NASA Open Source Agreement v1.3

Jeremy Wright wrightjmf at
Thu Apr 28 21:26:09 UTC 2011

Thank you Nigel and Ben for enlightening me on this.

I'll post a message on the debian-legal list to find out what issues
(if any) they have with the NOSA license. Even if making the license
"more free" doesn't significantly increase contributions, I still
think it would be worthwhile to research this a little more.

Thanks again.


On Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 4:10 PM, Ben Tilly <btilly at> wrote:
> Here is my understanding.
> NOSA is an OSI approved license.  But not everyone agrees on how free
> it is.  In particular some people think that the restriction in 3.G
> keeps people from copying sections of code from permissively licensed
> code into NOSA code because the result is not their original creation.
>  Linking is allowed, copying is not.  If I'm reading it correctly, you
> can't even legally copy functions from one NOSA project to another.  I
> wouldn't be happy having to remember to be careful to not just move
> code from A to B if the structure of the codebase made that natural to
> do.
> Those objections should disappear if that paragraph was changed to
> something like:
>  G. Each Contributor represents that Contributor has sufficient
>     rights to grant the rights conveyed by this Agreement on
>     their Modification, and doing so does not violate any
>     existing agreements, regulations, statutes or rules.
> However to verify I would highly recommend asking somewhere like
> where there are people who have
> more context on why the license is considered non-free, and what
> changes would make them call it free.
> Note that this change would make NOSA licensed code slightly easier to
> include in some distributions, but as a practical matter I don't think
> would make much of a difference for getting contributions.  However
> you can probably get a nice press release out of it, and a little
> publicity, which is always nice.
> On Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 12:49 PM, Jeremy Wright <wrightjmf at> wrote:
>> Thanks for the reply Nigel.
>> I'm not trying to stir the pot right now, but I'm sure my questions
>> make it seem that way. The reason I'm asking is that there was a
>> suggestion on NASA's IdeaScale site that the NOSA should be revised to
>> make it "more free".
>> As I looked around, I noticed that at least some Linux distributions
>> like Debian have World Wind (which is released under the NOSA) in
>> their non-free repositories. Whether or not this is an accurate view
>> of the NOSA license, my concern is that it could create a barrier to
>> keep some open source developers from contributing to NOSA licensed
>> software.
>> My overall motivation for trying to understand this is that I'm
>> interested in being more involved in NASA's open source efforts, and
>> I'm trying to get a handle on the current state of things. It would be
>> nice to weigh in on the "NOSA revision" idea on IdeaScale, but I'm
>> hesitant to until I really grasp the implications of the NOSA license.
>> Thanks,
>> Jeremy
>> On Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 10:29 AM, Tzeng, Nigel H.
>> <Nigel.Tzeng at> wrote:
>>> There has never been a problem with combined works and NOSA to my
>>> knowledge.  There are many projects that combine BSD, Apache, LGPL and
>>> NOSA code.  This is clearly stated in:
>>> 3.I. A Recipient may create a Larger Work by combining Subject Software
>>> with separate software not governed by the terms of this agreement and
>>> distribute the Larger Work as a single product. In such case, the
>>> Recipient must make sure Subject Software, or portions thereof,
>>> included in the Larger Work is subject to this Agreement.
>>> I've been a commiter on NOSA projects that include 3rd party open source
>>> code so even 3.G doesn't restrict the ability to modify the core code with
>>> third party open source software not of your creation so long as the
>>> license is less restrictive than NOSA (aka permissive licenses).  Folks
>>> have taken NOSA code and clearly forked it as a derived MPL project with
>>> NASA's blessings then added lots of 3rd party code.
>>> If "free" software "depends" on "combining" code from third parties then
>>> most copyleft licenses aren't "free" software either since I can't combine
>>> two copylefts either under the FSF interpretation of derivative works.
>>> GPL is far more restrictive on that score than NOSA is on a practical
>>> level.
>>> Are you stirring the pot or are you actually looking at using some NOSA
>>> code?
>>> Nigel
>>> On 4/28/11 9:50 AM, "Jeremy Wright" <wrightjmf at> wrote:
>>>>I searched the archive, but couldn't find this topic elsewhere.
>>>>It's my understanding that the OSI has approved version 1.3 of the
>>>>NASA Open Source Agreement (NOSA), but the FSF (Free Software
>>>>Foundation) has a problem with section 3, paragraph G of the license.
>>>>The issue that the FSF cites is as follows:
>>>>"The NASA Open Source Agreement, version 1.3, is not a free software
>>>>license because it includes a provision requiring changes to be your
>>>>³original creation². Free software development depends on combining
>>>>code from third parties, and the NASA license doesn't permit this."
>>>>Does this mean that the OSI and FSF disagree on the interpretation of
>>>>section 3-G, or is the ability to include third party software not an
>>>>OSI requirement for an open source license? I couldn't find any
>>>>specific mention to the inclusion of third party code in the Open
>>>>Source Definition, so I wanted to clarify.
>>>>Here's a link to the NOSA license.

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