Re: Open Source licensing, Take 2

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Tue May 10 2005 - 13:58:53 CDT

Ed,

> It is preferable to use an existing license, which has been
> hammered on by lawyers and geeks, for the same reason that Open
> Source software is to be preferred.
>
We have lots of lawyers and geeks to hammer on any language we come up with.
I don't see a constraint there. We need to ensure that the licensing model
fits for the elections world, the principles of open voting, and in
particular, the OVC concept. We don't want to have to shoe-horn all that
into an existing license model just because. I actually don't know all the
issues but I'm pretty sure what we're trying to do is sufficiently different
and sufficiently important to warrant a re-write.

There are lots of licenses to consider. For example, this chart shows
attributes of 54 licenses:

http://www.mass.gov/Aitd/docs/quickrefchart.xls

>> For example, provisions about
>> how modifications are done are different for voting software
>> since and modified software has to go through certification.
>
> That is no argument against the GPL, as far as I can see.
>
I think that the peculiarities of how and why voting software requires
maintenance, and differences in motivations, consequences of defects, etc.,
are such that we really need a fresh look at all of it.

> Our license should permit any modification whatsoever. ...
>
All OS licenses allow that (see column H in the spreadsheet above).

> Separately we will need to make it clear that conforming
> to the license doesn't mean that modified software can be
> used in an election unless it is completely tested.
>
Well, yes, but there is more to it than that.

> There are other kinds of software subject to government testing
> that are still distributed under GPL. I worked for a company
> that put out an 'avionics-grade' Linux, certified for use in
> airplanes, surgical robots (when we get to that point), and
> other life-and-death critical applications. Nobody knowledgeable
> in those industries would have supposed that they could legally
> twiddle the certified software and use it without retesting.
>
Still, processes, threat model, motivations, legal compliance (highly
variable in election code), distribution model, business model, etc., are
likely to be sufficiently different that straight GPL is unlikely to have
all the features we need.

Alan D.

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Received on Tue May 31 23:17:31 2005

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