NASA Open Source Agreement v1.3

Tzeng, Nigel H. Nigel.Tzeng at
Thu Apr 28 23:59:11 UTC 2011

Gah...looking at those notes GPL would be a huge mistake for NASA
especially for something like WorldWind.  Even LGPL isn't great.
Fortunately there seemed to be a drift toward Apache 2 at that meeting.
Apache 2 + Apache CLA seems like a good combo as a NOSA replacement.

You want more of an Androidish ecosystem for NASA and government OSS as
opposed to a GPL walled garden.


On 4/28/11 6:45 PM, "Jeremy Wright" <wrightjmf at> wrote:

>I just found the linked Google doc below, and it contains notes on
>licensing discussions from the 2011 NASA Open Source Summit. There are
>proposed solutions toward the top, and general discussion items toward
>the bottom. Out of the proposed solutions, the discussion seems to
>have leaned more toward replacement than revision. That's my take on
>it anyway. I'm almost wondering if revision might not be a better
>solution though, at least for now, rather than adopting an entirely
>new license like the BSD or LGPL. I'm not sure how much disruption
>switching to a new license would cause for an organization like NASA
>though, so maybe dumping NOSA in favor of something else (at least
>when dealing with an external community) would be fine.
>2011/4/28 Tzeng, Nigel H. <Nigel.Tzeng at>:
>> Ben,
>> Your adjustment would be fine from my perspective. Whether NASA legal
>> agrees we'll see. :)
>> It would be better though if there was some Federal Open Source
>> that addresses government needs and could be reused across many agencies
>> when just having code in the public domain wasn't good enough.
>> Arguably, they could just reuse one of the many existing ones and they
>> often do.  There are possibly some issues that might be somewhat unique
>> enough that might require a new license.  Notice the plethora of weasel
>> words in the previous sentence...but given the often arcane federal
>> requisition rules I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't something. :)
>> Nothing I see addressed by NOSA though.
>> Nigel
>> On 4/28/11 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
>>>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>
>>>> 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
>>>>> NOSA code.  This is clearly stated in:
>>>>> 3.I. A Recipient may create a Larger Work by combining Subject
>>>>> with separate software not governed by the terms of this agreement
>>>>> 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
>>>>> code so even 3.G doesn't restrict the ability to modify the core code
>>>>> third party open source software not of your creation so long as the
>>>>> license is less restrictive than NOSA (aka permissive licenses).
>>>>> have taken NOSA code and clearly forked it as a derived MPL project
>>>>> NASA's blessings then added lots of 3rd party code.
>>>>> If "free" software "depends" on "combining" code from third parties
>>>>> most copyleft licenses aren't "free" software either since I can't
>>>>> two copylefts either under the FSF interpretation of derivative
>>>>> 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
>>>>> 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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