT "no strings attached"... and if you don't know what those strings are then you may be restricting your users in ways you never imagined.

    In the case of governemnt code whatever liccens is used it should require changes be reliease the way the GPL is.
    With a BSD liccens we may be waiting for years for the source to be released while a friend of an elected offical sells us a closed source version.

    Underhanded deals happen... a lot... and releasing source under an ineffective liccens like the BSD liccens is just inviting trubble.

    Anyway this isn't a software author giving away his work out of a desire to make his work freely available..
    This is government work given to the public (who ultimatly paid for it).
    Ultimatly I think the GPL is far more reasonable.

    BTW: It is standard operating procedure for some to sell free government information simply becouse it's so hard for the avrage person to get his hands on same.
    Expect your BSD source to be "public" in a locked file cabonet in the basement bathroom with a sign on the door saying "beware of the lepard" while a friend of Senitor Barfly from the state of Confusion sells a binary only version of the software.
    Becouse THAT is how government works...

    On the other hand.. the GPL wouldn't exactly accept a locked file cabonet as "released" and Mr Barflys friend gets stuck with giving out the code.

    On a final note... While searching governemnt information I had to access an FTP server that for some reason was accessable only from a very old version of FTP...
    (probably a very old FTP server)
    It was a bit difficult to get the data I needed.
    But with the aid of some intresting software hacks I was able to download everything I needed quickly and effecently.

    This was porbably set up this way to prevent access from newer equipment (Non Unix machines like Windows or MacOs.. and Unix users who were not familure with the older FTP client)
    It was all reasonable and within limits but it was rather annoying...
    At the time I was using a 3B2 (older Unix machine) so it all worked out for the better.
  • I think someone is going to have to drive home that the operative word here is voluntary. The US government isn't going to get anyone to use any particular liscence if they don't want to, or force develpoers to target their software for some government standard.

    I haven't read the whole thing yet, but hopefully what they mean by "agreeing upon a single standard liscence" is simply meant to avoid throwing money at projects which are incompatible liscence-wise with the rest of open source and avoid some of the bone-headed technicalities that RMS is always bitching about. I would think though that there's room for at least a few other liscences they could use without having to reject all others outright.
  • Translation:

    The same kind of licence that allowed the US Government to establish a nation- and world-wide internet by making sure that all commercial and non-commercial vendors had access to a reference implmenentation of the networking stack?
  • The same kind of license that allowed Microsoft to rip off the BSD tcp/ip stack and use it in Win2k?


    ...and then _even_more_ people benefit from good code! BSD is also the roots of darwin, and that's what apple is using for its backend on osX.


    Yeah, MS sucks, but one of the reasons they suck is because their code sucks. BSD helped them with that (and at least it's a "standard" stack). Got a problem with freedom?


    /willis

  • by rlk ( 1089 ) on Sunday September 17, 2000 @07:17AM (#773733)
    Privacy has nothing to do with it. If you want to keep it private, don't distribute it at all (or keep it internal to your organization -- RMS has made it clear that he doesn't consider that "distribution"). The GPL simply says that if you want to modify it and distribute the result, you have to play by the same rules as the original author.

    Increasing freedom by decreasing freedom in some specific cases isn't doublespeak, and isn't inherently sinister. For example, the law increases your effective freedom by taking away someone else's freedom to kill you, or take away your property by force, or some such. "Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins" is not considered a particularly dangerous arrogation of power.
  • Why ask RMS or other known software experts when you can just pull the conclusions you want out of your ass? Sounds like Presidential work to me.
  • Since the contractors do it rather than the government, and since most government contracts are silent on the issue of open source, the contractors own the code

    But I can't imagine that Government contracts are silent on the issue. Government contracts are not silent about very much; they are regulated by the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARs), which address issues like this in numbing detail. And in every contract I have worked on, all the IP products of the contract go into the public domain. This is not generally due to some clause in the text of the contract, but because the FARs are included by reference in the contract.

    So what is specifically different about software contracts?

    -

  • And you have missed the point.

    The GPL gives Absolute Freedom to the original author to choose what every successive author of that software is to do with their code. The BSD licence is capitalism at it's best. It says that I will release a piece of software, and make it open for all too see. But you are free to do whatever you want with it.

    Don't get me wrong, both have their place. The original poster is saying that the beneficiaries of a government project should be free to use the code as they see fit - to profit or to contribute to the greater good (in the true spirit of Western Capitalism).

    Now. Here's the sticky part. You asked how communism and Korea come in to relevance. Well North Korea, because it's communist. And communism? The GPL is communism at its best (don't be insulted here. Communism can have it's place too. Community efforts towards common goals is a Good Thing - as long as the goal is a good one). The GPL isn't a bad thing. But neither is it the only good thing. A lot of people here need to realize that.

  • I don't think the report is particularly close to the ESR take. They
    talk about the need to coordinate requistions with academic reserach,
    which is not a point that I recall ESR making: not an issue to most
    businesses.
  • Atually, they may not have to publish the information all over the place, but, upon request, they do have to hand it out if they have it.


    The Freedom of Information Act allows you to request information from the government of any information it holds.


    The government can refuse, but the limits on this are significant, and fairly explicit. The timeline for the government to give you the information is actually fairly short, so in reality, only very critical information is held back from a FOIA request.


    Although the government might not publish the source code to its projects, obtaining it where the software is not of national security interest should be fairly easy-- supposing of course, that the source code actually exists.


    The FOIA is a VERY useful, underutilized, and surprising act of congress which gives a mid-bogglingly powerful tool to citizens in the name of freedom.


  • That's the cover letter being quoted, not the report.

    Unfortunately, the cover letter wasn't subject to the same review process that the report was.
  • A similar freedom is exercised by everyone's favourite monopolist. Or would you care to explain why there's only one Linux kernel and three BSD ones. Perhaps because the GPL removes the incentive to be selfish with your innovations. If sharing my ideas for the benefit of everyone is communist then I'm proud to be communist.
  • Let's see... the only job openings in my area were for Windows programming. Why? Because Microsoft's FUD has been sucsessful at turning the majority of vendors into Windows-only shops. Since I did not have the financial ability to move right after graduation, I had to stick around and develop windows software. This may be difficult for someone of your limited mental capacity to understand, but that means I was fored into use Microsoft software, jackass.

    QT and Python must respond to market conditions. RMS undeserved clout in the Open Source market means that IT managers will make decisions based on what he says. RMS cannot provide any valid technical reasons for dismissing QT or Python, so he resorts to political trickery involving the license.

    The only whore here is you, my friend. You'll be getting it in the end.
  • re: Do you accuse anyone who disagrees with you of opposing freedom?

    of course not -- don't be silly. I'm just saying that the BSD license includes this particular freedom (that GPL doesn't. Although GPL has many "freedoms" this particular one isn't included). That, and that Apple/Windows took advantage of that freedom, making much better OSes because of that. And that's their "god given" right -- the license allows for this freedom.

    yeah.

    willis/
  • You asked how communism and Korea come in to relevance. Well North Korea, because it's communist. And communism? The GPL is communism at its best

    Nice attempt at a backtrack. The GPL can be claimed to be, at most (in any legitimate sense), like choosing to live on a commune in the United States, expecting others who choose to live there to pitch in and live by the rules, etc. Kinda like a family or a church, except not usually sharing genetic heritage or religious beliefs.

    That you chose instead to compare GPL enthusiasts to the totalitarian regime that rules North Korea and its starving masses shows your true colors, IMO.

    As far as "communism at its best", I really doubt the GPL is that. There's no implication that prolific coders be forced to write to the specs produced by those who are less prolific but are in need, for example.

    (And thank God for that!)

    I'm pretty sure most of what I say about the GPL above applies just as well to the other well-known OSS licenses (MIT X, BSD?, AL, etc.), by the way.

    And, yes, I got bored defending the GPL and those using it against ludicrously ignorant charges of "communist" many years ago, but can't resist rising to the defense on rare occasion. As an ardent anti-Communist, it's long been embarrassing to have to do this at all, since I'd like to think that people who oppose communism (the use of governing bodies to enforce wealth redistribution) do so thoughtfully and so without yielding to the temptation to smear others with the "communist" label. But that's a fond wish that'll probably never come true, since smearing people and groups is de riguer in even the highest offices in our land (e.g. Al Gore's telling African-Americans that Republicans don't want to count them in the census).

  • If the GPL is so bad, and the BSD license is the best, then why had BSD forked so often while Linux hasn't?

    Because it can! - freedom is good - this is why there is a BSD that is far more secure than any linux distro, and a BSD that is far better performing on x86 than any linux distro.

    Do you think this might possibly be why Linux has gotten so much press coverage compared to BSD?

    What the hell does that have to with anything? Stick with the issue - the GPL decreases freedom. If the government is looking at open source licenses and measuring the value of freedom implied by each license, there is no comparison - the BSD license is simply more free.

    I feel particularly strong about this with regards to government - the United States was built on the premise that people are free to choose - be it faith, affiliation, and political beliefs, even if those choices piss you off. You see, in this country you are allowed to be self-interested - although there are many countries that apply the RMS ideals to every day living. I think North Korea is still accepting visa applications, although you had better hurry, they are fading fast.

  • Or worse yet, even when a fix is found, it would take the IRS 5 years to put it in place. "More eyes" only helps if someone has a reason to look at it, and I don't think too many people have a need for tax collection software.
  • the GPL isn't a governmant mandate, and it isn't going to be. the closest it could get would be a requirement that software written for government agencies be covered by the GPL. that seems unlikely to be, but irrelevant. the GPL is about *me* (software developer) telling you (user of my software) that i do not want you using my work to release your own proprietary software. the BSD license is about *you* (software developer) telling me (user of your software) that you don't care what i do with it. ok, so you don't care and i do. whats the problem, and how does Korea or Communism fit into this picture ?
  • Good answer. What is important is your comment about software written by a contractor. This committee understands that there needs to be a common licencing agreement for the development of OSS software for performing high speed computing. Note ppl, high speed computing; that is what this is all about. It is probably not ideal to have NASA contracting out some software development under a restrictive licence, while DOE did the same under a more OSS agreement.

    I would also like to point out the government has the option of patenting software applications just like in the commercial sector. In some groups, this is encouraged as a successful patent could be a source of revenue. For instance, the lab that I work at uses revenue from various patents as a sort of slush fund that is controlled by the lab director.

    Your last point that one does not have to hand out the source code is also correct. I've had ppl (other government employees) ask me for some of my source code. They were going to then try to use it to show to funders that they were experts in my particular field. Hmmm, for some odd reason they never did get my code.

  • So? Put a clause in your licenses that says if the software you created is used commercially they need to come talk to you.

    Personally if I write a piece of software, and I want to give it away to others, I'll use the BSD license. If someone else takes it and goes off and does something new with it without releasing the source?

    So what... If their changes are that signifigant well maybe they deserve to profit from it. If they are not, then someone can just modify my existing source with similar changes and release it for free.

    Why get so bent out of shape? They can't take away what I've already given away for free.

    I think the GPL is about bitterness.
  • Damn it, forgot to log in. My one good chance to be a karma whore and I blow it! oh well. I wanted to add to my post above. Think about every time the gov has "help" with something. Anyone with parents will know the paperwork to get them to see a doctor on the gov's tab. Anyone that has tryed to add on to a home will know the red tape that has to be cut before you can get anything done. It all sounds good to start with but it will slowly move to a gov run software program. You Do not want this

    ________

  • The BSD license gives a programmer freedom to do what
    he wants to do with his modifications.
    The GPL ensures that all derivitive software will
    be released with source, ensuring that another
    Microsoft or pre-1997 IBM cannot emerge.

    Interesting thing about Microsoft's software totalitarianism:
    Microsoft achieved their near absolute monopoly using practices that are commonplace in business today, Bill Gates is just better at them. I would not blame Microsoft's individual employees for their underhandedness and shoddy software. Blame Bill Gates. He started the company. He created their corporate culture.
    The facets of his personality and his attitudes over the years have trickled down through Microsoft. Standard Oil achieved their monopoly through things that were obviously immoral.
    A monopoly could be a good thing, by efficiency, but the power over the price of something is too great, and government regulation never seems to work (look at Russia, AT&T).
  • by TrentC ( 11023 ) on Sunday September 17, 2000 @06:13AM (#773751) Homepage
    The article [linuxtoday.com] seriously misquotes the PITAC report, and in one case it has a lot of people's underwear in a bundle for no good reason.

    From the article:

    The report makes three recommendations:

    1. The Federal government should aggressively (!) encourage the development of Open Source software for high end computing;

    Nowhere in the actual report does it use the word "agressively", and it potentially overstates the committee's enthusiasm; the actual quote from the report is;
    1. The Federal government should encourage the development of open source software as an alternate path for software development for high end computing.

    2. A "level playing field" must be created within the government procurement process to facilitate Open Source development;

    There was no "must", but this was the least distorted point made:
    2. The Federal government should allow open source development efforts to compete on a "level playing field" with proprietary solutions in government procurement of high end computing software. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) from Federal agencies for high end computing software, tools and libraries should include provisions allowing these efforts to be carried out using open source.

    And, the biggest bone of contention...
    3. An analysis of Open Source licensing agreements is needed, with an ultimate goal of agreeing upon a single common licensing agreement for Open Source software development.
    Which is flatly untrue. The actual report does not use the word "single" anywhere, so everyone worrying that the Feds are going to relicense your GPLed (or BSDed stuff) can chill out and have a salad or something.
    3. An analysis of existing open source licensing agreements should be undertaken, and the results should be distributed to all agencies funding high end computing. The analysis should describe characteristics of each license and give specific examples of situations inw hich it may be prefereable to use one type over another. [Emphasis mine]
    The use of common licensing agreements should be encouraged.

    No "single licensing agreement" is recommended for the Feds. Someone will write out a plan akin to "You may want to use the BSD license for these kinds of projects, and the GPL for these kinds of projects."

    In other words, the government will spend a good deal of money and effort to avoid possible licensing conflicts in procured software. That can only be a good thing, in my book.

    Jay (=
  • 1) are forks really so bad? The problem isn't with forks, its with forks that become closed.
    2) good and bad are relative to some particular purpose. If you assume one purpose, and I assume another, then we are likely to judge different licenses "best".
    3) Press coverage isn't all that is good. Linux currently has several flamboyant characters in sort-of-central positions. This is good press. Doesn't have very much to do with the operating environment.
    4) What makes you think that "BSD fanatics" are any more snobbish than "Linux fanatics"? The key word here is fanatic, not the modifier.
  • If you asked RMS to help you with a panel on Open Source he'd go off on a tirade about how he doesn't support Open Source; he supports Free Software.

    Actually if he was involved, I suspect most of the other panelists would eventually go out into the hallway and start beating their heads against the concrete walls hoping that it would just all go away.
  • It's not privacy if you released the binary
    and if you don't relase the binary then the GPL dosn't require you to release the code.

    the BSD liccens scares me considerably...
    People can only say what it dosn't do.. and don't seem able to say what it dose...

    BTW... why would someone want to keep code a secret unless it's something unhealthy (such as a back door or embrace and extend)

    The only freedom BSD preserves that the GPL dosn't is the freeom to allow a third party to take the freedom away...
    The BSD liccens misses the whole point of liccensing the source to start with...
  • by dgb2n ( 85206 ) <dgb2n@noSpam.comcast.net> on Sunday September 17, 2000 @07:49AM (#773756)
    Until recently I was involved in a number of multinational efforts on the part of the U.S. government to get the countries in central europe to cooperate and share information between their ministries of defense for crisis response etc.

    Most nations were long on talent and short on cash. They knew what they wanted but ultimately could not afford a Sun, Oracle or Micro$oft technical solution.

    Rather than pushing a U.S. technical solution, it seems the best role for the U.S. could simply be to facilitate an open source effort among the countries to develop the software needed. At the conclusion of the effort, the nations would all have access to the source, free to modify to meet national requirements but with (at least initially) the technical interoperability needed to effectively share information amongst the group. I considered proposing it at the time but feared that it would be shot down because it did not fall within the more traditional programs that have been established for foreign aid.

    It may not be suprising that the U.S. gives millions to other nations with the caveat that the money go back to U.S. contractors but it would be difficult to get 500K to support an open source software initiative ...
  • by Dast ( 10275 ) on Sunday September 17, 2000 @08:03AM (#773758)

    I have strongly come to believe that the GPL is the worst license for any entity that expects to use software freely to use. The GPL (and RMS) is becoming a Borg-like in the way it is trying to usurp the intentions of authors of Open Source software everywhere by forcing them to assimilated. The quickest thing that will cool the government's ardor for Open Source software will be all the innumerable license incompatibilities caused by the GPL.

    Gosh, who is going to protect us from the big bad RMS with his big bad GPL? What a crock of shit.

    Authors decide on a license that is right for them, and as an author, you can release your software under as many licenses as you see fit. So the question is, how is RMS usurping anything? How can he possibly assimilate anyone? If you don't like his license, don't use it. Make your contributions to BSD licensed software, use BSD licensed software, and move along your merry way. Just don't bitch when some author releases his software under a license you don't like. The choice of licenses is his.

    Fact of the matter is, authors don't care how free Carnage4Life thinks their software is; they use a license that fits their vision for the software.

    (+5, Insightful) This user doesn't feel confident that his opinion stands on its own and thus needs to end his posts by suggesting he would only be moderated down because his views are unpopular to the /. horde.

  • But from my understanding, the GPL is what has prevented RedHat, Caldera and the like from forking Linux and thus giving us yet more Unix splinters instead of a uniform architecture that is currently on around 24% of the world's servers and rising.

    The GPL doesn't prevent forking; it just doesn't provide any incentive to do so, since you can't keep enhancements private.

    Anyone who thinks GPLed code is immune to forking should consider XEmacs vs. GNU Emacs and the recently-remerged gcc vs. egcs.

    Jay (=
  • by MousePotato ( 124958 ) on Sunday September 17, 2000 @02:59AM (#773762) Homepage Journal
    the correct link to the report is http://www.ccic.gov/ac/pitac_ltr_sep11. html [ccic.gov]. Not to bash tony for getting his article up infront of everybody but the link in the article on /. doesn't goe where it implies it will go.
  • by Elvis Maximus ( 193433 ) on Sunday September 17, 2000 @03:01AM (#773764) Homepage

    I work quite a bit with Government procurement but not related to software, so maybe someone with experience in this area can help me out.

    When we write reports, analyses, or anything else paid for by the US Government, it goes directly into the public domain (obviously I'm talking about unclassified material). Does source code for software comissioned by the Government not go into the public domain? If not, why not?

    -

  • Only the GPL and BSD licenses are mentioned in the text of the report [ccic.gov], though it does not explicitly exclude others.

    -

  • There's one thing you have to understand about the two which might make the GPL the government's choice of license. As everyone knows, the GPL is viral, which means that it has to stay open. That's actually a good thing for companies. A lot of companies are unwilling to release source because (among other things) they're worried about other people walking off with it and making money off of their IP. The GPL prevents that. For companies, the GPL is probably the best Open Source license to use that's really Free Software. If you look at other licenses, like the license Sun gives the source to their JDK under, you'll see that it's very similar to the GPL but more restrictive. In Sun's case, you can't release modifications, and any bug fixes have to be sent back to Sun.

    I can't look at all companies, but other companies I've seen that release their source usually have similar provisions, that bug fixes must be sent back in. If you think about it, most companies are much more willing to release their source if they can guarentee it's "protected" from being stolen by competitors. That's why the GPL is really important. It provides an easy-to-use license which companies are (more) willing to use than BSD style licenses. It's also a "well known" license that people are willing to trust.

  • $DEITY on a pogo stick, you GPL fanatics are dumb as dirt.

    The GPL-using author says, "I want my software to be free, I want all derivatives to be free, I want to increase the amount of free software in the world."

    This is a noble goal, and the GPL serves it well.

    The BSDL-using author says, "I want to write a definitive baseline implementation of something -- I want nobody to have any reason to reinvent this particular wheel."

    This is a noble goal, and the BSDL serves it well.

    --
  • by zorgon ( 66258 ) on Sunday September 17, 2000 @03:23AM (#773784) Homepage Journal
    My experience is, that if source code is not specifically mentioned in the contract, it's up to the contractor whether or not to provide the source, and whether or not the agency puts it in PD is also up to them. Responsible agencies require the source from contractors, natch! But standard Fed procedure does not put source into the public domain unlike reports and data. This is just omission, not choice -- the committee is probably recommending that this be added to the standard Fed regs. Which reminds me, I've got an annual report to fill out for NSF ... augh...

    WWJD -- What Would Jimi Do?

  • by Blackheart2 ( 161473 ) on Sunday September 17, 2000 @03:29AM (#773785) Homepage

    This is a little off-topic, but perhaps a good place to introduce the idea.

    Most of us dislike software patents. They are intended to encourage innovation, but we feel that, at least with the sort of patents that are presently being granted in our field, that the practice is doing far more to stifle it.

    The best thing would be if software patents were eradicated, but in light of the government's endorsement of open source software, maybe we can push through a more moderate proposal.

    What I would like to see is an exemption on patents for free (or open source, if you like) software. This means that if the software you produce is non-commercial in nature (by some standard) then you can employ any patented software technique or device without obtaining permission from the patent holders. This would encourage innovation on the part of the authors without posing a threat to the patent holders' government-granted monopoly, since open software is not a commercial competitor in itself. Indeed, because it increases the possibilities to write applications which interoperate with commercial ones, it might stimulate commercial software efforts by providing an environment where greater integration is possible.

    Most importantly, it gives non-commercial projects a greater degree of freedom. They can use the best techniques available to build their software exactly when the software is made available to the largest number of people, people who will benefit from good software.

    Conversely, of course, you could regard this as a restriction on existing patents: a software patent no longer prevents other people from using the the patented technique/feature, but rather only commercial competitors.

    Doubtless there are aspects to this which I haven't thought through, but doesn't this sound like a worthwhile and relatively appealing compromise? If the political climate improves a bit more, maybe something along these lines could be lobbied into legislation.

  • The report from PITAC's letter on Open Source Software [ccic.gov] makes three recommendations

    First, the Federal government should aggressively encourage the development of open source software for high end computing. Adopting this recommendation will require a technical assessment of the software needs for high end computing as well as an innovative management plan and funding model for supporting this development.

    This is the way it should always have been. Scientific endeavour has always been a group effort with advancements being made from the pool of common knowledge. It has always amazed me that large complex systems have therefore not been Open Sourced by default. In my opinion it is OK for rinky dink little programs to close their source especially since they can be written by anyone of capability (Instant Messengers, MP3 players, etc) but large complex systems (Operating Systems, large-scale distributed applications, etc) should be Open Sourced so that they can be subject to peer review and also so that they can add to the general body of knowledge instead of forcing us to constantly reinvent the wheel solving problems that have already been repeatedly solved.

    I especially feel that code written with the benefit of my tax dollars should be Open Sourced so myself and others can have access to the fruits of our labor. After all, government funded research projects are open.

    Second, a "level playing field" must be created within the government procurement process to facilitate open source development.

    Too true, currently government requirements computer systems are usually exact specifications that can only be filled by closed source software. A loosening of the specificity in the specifications would be a boon to the adoption of Open Source software in government.

    Third, an analysis of open source licensing agreements is needed, with an ultimate goal of agreeing upon a single common licensing agreement for open source software applications.

    Again I have to be in agreement. After reading the recent spate of articles on who is not in compliance with the GPL(NASM [slashdot.org], Phython [slashdot.org], and until recently KDE [slashdot.org]) even though their projects are Open Source, I have strongly come to believe that the GPL is the worst license for any entity that expects to use software freely to use. The GPL (and RMS) is becoming a Borg-like in the way it is trying to usurp the intentions of authors of Open Source software everywhere by forcing them to assimilated. The quickest thing that will cool the government's ardor for Open Source software will be all the innumerable license incompatibilities caused by the GPL.

    In my opinion, a BSD style license is the best license for governments, corporations, researchers and students. Users of BSD software can contribute to a common pool of knowledge and yet can modify the software without releasing changes when they see fit. This is true freedom. This is especially true when one realizes that Bruce Perens and RMS are currently in the process of updating the GPL so that even internally distributed software may count as software being distributed and hence should be Opened (this is from reading Bruce's comments [slashdot.org] from the past few weeks, if I have misinterpreted them, I apologize). I frankly do not believe that any entity, be it government, corporate or individual should release internally sensitive pieces of code simply to satisfy some pseudo-communistic ideal for software sharing.

    If I give away software, it is with no strings attached because I want to improve the pool of general knowledge and share with my users, not to force the entire world into some college professors myopic view of what the world should be.
    These are my opinions



  • This would encourage innovation on the part of the authors without posing a threat to the patent holders' government-granted monopoly, since open software is not a commercial competitor in itself.

    You don't think Microsoft views Linux as a competitor [opensource.org]?

    -

  • Reading the article, they also don't appear to be talking about things you might use every day, but more researc software. Stuff like distributed computing, etc.

    Actualy most of the report is pretty much fluff regurgitated from Raymond's writings. :(
  • The article is just quoteing the cover letter to the report.

    here [ccic.gov]

    I can't really blame the article for reprinting the summary that the reports authors used.
  • The US government isn't going to get anyone to use any particular liscence if they don't want to, or force develpoers to target their software for some government standard.

    From pg 8 item 2:

    Requests for Proposals (RFPs) from Federal agencies for high end computing software, tools and libraries should include provisions allowing these efforts to be carried out using open source.

    I think this indicates that there will be an effort to push vendors towards developing software that can be modified and redistributed. If the government pays the research bills, why should they need their code to be proprietary?

  • by Duxup ( 72775 ) on Sunday September 17, 2000 @03:39AM (#773797) Homepage
    "That the Presidential committee doesn't include RMS as a member puts the whole report under a dark cloud, in my opinion."

    Why should they have RMS on the committee. I can see good reason for interviewing him about it. Of course I think he'd first note that Open Source is not the same as Free Software and toss in "GNU" in there somewhere :-)

    Yet I can't see why he should be on the committee. There's lots of people who could serve on it and I'm sure do well. I'd be somewhat wary about advisory committees made up of people whom are directly involved advocating what is being reviewed.
  • this whole thing makes me somewhat uncomfortable from the get-go
    sure on the surface the report looks like a good thing at first glance, but it really seems to imply regulation of OSS, which is simply the oposite of what OSS is about
    no I'm not implying that individual projects are not regulated by the people involved, but when a bigger body steps in, things sometimes go bad, and if the government steps in, what's going to happen?
    I'm not saying the government WILL screw this up, I'm just wondering if it's possibly too big a risk to take?

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