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GNU is Not Unix

Congress Members Oppose GPL for Government Research 822

An anonymous reader writes "Rep Jim Davis(D-FL), Tom Davis (R-Va), Ron Kind (D-WI), and Adam Smith (D-WA) are trying to outlaw the gpl. Let's write to them and show them that we didn't elect these guys to screw us over." The issue here isn't the GPL in general, it's specifically what sort of license government-funded research ought to have. Code written directly by Federal government employees has no copyright whatsoever and is therefore roughly equivalent to a BSD-type license; but if the government pays a non-employee to write code, there are no firm requirements or guidelines on how that code ought to be licensed. Prudence suggests that since it's our money funding the research, we ought to make sure the public gets some return from the endeavor.
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Congress Members Oppose GPL for Government Research

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  • Donations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @10:48AM (#4512562)
    I wonder how the campaign donations compare between open source companies and closed source companies?
    • Re:Donations (Score:4, Insightful)

      by soapvox ( 573037 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:08AM (#4512763)
      Thats a very good point seeing how one of the Congressmen are from Washington... Anyone know of any companies that have declared war on Open Source in Washington state???? The letter that they are passing around is soooo vague, this really pisses me off when congress doesn't do any research into things and instead just follow what thier money men tell them or some analyst, ugh! Please everyone write to the morons and let them know that thier thinking is flawed.
      • Re:Donations (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jez_f ( 605776 )
        let them know that thier thinking is flawed.
        Surly to have flawed thinking you would need to give a matter some thought.

        Where is a good place to find out who funded various Congressmen? With a system like there is in the states it would be nice to find out the 'reasons' that Congresmen support certan ideas.
        • Re:Donations (Score:5, Informative)

          by Verteiron ( 224042 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:27AM (#4512952) Homepage
          Try this [].
          • by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:06PM (#4513339) Homepage Journal
            Couldn't get there. Dunno if that's the firewall kicking in...or...the Illuminati.
            You have to give them credit for subtlety. Insisting that the taxpayer receive some value from the code cleverly ignores the value of the code itself.
            Of course, having seen a few lines of taxpayer-funded code, disclosing some of the 'less mature' examples thereof might not help the funding drives of any politicians...
            • Re:Donations (Score:3, Informative)

              The top industries supporting Thomas M. Davis III are:
              1 Computer Equipment & Services $40,250

              ADAM SMITH (D-WA)
              Top Contributors

              1 Microsoft Corp $22,900

              The other two don't seem to stand out like these two do.
          • Re:Donations (Score:5, Informative)

            by schlach ( 228441 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @01:06PM (#4513892) Journal
            Did. Thanks for the tip.

            Adam Smith: 2002 Politician Profile []

            Top Contributors:
            (1) Microsoft Corp $22,900

            which is more than the next two biggest, combined.

            Notable quote from front page:

            "Lobbying and giving money to politicians is the best return on an investment in the entire -- in the entire free world."
            -- Carl Mayer, committeeman in Princeton, New Jersey (60 Minutes, 5/12/1996)

            To be fair, if this guy wasn't pushing MS anti-GPL in DC, he wouldn't be doing a very good job of representing his constituency...

            Go to the front page [] and "Search By Individual Donor" on Microsoft. Sort by size of "donation" (I'm quite certain "political donation" is an oxymoron - political investment might be a better term). It's quite informative.

            There's an arena in which Free Software performance will never match commercial...
    • Re:Donations (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hype7 ( 239530 )
      I wonder how the campaign donations compare between open source companies and closed source companies?

      I think a more accurate title would be - Congress Members Support Campaign Contributors.

      I mean seriously, this is the US - is anyone that surprised? Politicians can be bought, and MS has damn deep pockets.

      -- james
    • by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:24PM (#4513484) Homepage
      The government is funded by taxes. Both citizens and companies pay taxes. Most companies can't use GPL'd code in their products. If they do BSD type licensing, then everybody who pays taxes, including companies, get to use the code. Using the GPL is just not fair to some taxpayers (the companies) while BSD type licencing is fair to all taxpayers.
      • Tell me the amount of taxes paid by Microsoft.
        • Income taxes? $3,684,000,000 [] for the year ended June 30, 2000. Or were you talking about sales and other taxes?
          • by tjwhaynes ( 114792 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @01:57PM (#4514402)

            Income taxes? $3,684,000,000 [] for the year ended June 30, 2000. Or were you talking about sales and other taxes?

            Very very interesting (by the way the figures you give are for 2002, not 2000). MS's total revenue has increased by $6 billion over the last three years, but their tax bill has decreased by over $1.2 billion (i.e. since George W. got into the Whitehouse - I'd be interested to see a breakdown on the taxes to see why). However, net income is down $1.6 billion dollars, despite vastly improved revenue and lower taxes.

            No wonder MS is worried about the GPL :-)


            Toby Haynes

      • by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:31PM (#4513568) Homepage Journal

        Most companies can't use GPL'd code in their products.


        Only if they want to keep the code extensions secret and if they want to distribute to others can they not use the GPL.

        There is absolutely no problem with companies using GPL'd code in their products if they freely disclose their modified source code.

        Alternatively, they can keep the code extensions secret and use the modified code internally as much as they like.

        • Only if they want to keep the code extensions secret and if they want to distribute to others can they not use the GPL.

          Why should "they" (actually it's "we") be forced to release the source code to the changes we distribute?

          Government produced work should be public domain, not GPL.

      • by Yokaze ( 70883 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:45PM (#4513684)
        What are companies?
        Do companies share the same rights as citizens?
        Aren't companies solely a bunch of people combined by a collective goal?

        In a democracy, the goverment is not a company which has to serve it's clients. It is a representation of the people. Such a goverment has no obligation to companies, only to the majority of the people.
        This is often a common goal, but not necessarily one.

        Where does the money come from anyway?
        Would it be wrong, to say it comes from the people?

        > Most companies can't use GPL'd code in their products.

        This may be true. But most companies still can use GPLed code for their products.
        Most companies don't earn money by writing code, they earn it by using code.

        Now, considering that it is about contract work, it begs the question, isn't that relatively specialised software anyway?
      • by JordoCrouse ( 178999 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:51PM (#4513744) Homepage Journal
        Ok, so this guy is barking up the wrong tree, because many of these companies don't have to pay a cent in taxes, but his reasoning is still sound.

        A BSD-like license is a better license for governmental projects, because it does give everybody the same rights to the code which was developed with public funds.

        The GPL on the other hand makes certain restrictions which would be difficult for both the governmental entity and all redistributors to follow.

        Say for example, that a government entity contracts a piece of software for counting ducks. And they provide it to all of the state entities for their fish and game departments to use in developing their own duck counting system. In turn, the states take the duck counting code, modify it for their own uses, and provide the binaries for the various agencies and private groups within the state that cares about duck populations. You now have the original code that the government provided, and you have 50 different versions of the code from the states. What are the odds that somewhere down the line, one of those states will forget (or be unwilling) to publish the code, or unintentially break one of the other provisions of the GPL?

        With a BSD like license, this isn't a problem. The government can provide the code to the states, and they can modify the code to their choosing, but are under no obligations regarding the code.

        In both cases, the goal of distributing government contracted code is fullfiled, but only the BSD provides a way for all citizens to be able to use the code without restrictions.

        • That's a silly argument. Of course many states will forget to publish the source code. This is irrelevant until somebody actually wants the source code. Most likely this will be one of those agencies that wants to modify the code futher. Is the state going to say "no because we want to screw that communist RMS and our modification to the duck-counting is valuable intellectual property which we might sell if our state constitution is modified, and besides we have lots of high-paid eager software engineers here already who are anxious to modify the code for you".

          No, what is going to happen is it will get to somebody who says "oh here it is in this email. Now go away". And the GPL will be obeyed.

      • Perhaps the BSD license would be more 'fair' to everybody, but there's a difference between starting up a new government project and contributing enhancements to an existing project.

        This law prevents Government agencies from contributing to existing GPL projects. The Government can't just waltz in and say "if you want our enhancements, you have to relicense your code".

        So, exactly who is it 'fair' to when you disallow the Government to contribute to, say, Linux or Mozilla, etc.

        Maybe various GPL projects should switch to dual licensing. Keep the code GPL'd, but make it available for a (large) fee under a license that allows incorporation into closed-source projects but disallows changes. All GPL'd enhancements become immediately available to the closed-source guys too, but they can't 'embrace and extend'.

        It would be quite interesting to find out just how eager the closed-source guys would be to get their hands on the code if they can't use it to exclude others.
      • by ajs ( 35943 ) <> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @01:58PM (#4514414) Homepage Journal
        There are four issues at stake here, and I'm sure Microsoft's lobbiests will try to confuse them, so let's not help.

        1. What license should government funded projects use: the answer is, of course, the same as has always been the case: none. Government funded development is by default Public Domain and always should be!

        2. Should government dollars be spent (ala NSA extensions to Linux security) to modify GPLed software? Answer: yes, but only where it makes sense. The way MS wants this argument to go is this: Gov$$ should not go to GPLed programs; NSA cannot update Linux (as an example); Linux cannot be made secure to NSA specs; Govt cannot use Linux. The (I hope) obvious solution is that the NSA can make mods to GPLed software, just as they have been known to make mods to proprietary software. The diffs are, of course, theirs. They wrote the code, they own it. If they feel that it's not a matter of national security, they can release the code diffs (without context, of course) as Public Domain, just as schools used to release UNIX security and bugfix diffs. The derived product will, of course, be under the GPL. No problems here. (see #4 for why this is a bit of a red herring argument)

        3. Should Govt be allowed to use open source software and specifically GPLed software. Yes, certainly. There is no more restriction on GPLed software than proprietary software. In fact, since you're not allowed to distribute mods to proprietary software at all, it's much more open. If the government chooses to use BSD or GNU/Hurd or Linux or whatever, they certainly should. Integration should be opened for the normal RFP/bidding process, of course. Proprietary software must be able to compete in the market fairly, but so must free/open software!

        4. Here comes the really ugly one: should govt. be allowed to modify software. Yep, that's what Microsoft really wants to ask. They want the govt to not be able to code, and thus be totally dependant on software companies. Bottom line: this is why open source software exists. Choice, period.

        This is a non-argument if you apply sufficient logic, folks. Don't let yourself get lead into a license debate when what's really going on is MS trying to strong-arm congress into disallowing open source software in government.
  • by misterhaan ( 613272 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @10:50AM (#4512586) Homepage Journal
    let's gpl congress so that we can all modify the code and prevent all the stupid laws that get passed!
    • Re:GPL congress! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:01AM (#4512698)
      so that we can all modify

      What are you doing on Nov 5th?
  • Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Luke ( 7869 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @10:50AM (#4512587) Homepage
    "Prudence suggests that since it's our money funding the research, we ought to make sure the public gets some return from the endeavor."

    That's why it should be BSD licensed.
    • Re:Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MentalPunisher2001 ( 320024 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @10:59AM (#4512680) Journal
      I'm a big fan of GPL, but BSD makes sense in this case.
      Using publically funded code should not REQUIRE you to submit changes, because you helped pay for the creation of the aformentioned code.
      BSD is closer to public domain than GPL, and Government-funded code SHOULD be public domain.
      • Re:Exactly (Score:4, Insightful)

        by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:32AM (#4512993)
        BSD is closer to public domain than GPL, and Government-funded code SHOULD be public domain.

        It should be BSD licence for the taxpayers who paid for it, and GPL for everyone else in the world. That's fair because everyone only pays once but does pay, whether in cash or in contributed code.
      • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Funny)

        by Isle ( 95215 )
        Exactly and following that logic, when the government goes shopping for software it is people who buys it as well. So if the government buys licenses to MS Office, then it should be put in public domain.. :-)
    • Re:Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ZoneGray ( 168419 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:56AM (#4513250) Homepage
      The only truly public license is no license.
      • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Informative)

        by rcw-home ( 122017 )
        The only truly public license is no license.

        It's never the license that denies you rights. Licenses can only license you rights.

        The only truly public license is no copyright.

  • Not anti-GPL (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Florian Weimer ( 88405 ) <> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @10:50AM (#4512593) Homepage
    An alleged quote reads:

    licenses that would prevent or discourage commercial adoption of promising cyber security technologies developed through federal R&D

    The DoD funded the initial development of GNAT, now the GNU Ada Compiler, and mandated that it would be released under the GPL. GNAT is currently maintained by Ada Core Technology, a commercially successful company.

    Apparently, the GPL does neither prevent nor discourage commercial adoption.
  • Public Domain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by X-Nc ( 34250 ) <> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @10:51AM (#4512598) Homepage Journal
    This is an example of when a true Public Domain licensing should be used. Anything developed using public funding should be public. This lets any private intrest (from big corporations to individuals) use it and do with it what they want.

    This will satisfy everyone from RMS to Bill Gates.

    • Re:Public Domain (Score:3, Insightful)

      by XaXXon ( 202882 )
      NONONONONONONO. This will *NOT* make RMS happy, but it will make Bill Gates happy.

      Public domain is NOT the same as Free software. It's nowhere NEAR Free software. With public domain, anyone can take my code and change the license and sell it to me with a restrictive license.

      This makes Bill happy as a pig in the mud because he can take what I wrote (or paid for with my taxes), embrace, extend, and sell back to me. This means I'm paying twice for it, as I already paid for it with my taxes.

      This is exactly the kind of crap that RMS is trying to stop. With Free software, you cannot embrace and extend it unless you give the source code back with it. This means that you can't make software that is intentionally incompatible with other stuff, because people can just look at the source and make new, compatible software.

      • Re:Public Domain (Score:4, Insightful)

        by gcalvin ( 325380 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:09AM (#4512782) Homepage
        Public domain is NOT the same as Free software. It's nowhere NEAR Free software. With public domain, anyone can take my code and change the license and sell it to me with a restrictive license.
        IANAL etc... We're not talking about your code here, we're talking about code developed in government research. After it's released into the public domain, anybody can take it, modify it, and release their modified version under a restrictive license, as you say. But at the same time, you could take the code, modify it, and release your modified version under the GPL.

        I don't have a problem with a federal policy requiring the fruits of new research being released into the public domain (or under an MIT/BSD style license). But I would have a problem with a policy that would disallow federal participation in existing GPL projects. Why should the government be forced to re-invent the wheel when there are perfectly serviceable GPL wheels out there?

      • Re:Public Domain (Score:4, Insightful)

        by AndrewHowe ( 60826 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:15AM (#4512842)
        Why would you buy it from Bill? You still have it. You wrote it, remember? Everyone still has it, it is in the public domain. Bill added value to it and he wants to charge you, but he doesn't have a gun pointed at your head.
        That's what I don't understand about all these GPL arguments. It's just like the file sharing argument - I haven't stolen this mp3, because you still have it. I haven't deprived you of it. So in the same way, if I take your GPL'd code and use it in a way that you don't like, what's the problem? You still have the code and you can still do what you like with it.
      • Re:Public Domain (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jasonditz ( 597385 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:16AM (#4512852) Homepage
        If you're going to steal money from us to do research allegedly on our behalf it takes a helluva nerve to suggest that there need to be terms on the ways we can use it.

        Every piece of software I've ever written goes into the public domain. If Bill Gates ever wants to borrow a snippet of code thats his business, if RMS wants to borrow a snippet of code thats his business. They don't tell me how I can use my code and I don't tell them how they can use their code. What's wrong with that?
      • Re:Public Domain (Score:5, Informative)

        by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:17AM (#4512859) Homepage
        NONONONONONONO. This will *NOT* make RMS happy, but it will make Bill Gates happy...This is exactly the kind of crap that RMS is trying to stop.

        Have you ever even bothered to look at the list of GPL compatible licenses? [] And I quote:

        Public Domain. Being in the public domain is not a license--rather, it means the material is not copyrighted and no license is needed. Practically speaking, though, if a work is in the public domain, it might as well have an all-permissive non-copyleft free software license. Public domain status is compatible with the GNU GPL.

      • Re:Public Domain (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LarsG ( 31008 )
        Public domain is NOT the same as Free software. It's nowhere NEAR Free software. With public domain, anyone can take my code and change the license and sell it to me with a restrictive license.

        Psst.. T'is not your code, it is code paid for with public funds.

        Government release A.tgz as public domain.

        Even if proprietary software vendors develop and release restricted license versions of A, you are still free to take A.tgz and develop a GPL-licensed branch.

      • Re:Public Domain (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kaa ( 21510 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:25AM (#4512929) Homepage
        Public domain is NOT the same as Free software. It's nowhere NEAR Free software.

        Well, yes. Public domain is considerably more free than "Free software".

        With public domain, anyone can take my code and change the license and sell it to me with a restrictive license.

        Yes, and that's part of the freedom. You know, freedom doesn't apply only to things you approve of. It also means freedom to do things which you don't like.

        If it's in public domain, it's not *your* code any more. Anyone can take and do anything he wants with it, including making a commercial closed-source product being sold for money. That's perfectly fine. That's part of freedom.

        This makes Bill happy as a pig in the mud because he can take what I wrote (or paid for with my taxes), embrace, extend, and sell back to me.

        Well, don't buy it. I mean, you have the code, right? It's there in the public domain, you can do whatever you want with it. Why would you pay money to Billg if the code is free?

        I think your idea of "freedom" is very screwed up. GPL is actually quite a restrictive license, it's just that it is restrictive in other than the usual ways. Freedom means the ability to make meaningful choices, even if you don't like the choice I make and even if you think it's a bad choice for the future/society/environment/children/etc.

        So, yes, public research should be in public domain.
      • Re:Public Domain (Score:4, Insightful)

        by iabervon ( 1971 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:34AM (#4513019) Homepage Journal
        This isn't really about making people happy. It's about providing them with useful software. If what they want to do is extend it and sell it to people without source, well, they paid their taxes (supposedly) for that right. If what they want to do is extend it and GPL it, they paid for that, too. If they just want to use it, that's also fine.

        The GPL is a way of protecting your work from reuse by people who don't extend the same rights to you. It is an important way of getting people who are writing software for personal reasons to release it to the public. In the case of work contracted by the government, that isn't necessary, because the programmer is paid for the work. The government also doesn't want to retain access to derived works; they've generally made the software sufficient for their purposes, and their mandate is to make their software available to everybody.
  • by Penguinoflight ( 517245 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @10:51AM (#4512604) Homepage Journal
    Really, it's like drugs.. the Goverment pays grants to companies, then they patent the drugs, and sell them for big bucks to the market, and the consumer pays twice. If it's a matter of national security, just add export regulations.. but that would be difficult with the GPL.
  • Who's idea was this? (Score:4, Informative)

    by tonywong ( 96839 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @10:52AM (#4512616) Homepage
    Obviously they didn't come up with this who's lobbying them and putting up soft money for their campaigns.

    I can think of one big company who'd stand to gain from this type of legislation...
  • flawed logic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by programic ( 139404 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @10:53AM (#4512623)
    Prudence suggests that since it's our money funding the research, we ought to make sure the public gets some return from the endeavor.

    Not just flawed, but deeply so. "Our money" funds a lot of things that we don't have direct access too--many things that we SHOULD not have access to. Lets face it, some government software, regardless of who writes it, should not be open sourced.

    I, for one, would like to take a ride in a spy plane that I'm sure some of my money went for.
  • Need more info (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bwt ( 68845 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @10:55AM (#4512633) Homepage
    If they are arguing that governement developed software can only be public domain, then fine, but I am not offended by that position.

    If they are arguing that governement developed software may be given a proprietary licence but may not be given a GPL licence then I emphatically disagree.
  • Ummmmmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fobbman ( 131816 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @10:55AM (#4512638) Homepage
    I know that it is the hallmark of /. to be reactionary, but before we inundate these folks with email can we verify the validity of a Anonymous Coward submission of an article at NewsForge that was submitted by an Anonymous Reader?

  • by The Importance of ( 529734 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @10:57AM (#4512662) Homepage
    LawMeme is dissecting [] the letter and note line by line.
  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @10:58AM (#4512667) Homepage
    I use the GPL on my projects []. However, the GPL is not intended to benefit everyone equally. It is intented to give an edge to free software developers. I believe this is a good thing for developers and companies to do of their own free will. I do not, however, think that it is right for our government to exclude proprietary software developers from public works.

    The following is a quote from "Why you shouldn't use the Library GPL for your next library []":

    Proprietary software developers have the advantage of money; free software developers need to make advantages for each other. Using the ordinary GPL for a library gives free software developers an advantage over proprietary developers: a library that they can use, while proprietary developers cannot use it.

    Again, let me stress that I use the GPL, I like the GPL, I think more developers should use the GPL. But our government should not provide preferential treatment for one group of software developers over another. We don't like it when congress gives preferential treatment to Disney, and it is not appropriate for us to request preferential treatment over Adobe.
  • by j_kenpo ( 571930 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:00AM (#4512688)
    This is an odd thing, considering that its the Democrats trying to pass this, as something along the lines of the GPL is more of a Democratic licensing scheme. Id expect that the Republicans would be the ones to do something like this in support of big business. Thats too bad, I now know of 4 congressman that I vote against in the upcoming election. The strange thing is that their basis is that the GPL would prevent the adoption of technologies for Federal R&D using GPL'ed code. Now the way I am reading this is more like "We cant use standards that are funded by the Ferderal Govt. that makes use of GPL code to make money". If they dont like the terms, dont use the code. If they dont like the GPL, then they should develop their systems using a proprietary license and not use GPL code. Otherwise, I think the the licensing terms are up to the author of the software, even if it is developed using Federal R&D money... Otherwise Universitys couldnt conduct research on GPL based software... I think this kind of bill is actually more limiting than the GPL could ever be since it is limiting the options of what can be used...
    • 1. The Davis fellow is *my* congressman and he is strictly "cash and carry".
      2. It is my understanding that any code developed with Fed$$ is either 49/51 (or 50/50?) co-owned by the developer & the Fed, & either can use it as they wish from that point, subject, of course, to any contractual agreements, etc. If contractually allowed, the developer can resell the software. The Fed could conceivably re-use software components (which might be great idea), but generally they are more interested in the product than the parts.
      3. There is no program that I know of that might have the capability to catalogue what Uncle Sammy has received and whether it might be of use to any other Fed. Dept, etc. Few areas of the Federal government, civilian or militay, at any given time, have any idea what any other non-affliated part of Uncle Sam has in the way of software or capabilities. Even if they did, it probably wouldn't foster re-use of anything other than the contractor. Might be an interesting area to explore. :{)||
  • by tsetem ( 59788 ) <tsetem@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:00AM (#4512690)
    ...that the GPL is restrictive. It does make it considerably more difficult for a company to profit from code released as GPL.

    However, I definitely think that the code should be public source. But what's wrong with using the LGPL?

    Work funded with public monies should be available for all to use. Ideally, all work should be done in the fashion of libraries, rather than a standalone application. This screams for the LGPL to be used.

    If work is done under the LGPL, then the libraries can be made public, while companies can make proprietary front-ends that utilize the public libraries. Should bug-fixes, or extensions be made to the library, then the library (and the entire community) benefit.

    My main beef with the BSD license, is that once the general library is released to the public, a private company can take the library, and bastardize it however they want (ie: Microsoft & Kerberos). By using the LGPL, the changes must be returned to the public, thus ensuring the public trust.
  • Wealth transfer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:02AM (#4512710) Homepage
    The idea of taxing the middle class and the poor to provide code which is then solely exploitable by corporations is a transfer of wealth up the economic ladder. Congress on the whole and particularly in the last 14 years has been working hard on transferring the nation's wealth up the economic ladder. In areas from more much strict bankruptcy law (in many ways the introduction of serfdom to the United States), to the telecommunications act of 1996 (public property being used solely to benefit the wealth with no public gain at all), to more liberal land usage in the west and revisions to farm subsidy (taking public property and transferring it effectively to big agriculture).

    Congress is quite correct that the GPL would interfere with this congressional strategy of wealth transfer. Rather the GPL would keep public property in the public domain to be used by the public for the public. IMHO that is a far worthier goal than "increasing the government-private partnership".

  • by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:02AM (#4512711)
    Our great Wisconsin representative Ron Kind is a aol user . This makes it obvious that somebody is targeting the most ignorant.
  • by lowe0 ( 136140 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:08AM (#4512765) Homepage
    ...even corporations.

    The BSD license is the fairest way to handle government code. Corporations are taxpayers too, and should have the same access to this code without having their own code forced open and their business model destroyed.

    On the other hand, closing (non-classified) government code benefits no one. As taxpayers, we would be benefited by the availability of such code.

    I think Bill Gates would very much like to see the end of the GPL in government code, but don't think he's out to ban OSS - remember, BSD-licensed code was used for implementing TCP/IP originally. MS likes to see government code too, and it is their right, just as it is ours.

    As for the issue of non-Americans, you could license it strictly to Americans, but then how would you enforce that license? No country in the world is going to hold up a license which prohibits them from something another nation gets to have....
    • You make it sound as though the GPL imposes requirements on corporations that it does not impose on natural persons. I find that bizarre, and don't understand where that reading is coming from.

      What the GPL would prevent is having someone take a government-contracted GPLed product, slap a gui front end on it (maybe even with a few silly interface pattents), and then sell the result with a do-not-copy, do-not-reverse-engineer license.
      I'll grant you, that's an action corporations are more likely to take than individuals, but the corporate discrimination angle you're trying to play up is downright silly.

      Frankly, the no GPL rule makes no sense without a similar rule against standard proprietary licenses; government contractors routinely develop code and then incorporate it into their own do-not-reverse-engineer programs. What happens in that case is that the government gets the code and a license to use it wherever they want internally, but they can't release it to non-governmental institutions.

      Certainly the public gains less from that arrangement than it does from an identical arrangement that also allows the government to release said code to the public under the GPL.
      • You make it sound as though the GPL imposes requirements on corporations that it does not impose on natural persons. I find that bizarre, and don't understand where that reading is coming from.

        The GPL imposes requirements on developers that it does not impose on end-users. When people talk about corporations, replace that word with developers, and it'll all start to make sense to you.

        As far as your irrational fear of developers using work in their own product. You never lose the original.
  • by jmv ( 93421 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:09AM (#4512778) Homepage
    One thing to think about: not all open-source projects are GPL. I have two open-source projects: one is LGPL, the other is BSD. If all US gov't code were released under the GPL, I couldn't use it for my projects.

  • by grue23 ( 158136 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:12AM (#4512811)
    I for one am pleased to see this. I work for a company that sells software and have been pissed several times when it has been impossible for me to use software that my tax dollars have gone to pay for because it's trendy for people at universities to GPL everything that breathes.

    The most recent example of this was a set of nice Java random variable distribution libraries that I found and wanted to use for some code I was writing. However, they were under the GPL (as opposed to the LGPL which would have allowed me to use library calls), so that meant that even though they were libraries, I couldn't even call them from a commercial product. If they had been in a BSD style license, I could have used them. So I ended up spending some time implementing the ones I needed.

    Many people do not seem to realize that when software is protected by the GPL, it is not only 'open source' but it is also prohibiting anyone from using it if they do not also put their software under the GPL. (There are some workarounds - you can always have the GPL code run in a separate process and use IPC/RPC to get results from it and technically not break the GPL, but that can get ugly quick.)

    It's fine for someone to make the decision that they want to force people who use their code to use the GPL. BUT - if it is code that was developed with a government grant, to me it seems wrong to use a license that forces a specific use of the code and promotes what is basically a political agenda (force everything to be GPL), instead of using a BSD style license which makes the code truly open. Things paid for by the government should be used to go back to the community at large if at all possible, and the GPL limits the utility of the research performed under government grants.
    • by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:19AM (#4512873)
      I know damn well that you are going to have problems using my GPL code in a commercial application and then selling it. This means that the GPL is working for me exactly as it was intended. You have absolutely no right at all to profit from code that I wrote. A company exists to make a profit but it has no rights, only the voting public has rights.

    • You DID contact the author and discuss your problem, right? There are often ways around these difficulties - offer to license the code non-exclusively for this purpose and pay some $$$, as him/her to release a version under lgpl or some otherwise usable license, etc. If there's more than one author it can be hard, but there are often ways to work this stuff out.

      I agree that government funded code should be more widely available than GPL - I have no inherant problem with companies using it to make their own stuff better. After all, they pay taxes too. But the original code must remain free, and allow free derivative works. That's the key point.
  • by smiff ( 578693 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:15AM (#4512845)
    It would be very simple to allay congress' concerns. They don't need to outlaw the GPL. They simply need to make sure all government funded software projects are made available under the BSD, but also allow the developer to license it under any other terms they choose.

    If someone gets a grant to change the Linux kernel, they can license their changes under both the BSD and the GPL. If a private company gets a grant to write a diet analysis program, they can license it under the BSD, and also integrate the code into their own product.

    This is the right thing to do anyway. All government funded development should be made available to the public without restriction.

  • by XaXXon ( 202882 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [noxxax]> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:17AM (#4512862) Homepage
    One thing a lot of people don't seem to realize (or just don't think about often), is that the GPL only applies to code, not the ideas behind the code.

    Say, for instance, I want to use the GNU readline library (it's the library that gives the text-interface to a lot of programs the same feel. bash, mysql text interface, and others.. ). It's GPL, not LGPL. But I don't want my program to be GPL'd. What do I do? I rewrite the functionality. There's absolutely no problem with doing this.

    By GPLing the code from government sponsored works, it only means you can't copy/paste the code into your non-GPL program. It doesn't mean you can't take the idea behind the code (and even look in the code to get the idea) and then recode the idea.

    Basically, anyone complaining about code like this released under the GPL is just lazy and looking to make a quick buck.. do we know any companies like this? :)
  • This is BS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:21AM (#4512891) Journal
    This entire thing is BS. Nowhere in the story does it claim that Congress is trying to outlaw the GPL, yet both the NewsForge and the Slashdot articles talk about outlawing the GPL.

    This is simple, stupid alarmism brought about by a bored AC.
  • by greenhide ( 597777 ) <{moc.ylkeewellivc} {ta} {todhsalsnadroj}> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:27AM (#4512945)
    First, let me get out my special padded helmet to protect myself before I get smacked upside the head by some of you.

    Our company recently did a website for an organization which was organizing a web broadcast for a governmental organization. So, although we were technically being paid by the organization, we were indirectly being paid by the governmental organization.

    But let's remove those distinctions and say the governmental organization themselves had hired us to create the website for them.

    Well, our site used software which we had developed in house, at our own expense, prior to being hired. Some of it, however, was developed and coded while hired by them.

    Technically, none of the modifcations we made to the software could have worked without the software we had written before.

    The question is: if we were required to license this software as Open Source or GPL, would we have had to license *all* of it, including the code that was written prior to the bid?

    Also, say that we had had to write the code from scratch. We might have charged less for our work than we could have, thinking, "We can reuse this code and sell it to customers later on."

    I think that except in cases where the government is actually purchasing the software outright froma developer, it gets very sticky to say what should and shouldn't be freely developed.

    While I agree that there are many cases in which making software open source is a good thing, the truth is if we were required by law to have, say, a section on our website that said, "By the way, here's all the code we've ever written, available for your own use. For free." it is unlikely that we would be able to continue to function as a profitable business. After all, what customer is going to pay for software that is being advertised or described as "free"?

    Our tax dollars go to all sorts of projects. For instance, medicines are often developed through the help of government grants. Ever tried to get prescription drugs for free?
  • by PhxBlue ( 562201 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:37AM (#4513038) Homepage Journal

    Let's write to them and show them that we didn't elect these guys to screw us over.

    Y'know, it's notsomuch that. We know these guys are going to screw us over. . . nowadays, I just vote for the candidate that promises lubrication.

  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:39AM (#4513066)
    This seems a partisan rant by GPL political activists. Where is the call to "outlaw" the GPL? Where is the justification for putting government code under the GPL, instead of one of the other very similar licenses out there?

    It is a reality that many commercial vendors won't touch GPL code. If you're primary goal is to eliminate commercial software, this kind of gambit makes sense. If you want to avoid closing avenues for widespread distribution of software, it doesn't make sense.
  • by sheldon ( 2322 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:45AM (#4513130)
    Let's look at these points...

    1) They use the Internet, by virtue of TCP/IP, as "proof" of their thesis.

    Very insightful. If the TCP/IP libraries and utilities from the BSD distribution had been GPL'ed, the technology would never have been integrated into so widely a diverse population of operating systems and utilities. That is, you would not today see Macintosh, Windows, Netware, Solaris and many other systems supporting it. These companies would have had to come up with something different, and more than likely not one of them would interoperate with the other. So we'd still be back in the world of AOL, Prodigy, MSN and Compuserve.

    2) They state that you cannot improve OR adopt OR commercialize GPL software.

    Do they really? My guess is they said you cannot improve or adopt it for commercialization. Which is true, and is one of the fundamental points of GNU.

    3) They state that you cannot integrate GPL'd software with proprietery software.

    This is true as well.

    4) They say you should keep publicly funded code away from the public sector, so that proprietary interests can make money from the work.

    This is pretty much in tune with the Technology Transition legislation passed back in 1980 promoting collaborative work between commercial and research entities. Bayh-Dole and Stevenson-Wydler acts.

    Sounds to me like these representatives do understand the GPL and are willing to discuss it in an intelligent manner. I find it curious that the only way the GPL defenders can push their agenda is by distorting the purposes of the GPL. Sounds intellectually dishonest to me.
  • by eschasi ( 252157 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:55AM (#4513243)
    It appears most of the responders (and the guy who put the headline on this /. article) didn't actually read the article.

    The article says there is

    A call to sign off on explicit rejection of "licenses that would prevent or discourage commercial adoption of promising cyber security technologies developed through federal R & D." has been issued by Adam Smith, Congressman for the Ninth District in the State of Washington.
    This is pretty different than "Congress Members Oppose GPL for Govt. Research.' It's much narrower, and the total number of congress members involved is 2. That's 2, as in 2 out of 635. And it's to be applied to the security software only. The headline is much too broad, and therefore misleading.
    An aside: yes, I know good headlines are short and should get the viewers attention. But "Congressman Opposes GPL for Govt Security Software" is the same length and considerably more accurate. End aside.
    And it's a suggestion that licences be banned only if they "prevent or discourage commercial adoption" of the technologies. Given the way most corporations have shied away from GNU licences, I think you can easily make the case that in practice the GPL discourages commercial applications.

    There is one primary exception to that - standalone programs or systems. Note, for example, that Linux and GNU emacs are wildly popular, but the various FSF C function libraries were not. The GNU library licence was written because people were shying away from developing with GCC because FSF libc.a was required for gcc usage (I don't think that's true any more). Libc.a was under GPL and that meant applications that were developed with gcc would come under GPL. FSF created the library licence in an attempt to address the issue, but lately they seem to think that it was a mistake. IMHO, they're confusing cause with effect. Those libraries came into wider usage because the GPL didn't apply to software developed that used them, not because they were good libraries (though they are good libraries). But IMHO if they weren't under the library licence, they would not have come into as common a use as you now see.

    Let us also note that releasing the code to the public domain does not prevent applying the GPL to it by others! You can grab a copy, hack it up to your hearts content, slap the GPL on it, and go. If your mods make it superior to the unrestricted original and the public thinks the GPL restrictions aren't a problem, cool. If not, well, the market has spoken. IMHO, this proposal will simply prevent the GPL from being applied before the market has spoken.

    Feh, enough of that, I'm ranting.

  • by Mysticalfruit ( 533341 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:13PM (#4513410) Homepage Journal
    If the software relates to national security, then it should be made top secret.

    Here's two examples...
    1. A goverment contractor builds an encryption system that'll be used to encrypt communications between locations, that should be designed top secret.

    2. If DARPA gives a grant to a university to create a better piece of weather modeling software, it should be public domain. Now, if a company goes and takes that software and builds upon it and sells it, fine.

    However, I as a citizen of the united states should be able to obtain a copy of the source code, since ultimately, my tax money went to fund the creation of that software.

    What it sounds like is that the congress wants to possibly put some regime in place were tax payers money goes to find a project and then that project gets handed off to the highest bidder/(company who gave the most ammount of money to their campaign coffers...)
  • by Ogerman ( 136333 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:23PM (#4513479)
    GPL exists because proprietary software exists. If software was not protected by copyright, all software would be public domain and #1.) there would be no proprietary software #2.) there would be no GPL.

    The sole purpose of GPL is to turn copyright against itself with the goal of defeating proprietary software. If all software in the world was forced to being GPL, it would be identical to all software being public domain. So, in a sense, the GPL aims diminish or remove the institution of copyright with respect to computer software.

    So it's a simple question: Do we want proprietary software or not? If you believe there should be proprietary software in this world, then government funded software should be BSD or public domain. (depending on if the authors want credit.) If you believe proprietary software is unnecessary and damaging to society, government funded software should be GPL until the government agrees to stop recognizing software copyrights.

    For my own interests, I would prefer GPL, which is the core of what my business is based upon. I provide complete Open Source consulting services. All software I write is covered by GPL so that my proprietary-minded competitors cannot benefit from my work, while other community-focused businesses can.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:33PM (#4513578)

    A long time software writer/consultant to the US Government I can assure you that the GPL has already caused me great grief while trying to write software.

    Specifically, I'm writing an open-source simulation model which I'd love to make GPL. But, I can't. Why?

    Because the minute I make my open-source model GPL those dirty rotton competitors of mine are going to take the code, go straight to the guys I deal with in the government and get that next big contract to "upgrade" the software.

    I'm the one inovating here, but I'm a small fish in a big pond. My competitor is a VERY large aircraft manufacturer, guess who.

    Do I stand a chance against those guys if I cannot specifically control the code. No!

    Keep in mind I have a lot of algorithms that I've created on my own. And sure the government has paid for XYZ project, but they got a good deal because I was able to provide them binaries of my code.

    Otherwise, they would have had to pay 10 times the amount they paid me for project XYZ from somebody, see above, that doesn't already have the algorithms.

    So, think about it really hard before you write that letter to that congressperson. In a LARGE percentage of cases, when the government contracts for a piece of software they are getting 10 percent new code and 90 percent code that's been invented utilizing somebodies hard earned time.

  • by suwain_2 ( 260792 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:47PM (#4513713) Journal
    I read the article, which only served to confuse me further. Are these people saying that software funded with government money should *not* be under the GPL, or are they saying that these people are trying to put an outright ban on the use/making of software by anyone? The story (both here and on NewsForge) seems to be a bit exaggerated, or is it correct? Can someone please clarify what is actually going on? Thanks.
  • I'm a non-USian (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @01:01PM (#4513839) Homepage
    Any reason why I should be able to use code that your tax dollars paid for? Maybe I'm British, maybe German, maybe Chinese, maybe North Korean. Maybe I'm Saddam bin Laden. You still want to give me access to "your" source?
  • by coene ( 554338 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @01:13PM (#4513945)
    Around here this may seem like a troll statement, but I do not mean it as so.

    I do remember one thing Bill Gates (who I'm not a fan of) said last year, the GPL is a virus. I'm not insinuating that its a bad virus, but nonetheless everything it touches gets changed, and its main purpose is to spread itself around. To me, that sounds like a virus.

    The GPL is new. Open source is new. How can we possibly enlist such a license that is as restrictive as it is, that has very little legal experience, and makes all derivatives GPL. I think thats wrong.

    The major gist of the GPL is that if you want to use this code, you must make your derivives GPL too. In a government atmoshphere, this is going to do nothing but create unusable code. The government needs a level of secrecy. If the GPL were to be used, you can rule out half of the potential applications off the bat.

    The government is here to serve us, and do it as cheaply as possible. If they hire someone to make GPL code, and then later have to re-write the entire thing for use in another application because it cant be open-source (for security, secrecy, whatever reasons) thats costing us money.

    The GPL has certain applications, government use is not one of them. If government created code starts getting licensed as GPL, then someone isnt doing their job.
  • by magi ( 91730 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @01:29PM (#4514092) Homepage Journal
    While the arguments for releasing publicly funded software under a PD or BSD license may have a point to some degree, they completely ignore the basic purpose of GPL.

    GPL allows the user to make modifications. That's why most people use it, including governments.

    Now, if there would be laws prohibiting government workers to writing GPL licensed software, they could not make the modifications, which is the biggest reason why anyone would use GPL software in the first place.

    Therefore, by prohibiting writing GPL code, the government would, to some degree, exclude itself from using (and I mean really using) GPL licensed code. Everyone would suffer, except maybe Bad Bill.

    Then, you say, government should only use PD or BSD licensed software, right? Not really, it wouldn't work in practice because any sensible subcontractor or other company developing the government-funded software further would certainly re-license it under a proprietary license. The company might even offer the modified version a bit cheaper if they get the copyrights and can re-sell it with big bucks to others. However, by purchasing that new software, which it probably would do since it's "cheaper", the government would lose the freedom to itself modify the code that it wanted to be free in the first place.

    Such situations could, of course, be prevented by appropriate contracts with the subcontractors, but I would say it's quite certain that, in practice, such important factors would most certainly be ignored when writing the contracts, just as they are always when buying software from companies. This would probably cause an inevitable privatization of all software originally developed by the government and lead us to a world with only closed-source proprietary software.

    One good way to correct the problem would be to make it a law to use only PD or BSD licensed software in goverment, but this would probably make some proprietary software companies even less happy than with GPL.

    Hence, it may be best to allow the government agencies publish their software under any Open Source license they choose to be best for their purposes, including the PD non-license, BSD, and GPL.

    Not that I'm a US citizen, but this might apply to other governments as well and, after all, the future of GPL licensed Free Software does affect the entire world. It's not just the US government developing software for itself, but many governments in the world do participate in common GPL licensed projects.
  • by Jobe_br ( 27348 ) <bdruth@gmail.c3.14om minus pi> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @01:34PM (#4514143)
    Dear Congressman Kind,

    I recently found out that you sent out a statement opposing the use of GNU-style licenses such as the GPL for Federal software R&D. Your letter indicates to me that you may not be aware of certain aspects of such licenses.

    As a WI taxpayer, I wanted to voice my concern to you, that tax-funded software development may be licensed under restrictive proprietary licenses by commercial entities, with the intent to sell products to US taxpayers. This seems wrong to me, as the software development is funded by public means, so it seems that any intellectual property funded by the public should remain property of the public, forever.

    Licenses such as the GNU GPL license ensure exactly this. The GPL license would prevent a company from line-for-line replicating federally funded R&D software and repackaging it as *their own* product. This scenario would remove publicly funded intellectual property from the public. Commercial entities are in no way prevented from looking at federal R&D efforts and re-implementing the research for their own commercial products. They are also not prevented from taking a GPL'd product and selling it, at a profit that they determine, to the public. These are all allowed under GPL licensing terms. This latitude is obviously not something that opponents to GPL software, such as Microsoft, want congressmen to know about, of course, but nevertheless, the latitude exists.

    The only stipulation the GPL makes is that if a company distributes, in any way shape or form, a product that uses GPL code internally, they must provide the source code to the product using the GPL'd code to anyone requesting it. Within the software engineering field, there are many, many ways to use and interact with code that would allow a product to use GPL'd code without being subject to the GPL's license terms. The main thing the GPL prevents is the outright copying of code and repackaging of that code as one's own. This, in my opinion, is absolutely correct for publicly funded software projects.

    You cite TCP/IP as an example against GPL licensing. However, TCP/IP is a protocol definition, not a software project. Most of the operating systems and software that use TCP/IP these days use software that is written under a variety of open and proprietary licenses, with the original code maintaining little or no resemblance to the initial *reference* implementation of TCP/IP. This initial *reference* implementation is the only item covered by the BSD-style license that is credited with allowing TCP/IP to flourish. However, the research papers that explain TCP/IP and allow a software developer to reimplement a 100% compliant TCP/IP system are not restricted in any way. Commercial entities can and have used these papers to create highly optimized TCP/IP systems (see the high-availability servers by IBM, Sun, Microsoft et al.) Had the initial *unoptimized* reference implementation not been licensed under a BSD-style copyright, this would STILL be possible. Had the initial reference implementation been licensed under the GPL, there would be little or no difference to the landscape of the Internet today. If anything, the Internet would have arrived sooner. Commercial entities would certainly not have made any less money.

    Let me reiterate one important point: having R&D licensed under the GPL does not in any way shape or form prevent commercial entities from using the research to sell products. This is if they reimplement the results of the research OR if they choose to use the GPL'd code directly. If they choose to use the GPL'd code directly, they must simply honor the request to access the source code of the product using the GPL'd source to anyone requesting it. This does not in any way prevent a company from selling a product, for profit, based on GPL'd code. It is being done today, successfully, by many software development businesses.

    By and large, for the vast majority of citizens in the US, having access to the source of a product is worthless. Allowing other developers, to whom the source might have value, to view the source of a product based on GPL'd code will only promote innovation in the high-technology industry.

    I urge you to use the Internet and other resources at your disposal to learn more about the possibilities and the *true* limitations of licenses such as the GPL. Please, do not support the use of proprietary licenses, such as those used by Microsoft, to limit the public's access to federally funded R&D and software that is based on publicly funded research and development.

    Most respectfully,
    Brice D. Ruth
  • by ProfessorPuke ( 318074 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @02:22PM (#4514651)
    While the intra-congressional letters are technically correct, they mislead by omission.

    In particular, this sentence

    The terms of restrictive license's - such as those in the GNU or GPL - prevent companies from adopting

    unfairly singles out the GPL and ignores all of the other restrictive licenses- such as anything of the form Copyright 2002 XYZZY Corporation!!

    These Congressmen+lobbyists are deliberately mistating the position of the "Open Source Government" initiative (or cherry-picking some more extremist proponents to serve as strawmen).

    And they're leaving out an important intellectual-property fact about the standard procedures of software contracting: when you contract for code, unless you explicitly specify something different, both the customer AND the contractor get rights to the code. If the contract was for a compiler program, then the customer gets rights to some binaries, and the contractor still keeps code rights. (This many "consultancy" houses work- they resell the same source code over and over, with small customer-specific modifications each time)

    What the public should desire is for us to get some benefit from software development paid for by the government. Today, a federal agency will fund a project, get it installed & maybe working, and then forget about it. The contractor typically searches around for other agencies needing the same functionalities and sells it to them, again. (Taking advantage of the government's poor inventory management to rack up more sales- but that's the customer's fault for not being more organized).

    The change I'd like to see is, when the government enters into new software contracts, they ask for a GPL (or at least PD) source code package amoung the deliverables. That way all of the researchers and developers in the government, academia, and the private sector can examine and build on the taxpayer funded work. This doesn't have to be a law, just an executive directive, or mere recommendation. Not only will it encourage "the progress of science and the useful arts", but it will increase bueraucratic transparency and reduce dangerous security flaws.

    This says NOTHING about taking away the separate right that every contractor has to reuse their own code. The developing company can maintain their own copyrighted version to use as they wish. But that shouldn't be the ONLY copy of the source code- we paid for it, we'd like to look it over too.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern