Re: License for EVM?

From: David Mertz <voting-project_at_gnosis_dot_cx>
Date: Thu Aug 14 2003 - 20:04:46 CDT

"Alan Dechert" <> wrote:
|For the demo, however, I don't think it's very important. When you say
|"EVM" I assume you're talking about the demo. i.e., since the software
|is throwaway and has no conceivable use other than demonstration

I think this is almost certainly wrong (as I sorta raised in private
email). Having an attitude that is solely directed to throwing away the
demo probably pushes any adoption MANY extra years into the future (my
guess, at least five years).

Work always expands to fill available money. If this project is driven
wholly by the goal of getting grants (rather than pushing democracy),
the eventual development will never stop as long as money can be
generated... and hence the system will never be concretely used.

In any case, even for a demo, without explicit terms, we don't know we
have the right to use the code for the demo. Hypothetically, one of us
developers could claim copyrights (and no license grant) the day before
a scheduled demo... and either kill the demonstration, or at least put
it into a deep legal quagmire. Who knows, maybe Diebold or ESS will
offer me a bribe to kill the project... I should not have that power.

|If the production software is developed under a core grant (or grants)
|to the University of California, it's likely that the license agreement
|(where the client is a county government) will be written by UC Lawyers.

Sure, maybe. But if I or the elections department of my home state
don't like those license agreements (e.g. using code that belongs to UC,
not to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts [or to whomever]), I'd feel a
lot better about having the demo code base freely available.

The UC system--no less than any other organization or company--is a
bunch of people with their own self-interest, motives, political
intrigues, and so on. Electoral democracy is more important than any
such narrowly institutional interests.

In fact, that's a lot of why I like public domain better than the other
options. Say a bunch of UC researchers get a bunch of money, and launch
a project. Then they develop fiefdoms, personal conflicts, differing
visions, acquire interests in proprietary competitors, and so on. I
don't want such a (quite realistic) possibility to prevent someone else
from having access to every single bit of work done for EVM2003. Public
domain gives everyone the same unconditional rights to the whole thing
(but I understand the GPL argument here also... in fact, constraining
some future system by that means is a good thing).

This project sure as heck shouldn't be just another commercial product,
but one that happens to be owned by UC rather than ESS. That falls
painfully short of the sort of transparency that is important.

|For the production software, I don't think Public Domain will do. It will
|be important to identify a specific entity which owns the software and
|handles version control and maintenance issues, as well as providing a site
|for download of the authentic product (and perhaps tools to authenticate the

Version control and authentication are entirely different--and almost
entirely unrelated--issues from license terms and ownership. Code that
is public domain still needs someone to provide certification of its
accuracy (whether that means code audits, or simply that the code
delivered was not tampered with).

Yours, David...

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Received on Sun Aug 31 23:17:09 2003

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