Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th Sep 2017 21:20 UTC
GNU, GPL, Open Source

Digital services offered and used by public administrations are the critical infrastructure of 21st-century democratic nations. To establish trustworthy systems, government agencies must ensure they have full control over systems at the core of our digital infrastructure. This is rarely the case today due to restrictive software licences.

Today, 31 organisations are publishing an open letter in which they call for lawmakers to advance legislation requiring publicly financed software developed for the public sector be made available under a Free and Open Source Software licence.

Good initiative, and a complete and utter no-brainer. Public money, public code.

Thread beginning with comment 648965
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
utter no-brainer? no
by l3v1 on Sun 17th Sep 2017 16:15 UTC
l3v1
Member since:
2005-07-06

Oversimplification is never good.

There are lots of r&d projects that have large parts of public money in them, e.g., EU/Commission funded projects, but many others as well (e.g., some of ESA or EDA projects, etc.) that require a fairly high TRL level output, e.g., above tech demo. Which means you arrive to a level almost ready to market. Also, most of these projects are required to be led by some mid- or large industrial entity and have other industrial partners involved. Now, if developed sw solutions would always be required to be open, imagine how much these partners would be motivated to contribute. I've been involved in a number of such projects, and let me tell you, it wouldn't work. Even without such requirements sometimes is still hard to get substantial contributions from such companies, especially if they are in the business of building and bringing solutions to market - which hopefully they are, otherwise their participation wouldn't bring much to any table. Also, some projects having at least partial public funding can have secret outputs, especially defence- or force protection-related ones.

So, while in the general sense, I don't have anything against open sourcing what can be opened - especially since I work in research myself -, I'm just saying it wouldn't be a good solution to be overly broad in such regulation (or call simple solution ideas as no-brainers), since - as always - most issues are more complex than they seem, especially for outsiders.

Reply Score: 2

RE: utter no-brainer? no
by Sidux on Mon 18th Sep 2017 10:03 in reply to "utter no-brainer? no"
Sidux Member since:
2015-03-10

Apple would disagree with oversimplifying things not being great business model.
Problem is most people hate bureaucracy. It just takes someone with huge PR potential skills to highlight the usefulness of a simplified model and some backup from government entities and you have a recipe for success.
History did prove over and over again that not simplifying this is not always the best bet in keeping yourself in the market, even if we're talking about public funding.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: utter no-brainer? no
by Alfman on Mon 18th Sep 2017 13:55 in reply to "utter no-brainer? no"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

l3v1,

Even without such requirements sometimes is still hard to get substantial contributions from such companies, especially if they are in the business of building and bringing solutions to market - which hopefully they are, otherwise their participation wouldn't bring much to any table.



Many private companies will fight it tooth and nail, however you could argue from a utilitarian perspective that A) the government has every right (and reason) to demand it from it's contractors and B) contractors who don't want to agree to the terms will be loosing their business (and profits) as the government replaces them with contractors who do. The rules of supply and demand still apply even with FOSS: as the demand for proprietary software drops, then private corporations will need to start embracing open source in order to continue getting the lucrative government contracts.


Also, some projects having at least partial public funding can have secret outputs, especially defence- or force protection-related ones.


Technically this requirement doesn't conflict with open source licenses like GPL (*). The government, as the software recipient would explicitly have rights to the source code, but the GPL doesn't create an obligation for the government to release it themselves. So there's no conflict here.

* I'm not suggesting GPL would be the best license to use, but just using it as an example here.


Now I can imagine the US government not wanting foreign military allies to have the source code. They could prohibit private US companies from selling military equipment under open source licenses to other governments, which breaks the spirit of open source. I'm not sure how much merit there is to this since, if we're being honest, it would be pretty stupid to assume that anyone buying the military systems couldn't reverse engineer them anyways.



Ultimately while this is an interesting debate, I don't believe the public interests are sufficiently represented in government to actually pull it off. For better or worse, many politicians are corrupted by ties to the business world and continue to represent private companies even in public office.

Edited 2017-09-18 14:05 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3