NASA Technical Report Recommends Adopting Mozilla Public License
Sunday May 18th, 2003
Adam Hauner wrote in to tell us about a NASA technical report which recommends that the US space agency distribute some of their software under the Mozilla Public License. The report, by Patrick J. Moran of the NAS Systems Division at the NASA Ames Research Center, explains how open source is compatible with NASA's mission and evaluates several licenses before recommending that the Mozilla Public License be an option for software distribution.
The document lists several reasons why the MPL was chosen: "the license is recognized by the Open Source Initiative, there would be no need to develop yet another license and submit it to the OSI for approval; by requiring that derived work also be Open Source, NASA has some assurance that derivative works will be available to the agency; the license was developed with input from legal and technical experts and subjected to public review, it appears to be one of the more carefully written licenses available; the license does not have the GPL 'license capture' feature, in general it does not have the political baggage of the GNU licenses."
#2 How would an open model effect national security?
Monday May 19th, 2003 1:23 AM
While I am pleased that NASA is going towards OSS with the MPL, I have a concern. If NASA is working on software that could have an impact on national security, could NASA remove the MPL from the code?
#3 Re: How would an open model effect national securi
Monday May 19th, 2003 6:39 AM
From what I understand about the open software liscenses as a group, the source code must be made available to anyone that gets binary access to the program. Therefore, any software that is used exclusively in-house would not have to share the source code to the rest of the world.
This way the NSA, CIA, NASA, etc. can modify open source software without any worries *unless* they want to redistribute the software. Then they have to release all the source to whatever binaries they release.
Since these guys won't be releasing binaries (since they can always be reverse engineered), there's really no good reason for them to not use open source software.
If, of course, I understand the liscenses correctly. :-)
>If NASA is working on software that could have an impact on national security, could NASA remove the MPL from the code?
I don't think the plan is to release flight control software under any lisense, let alone open source. The idea is that tools developed in NASA, for example scientific or mathematical packages would be open sourced so that they could be used by the entire academic community. They might also continue to release some software in a closed source form.
On a different note, did anyone else notice that the license comparision in the report is lifted almost directly from the MPL FAQ.
As someone who works with NASA (on the HST) and is an Open Source advocate I am really pleased to see these ideas starting to receive official sanction.
Educational institutions have embraced Open Source from the beginning. It is time that the U.S. government do the same. Remember that everything that NASA does is done with public money. The taxpayers have paid for the software and deserve to be able to use and modify it. As an enlightened nation we should share this privilege with the world. This drives progress.
I also believe that Open Source licenses are a wonderful complement to the Freedom of Information Act and are in keeping with the principle of transparent government.
Kudos to the Mozilla team for creating (and publicizing) a license that furthers the movement and one that people are not afraid of.