Should governmnet software be Open Source?

Seth David Schoen schoen at
Wed Mar 8 21:29:16 UTC 2000

Derek J. Balling writes:

> 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.

Conventional wisdom is that you can do that with licenses like the BSD
license and MIT license.

I've heard that disputed recently, but this was at least the traditional
interpretation upon which several vendors have relied.

>  >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'll look into that sometime.

> >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.

This is a difficult argument; after all, paying taxes does not allow you
to attend a public university without being admitted, nor to enter
government buildings and offices or military bases.

> 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."

Well, I once wrote the "World's Shortest Open Source License", but it's never
been certified by anyone.

Seth David Schoen <schoen at>  | And do not say, I will study when I
Temp.  | have leisure; for perhaps you will
down:   (CAF)  | not have leisure.  -- Pirke Avot 2:5

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