For Approval: NASA Open Source Agreement Version 1.1
rschi at rsmba.biz
Fri Feb 13 19:57:59 UTC 2004
On 2004.02.13 07:38 Ian Lance Taylor wrote:
> > 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
> > marketing tool and the only way we can judge if an investment of
> > 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.
Detailed tracking is done anyway through web logs. And, companies
dissappear all the time - no big deal there. It's their data so they
can discard it if they like. I would rather know that more details
about the product's use are being tracked than not. When a company
tracks the usage of their product they have an easier time gaining
support from onlookers, which is good for the product.
I want to write to my congress people and make a case for NASA spending
a lot of money on open source development. It's more compelling to do
that if I can point out where the product is being used.
Perhaps you're nervous because of the hype that licensing lawsuits get
in the press? The rest of the NASA license guarantees free, unhampered
use so tracking does not present a discrimination issue.
Tracking information is meant to be held private, so it wouldn't be
appropriate to release that inforamtion to the public anyway. Tracking
information is absoutely key to a developer's ability to guage the
success of their product. For example, if you have reliable numbers to
compare your downloads with, say sales figures from a comperable
well-known product (e.g. MS Office), then you can promote that product
> 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.
Once a product under GNU is initially downloaded, the person can
distribute it anonymously. OSD #5 simply states non-descrimination -
which means that you won't restrict the availability of your product to
a particular group/caste/class/industry, etc... I maintain that as
long as non-restricted access is granted non-descrimination is complied
with. Besides, non-descrimination typically is not meant to ensure
that you cannot know where your product is used.
> 3) While free software is not identical to open source software, they
> are generally congruous. The FSF specifically forbids tracking:
I think what I was pointing out before was that the standards for open
source definitions are arbitrary and varied. I would like to stick to
opensource.org's criteria on this list.
> 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.
GNU specifically states that changes will be submitted back to the
authors. That requirement, if enforced, provides much more stringent
tracking than what NASA proposes. But, I also point out that this
requirement in GNU is not enforced at all, generally, making that
provision useless, and makes the language in the GNU license an empty
requirement on its face. For the GNU license it means the requirement
might not be enforced by a judge even though the requirements are
there. Why put such a requirement in the license if it's not going to
This is a key difference between NASA's license and the existing ones -
enforcement of the requirement. If NASA requires registration, then
fine, but I expect NASA to make an effort to actually enforce the
requirement. And, the efforts to do that are clearly stated in the
license itself, making the license more consistent between intent and
implementation than many other licenses (on that point).
> license-discuss archive is at http://crynwr.com/cgi-bin/ezmlm-cgi?3
license-discuss archive is at http://crynwr.com/cgi-bin/ezmlm-cgi?3
More information about the License-discuss