Should governmnet software be Open Source?

Derek J. Balling dredd at
Wed Mar 8 20:02:12 UTC 2000

At 11:37 AM 3/8/00 -0800, Seth David Schoen wrote:
> > At 10:52 AM 3/8/00 -0800, Brice, Richard wrote:
> > >Public domain and Open Source are not the same thing... No problem with
> > >that.
>But public domain is one form of Open Source; see below.

Fair enough, BUT, I think the discussion was centering around "using some 
open source license" and "releasing it into Public Domain".

Public Domain allows end-users FAR greater lee-way (they can close the 
source on their forked-tree if they like and go private) than a 
conventional Open Source License would do.

 >Well, the Regents of the University of California, a public corporation of
>the State of California, certainly hold a lot of copyrights.

Either (a) they shouldn't be allowed to do that with taxpayer-funded works, 
or (b) all it takes is for someone with money,balls,time,energy to tell 
them to get stuffed and dare them to fight it in court. :)

>I think you are confusing Open Source with copyleft; there are lots of Open
>Source licenses which are not copyleft licenses, such as the BSD license.

The problem is that it is a LICENSE at all. Using gov't-funded software is 
not something the gov't CAN[1] license. It's a right you have, since you 
paid for it. You can't license a right. I have the right to do what I want 
with <gov't code>, whether that be closed it, open it, sell copies of it 
verbatim, what-have-you. For the gov't to have a License, then you (a) 
cannot use it if you are a minor, since you cannot legally agree to the 
license, and (b) you have to agree to terms and conditions. There are no 
acceptable terms and conditions for using taxpayer-funded code.

Unless you know of the "Do Anything" license, which has OSI approval which 
says "You can download this code from me and literally do whatever you want 
with it. This is MY code, but you can do whatever floats your boat with it."


[1] Acknowledged that the government CAN and DOES do things that the laws 
of the land say explicitly that it cannot do, regulating firearms being a 
classic example of such.

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