[Community] PCL license question
Chris.Barker at noaa.gov
Mon Nov 27 23:24:44 EET 2006
Sean Gillies wrote:
> On IRC I made a glib comment about federal employees soon being
> entirely replaced by contractors. I seriously hope that does not come
> to pass.
me too! -- but you're right, it's going that way.
> In September, I met federal employees and contractors at a meeting of
> the Front Range Users of Geospatial Open Source. These were folks
> from BLM, Forest Service, and contractors to the DOE, DOD, and USGS.
> My impression after the meeting was that federal employees will have
> ever-increasing mandates to use off-the-shelf software instead of
> developing their own applications.
Probably true too.
> What if we switched the PCL license to accomodate federally employed
> programmers and no one came?
Well, I don't think they'll be a flood of users in any case. The
question is if GPL will fit your needs too. My impression is that the
goal of the GPL really is that there be no proprietary software --
realistically, few think that will happen, but that is the goal, and it
was designed with that in mind.
More specifically, I think the GPL should be used if the author does not
want their stuff used in proprietary projects. Ever.
That was not the impression I got from your note. I got the impression
that you didn't want people using your code, improving on it, then
keeping those improvements to themselves. I fully understand that
(actually I understand the above, too), but I think that the LGPL would
fulfill that goal.
> Is my impression wrong?
Well, no. A couple years ago the Dept. of Commerce (where NOAA sits)
declared that we aren't supposed to hire programmers. In fact, about
half of our in-house coders are contractors, and we recently hired an
"applied mathematician" to write code for us.
The thing is, that the GPL can work OK if you are hiring a company to
develop a particular well-defined piece of software, but most of our
tools need to be developed and improved on an ongoing basis, as our
needs change. It's also very helpful that the users of our in-house
tools are often developers themselves. So, while we use contractors to
develop a lot of code, it would be hard to never have a federal employee
touch it. I suppose we wouldn't have to do that, but it gets tricky if
we can't be the releasing body.
All this could probably be worked around anyway. However, there are
stronger forces that are trying to make it illegal for the feds to
support any GPL software all, which is of a much greater concern. In
fact, that's why it just gets harder to deal with management if we need
to use the GPL, more than the actual legal restrictions.
Some food for thought. You should certainly stick with a license that
best meets your goals.
Christopher Barker, Ph.D.
Emergency Response Division
NOAA/NOS/OR&R (206) 526-6959 voice
7600 Sand Point Way NE (206) 526-6329 fax
Seattle, WA 98115 (206) 526-6317 main reception
Chris.Barker at noaa.gov
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