For Approval: NASA Open Source Agreement Version 1.1

Ian Lance Taylor ian at
Fri Feb 13 15:38:37 UTC 2004

Richard Schilling <rschi at> writes:

> 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.

I really think that you misread Lawrence's post.  He is a long-time
and respected contributor to this mailing list.  But enough said about

> > 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?

First let me say that I understand that NASA's proposed license
doesn't require tracking, it merely encourages it.

I, and others, think that a tracking requirement would not be
appropriate in an open source license.

1) Tracking presumably requires reporting back to some organization.
   What happens if that organization disappears?  Does it then become
   impossible to distribute the code?  If it does, the code would
   clearly no longer be open source.

2) It is generally considered to be desirable to permit open source
   software to be used anonymously, such as by a dissident under your
   least favorite form of government.  Arguably preventing the
   possibility of anonymous use violates OSD #5.

3) While free software is not identical to open source software, they
   are generally congruous.  The FSF specifically forbids tracking:

       You should also have the freedom to make modifications and use
       them privately in your own work or play, without even
       mentioning that they exist. If you do publish your changes, you
       should not be required to notify anyone in particular, or in
       any particular way.

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