For Approval: NASA Open Source Agreement Version 1.1

Richard Schilling rschi at
Fri Feb 13 08:05:08 UTC 2004

On 2004.02.12 20:42 Ian Lance Taylor wrote:
> Richard Schilling <rschi at> writes:
> > > Such provisions are not allowed in an open source license.
> Reporting
> > > requirements are viewed as unreasonable limitations on the rights
> of
> > > licensees to do anything they want internally with open source
> >
> > Biggest problem of all here - who in all of creation has the
> authority
> > on blessing open source licenses?
> Huh?  The point of this mailing list is to advise OSI on blessing open
> source licenses.  You don't have to believe that OSI's blessing has
> any value.  But there isn't much point to joining this mailing list if
> you reject the whole concept of OSI blessing a license.

I'm just saying that a stance that NASA, a US government agency with 
"deep pockets", should remove imdenification wording is a haneous 
idea.  And in general bashing the license on non-licensing issues 
doesn't do any good.  It actually hurts open source license 
development.  It's just my opinion.

The OSI can do what it wants.  My preference is to see all discussions 
the OSI endorses regarding licenses be done in the context of 
legitimate legal analysis (which is done by lawyers) and well trained 

It's one thing if someone asks why a part of a license is important, 
and then tries to apply the answer to some licensing goal.   It's quite 
another if we just blast away at a new license on uninformed and 
misguided knowledge.

> > I maintain that an open source license has certain characteristics
> and
> > achieves some well defined goals - the primary one being quick, open
> > distribution or source code and documentation to the end user
> without
> > charging a license fee.  It is entirely unappropriate to specify
> what
> > belongs and doesn't belong in an open source license.  Either the
> > license achieves it's own goals or it doesn't.
> OSI will only bless licenses that meet the Open Source Definition:

Absoutely.  No argument there.  They should.  The NASA license, 
however, presents a unique opportunity for  The 
organization can look at the language and concerns the license 
addresses and use that as an acid test to see if their criteria needs 
revising (a good standards body does that - and I have the impression does). has several licenses written by industry leaders like 
Sun, IBM, MIT, and others who have a lot of experience writing great 
open source licenses.  The NASA license is a wonderful opportunity to 
add a US government agency's license to that list.  When 
puts all of them side by side and study what makes them unique, but 
still qualify as open source, then has advanced the 
state of open source licensing.

> Lawrence is correctly saying that if the NASA license requires
> tracking of released software, that license does not conform to the
> OSD, and therefore the OSI should not bless it.

I believe that is a misguided concept in open source licensing that 
some hold to.  Tracking the use of a product does not make a license 
non-open source.  Open Source licensing deals with accessibility and 
cost, but tracking, per se, is not even relevant to that 
characteristic.  In fact, tracking the uses of open source is a *key* 
marketing tool and the only way we can judge if an investment of time 
into open source is paying off, is it not?

> That would not mean that the license is a bad license.  It would
> merely mean that software released under the license is not OSI
> Certified Open Source Software.

right.  See, that's objective - what you just said.

I got the sense from the original poster overtones of "big bad big 
brother."  Too much work goes into these licenses to take the 
conversation in that direction - I felt the need to call him on it, and 
I hope I called everyone making similar arguments on that point.


> Ian
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