NASA requests help finding gov't use of standard OSS licenses.

VanL van.lindberg at
Wed May 4 00:17:25 UTC 2011

On 5/3/2011 9:17 AM, Tzeng, Nigel H. wrote:
> On 5/3/11 9:42 AM, "VanL"<van.lindberg at>  wrote:
>> The problem was that frequently contractors would take NASA-written code
>> in the public domain, trivially modify it, and then sell it back to the
>> government at a large markup. Note that this is still happening - see
>> the many closed forks of VistA.
> Trivial modifications can be trivially replicated by another contractor.
> Closed forks of VistA either have extremely gullible customers or provide
> additional functionality these customers deem useful enough to pay for.

... or they have purchasing guidelines and omnibus contracts that are 
divorced from the realities on the ground. That never happens with 
government work.

> Can you provide examples where trivial modifications of NASA code was
> resold to the federal government at a large markup?


> Given that the NSA had released SE-Linux in 2000 and NOSA 1.1 submitted
> for approval in 2004 I'm curious if you have evidence of this perception?

Three things. First, SE-Linux is/was a modification of an 
already-existing piece of software, with an already-existing license 
that requires subsequent licensing of derivative works under the GPL. 
WorldWind (and some other projects) were original NASA code. The two 
cases are not comparable.

Second, with reference to examples where the government was resold its 
own code, I don't have those at my fingertips.  I just know Bryan Geurts 
(the author of the NOSA), and I know that this was a perceived problem 
in the 2003 timeframe.

Third, don't shoot the messenger; I understand the issues with the NOSA. 
Based on the initial ask by Karl, it seemed that there was some context 
that was not being appreciated by those on this list. I have no dog in 
this fight.

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