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New DoD Memo On Open Source Software

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the rules-of-engagement dept.

The Military 146

dwheeler writes "The US Department of Defense has just released a new official memo on open source software: 'Clarifying Guidance Regarding Open Source Software (OSS).' (The memo should be up shortly on this DoD site.) This memo is important for anyone who works with the DoD, including contractors, on software and systems that include software; it may influence many other organizations as well. The DoD had released a memo back in 2003, but 'misconceptions and misinterpretations... have hampered effective DoD use and development of OSS.' The new memo tries to counter those misconceptions and misinterpretations, and is very positive about OSS. In particular, it lists a number of potential advantages of OSS, and recommends that in certain cases the DoD release software as OSS."

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hmm military using OSS (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29890817)

gives a new meaning to terms such as "fatal exception" and "kernel panic"

Re:hmm military using OSS (5, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29890871)

I think you meant "Colonel Panic".

Re:hmm military using OSS (1)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891013)

"Crashes" take on a whole new importance too...

Re:hmm military using OSS (5, Funny)

Migala77 (1179151) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891073)

I'm still wondering what happened to General Protection Fault.

Is he retired? Missing In Action?

Re:hmm military using OSS (5, Funny)

md65536 (670240) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892029)

He was involved in some illegal operations and they ended up shutting down the whole program. I heard they were calling for the death penalty but his execution was halted at the last minute.

Re:hmm military using OSS (0, Redundant)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892589)

hilarious. mod him funny!

Re:hmm military using OSS (0, Redundant)

Frnknstn (663642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29893523)

Where are my mod points? MOD UP FUNNY!

Re:hmm military using OSS (2, Funny)

Bat Country (829565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892071)

Somebody took exception to him.

Re:hmm military using OSS (4, Funny)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891229)

Major Malfunction got promoted?

Re:hmm military using OSS (3, Insightful)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892209)

No, General Failure screwed up once too often...

Re:hmm military using OSS (1)

hardwarefreak (899370) | more than 4 years ago | (#29893181)

No, General Failure screwed up once too often...

No, it was really General Protection's fault.

Re:hmm military using OSS (1)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 4 years ago | (#29894073)

Did he abuse Private Memory again?

Re:hmm military using OSS (1)

tukia (1375091) | more than 4 years ago | (#29893321)

It's just an attempt by General Failure to spy on us again... General Failure reading this, General Failure reading that ....

Re:hmm military using OSS (1)

Tim99 (984437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892661)

No, he got forked.

This is very odd... (5, Funny)

Zarf (5735) | more than 4 years ago | (#29890819)

the government is acting intelligently. I feel strange.

Re:This is very odd... (5, Insightful)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 4 years ago | (#29890873)

a 2009 memo to clarify a 2003 memo. ...and acting at speed of light too!

Re:This is very odd... (4, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29890895)

Faster than the speed of light.
It's a tachyon memo from now to 2003.

Just think! Once they receive the memo, 2003 and onward will happen with the new memo.
Thus, the present will be altered, and we'll have all the benefits of the new memo being in effect for 6 full year.

Re:This is very odd... (1)

Garridan (597129) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892043)

No, probably not. You can't trust messages from the future -- even from yourself! You may have been compromised by the enemy.

Re:This is very odd... (1, Interesting)

Locutus (9039) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891351)

probably has more to do with who's now running the office of the President. Remember, in 2001 that same administration who sat on the 2003 memo canceled the hybrid vehicle DoT program and pushed forward the hydrogen vehicle program which stopped all US auto makers from continuing with hybrids and instead just made $1 million hydrogen prototypes. They were so pro business they felt it was best they decided what was bad for their business partners and what was best for the pockets of their business partners.

the current administration is still making mistakes but they are also doing some things right. We shall see if the DoD has figured this out. My guess is yes. I'd heard of some programs which had been failing and running up costs using Microsoft stuff and when that was swapped out for OSS, the projects started making real progress. There used to be alot of UNIX in the DoD but Windows found its way in and really depreciated the quality and reliability they used to have( where I once worked atleast ). Maybe they finally figured out it's time to stop being a sucker and go with what not only is often more reliable but is totally open for them to play in but also fix and bend to do things not originally intended. IMO

LoB

Re:This is very odd... (5, Interesting)

xyphor (151066) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891809)

probably has more to do with who's now running the office of the President.

No, Obama had nothing to do with it. I sent comments about the draft version of this document well over a year ago. Yes, it takes government this long to do something this logical and simple.

Re:This is very odd... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29892331)

But I thought Obama was personally responsible for every single thing in the massive US government! Are you saying the Internet lied to me?

Re:This is very odd... (2, Interesting)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 4 years ago | (#29893359)

Obama is responsible for everything that happens in his Government.

I learned that lesson during my Officer training. It was my final 'lead' assessment, and we were on a patrol against hostile forces. My team had been briefed twice that day on the rules of engagement by me, and my 2IC was briefed by me a third time as well as he had to give the brief to another group. I'd then checked understanding of the ROE with the group after he'd done so.

We went on patrol and encountered enemy. We had one of the enemy guys cornered and he 'surrendered' walking toward my squad with his hands in the air. My 2IC saw the enemy guy, and recognized him as one of his best mates. In about one second he raised his rifle - and with a grin on his face - fired (blanks) at the guy. By the time he had his weapon at his shoulder I was yelling at him to stand-down, but he continued and 'shot' the prisoner. I was hauled over the coals by the instructors, and my final mark was going to be the difference between a distinguished graduation and merit graduation. I said "OK, what could I have done differently to get a higher mark?" The answer: "Nothing. You did everything right, you've just learned a hard lesson in leadership. You are responsible for the actions of your team. If this were real you'd be up on war crimes."

The lesson: You are responsible for the actions of your team.

Re:This is very odd... (2, Insightful)

The Evil Couch (621105) | more than 4 years ago | (#29893515)

Within the military community, you're absolutely correct, but politicians are rarely held to the same standard. If Joe Biden shot someone without provocation, Obama wouldn't face any problems but pressure to fire Biden and have him stand trial. If Private Joe Snuffy shoots someone for the hell of it, his Platoon Leader's getting fired.

Re:This is very odd... (4, Insightful)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 4 years ago | (#29893617)

Within the military community, you're absolutely correct, but politicians are rarely held to the same standard. If Joe Biden shot someone without provocation, Obama wouldn't face any problems but pressure to fire Biden and have him stand trial.

wait, so what happened with Bush & Cheney when Cheney did shoot someone?

Re:This is very odd... (5, Informative)

risacher (41716) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892865)

I wrote the memo (mostly). Here's some historical context:

In 2001-2002 (or so), the Defense Information Systems Agency was in the process of certifying RHEL as being compliant with the Common Operating Environment, which was like a DoD-version of the LSB, sorta. Rumor has it (was before my time) that a certain OS vendor (popular in the desktop space) took exception to this fact and drafted an unsolicited memo for the DoD CIO, which effectively would have banned OSS.

The DoD CIO at the time was a guy named John Stenbit. Stenbit was (and is) a strong-willed visionary, who wasn't about to roll over for anybody, so he (through DISA) commissioned a survey of how much OSS was currently in use in DoD. The study got farmed out to MITRE, specifically a guy named Terry Bollinger. The results of the study were that OSS was being used in lots of places across DoD, in some cases for mission-critical things, and interestingly extensively by the information assurance community. (e.g. snort)

So Stenbit got someone to write a new memo, which he signed in 2003. It said roughly: OSS is okay, it's just like other software, but make sure that you get approval before you use it. (Same as anything else.) Stenbit retired from gov't in 2004.

In April 2008, the Deputy CIO (Dave Wennergren) got the idea that we ought to have updated DoD guidance on Open Source Software. I believe it was suggested to him by Scott McNealy (Sun), Art Money (former DoD CIO from 1999-2001), and Bill Vass (Sun, but former gov't executive under the DoD CIO). Dave asked around if there was anybody on the CIO staff at the time who knew much about OSS. That ended up being me.

I was a CS major at MIT, class of '95; used to work down the hall from Richard Stallman. I was on ROTC scholarship and later served about 6 years as an active-duty officer. I started working as a civilian in gov't in 2002, and in 2004 I took a position with the office of DoD CIO - partially so that I'd be in the right place to advocate OSS in gov't.

Four years later, I got an golden opportunity: I got the task to figure out what the updated OSS guidance should say.

I drafted the memo, with help from lots of folks, including David Wheeler, John Scott, LtCol John Barrette, Dave Emery, Terry Bollinger, MaryAnn Kiefer, Roger Loeb, Frank Petroski, Monique Pryce, JC Herz, and probably others I forgot to mention. I briefed the concept to Wennergren. Got feedback. Revised. Sent out to other offices in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for coordination. Sent to the Military Department CIO offices for coordination. Spent many, many hours coordinating and revising with the Office of General Counsel (OGC) for the OSD, the Army, USAF, and Dept of Navy. It was mostly done a year ago, but it kept getting held up because someone wanted to review and comment.

One paragraph in the memo is traceable to a particularly heinous licensing debacle with a particular software vendor (not Microsoft) that affected a particular software project, and could have been avoided by using OSS.

The lawyers were by far the biggest delay. I wanted to reference the Open Source Definition (published by the Open Source Initiative), but lawyers wouldn't let me, on the grounds that doing so could be considered an endorsement of a non-federal entity, which would violate the Joint Ethics Regulation. I argued that this was a ludicrous interpretation of the JER, and eviscerates the authority granted to the CIO by the Clinger-Cohen Act. But after months of no-progress, I compromised and the final memo does not reference the OSI.

There was no direct involvement by the White House for the 2009 memo, and I don't think for the 2003 memo either. The generally favorable attitude from the current administration toward "openness" meant that I (and I think Mr. Wennergren) felt a pro-open memo would be well received, but we didn't consult with the WH, nor does the WH get that deep into agency policy - even for an agency as big as DoD. If the WH wanted to push policy on OSS, they'd do it through OMB for the whole executive branch. There was a rumor for a while that the WH might pick a former Microsoft exec as the DoD CIO, which might have scuttled the effort, but that hasn't happened.

Mr Wennergren is giving the morning keynote at GOSCON on 5 Nov 09, and I anticipate he'll talk a bit about the memo.

Re:This is very odd... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29893375)

So this means we can blame you when they screw it up? Did you define within the memo open source as the OSI definition then in place of pointing to OSI's definition? I would think as long as it got defined within the government verbatim what the OSI states open source is it would be OK since it seems that the problem is point to it might be conceived as endorsing it and possible changes. If you define it then any changes aren't necessarily endorsed. I would think the fact an outside organization came up with it would be OK.

Re:This is very odd... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29893665)

Thanks for the clarification. I do believe that this is the first time a Slashdot comment has actually added solid information to an article. ;-)

For that, and for your time in uniform, thanks.

(Former Infantry Grunt)

Re:This is very odd... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29890927)

You shouldn't. The fact that you are alive at all is in large part thanks to government acting intelligently, or do you want to leave things like fire, ambulance, and general infrastructure to the likes of Enron, Microsoft and Halliburton?

Re:This is very odd... (1)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891031)

Wait... we didn't?

Re:This is very odd... (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891015)

the government is acting intelligently. I feel strange.

Maybe they have been taken over by aliens.

Re:This is very odd... (5, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891085)

The government has always acted in its own interests. Perhaps they have realised that releasing software as OSS suits their purposes.

Re:This is very odd... (1)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891233)

Nah they'll help you. Whether you like it or not.

Re:This is very odd... (2, Insightful)

rezonat0r (409674) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891407)

The government has always acted in its own interests. Perhaps they have realised that releasing software as OSS suits their purposes.

People have always acted in their own interests. A good government (one that is of and by the people) acting in its own interest is acting in your interest as well.

Not saying this is always the case, but it does happen. Using your money to develop software that is licensed for you to use freely is a good example.

Re:This is very odd... (2, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891457)

Good governments are rare if not non-existent. When you empower one group to rule over another, the temptation to use that power to benefit the ruling group is very strong.

Re:This is very odd... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29892009)

'Good' in that respect would require a recognition that even with the best intentions, thing can still fail, and often make things worse. Small, distributed risk means small distributed failure where by contrast fascism (large centralized control) only increased the magnitude at which people will be harmed, as well as harm density often damaging the ability for corrections to be made. Monolithic approaches on the whole tend to fail in the extreme at parallel processing denying otherwise independent cells to observe, learn from, and correct the mistakes of their operation.
 
The only good government is one that protects people from being the lab rats of moral/social/ethical experimentation. In a respect, the only ethical purpose of government is to preserve anarchy. Humanity takes care of the rest, and if it couldn't then there would not be anybody worth electing.

Re:This is very odd... (1)

rob333 (1059248) | more than 4 years ago | (#29893089)

Not really; they've realized that a LONG time ago. SELinux is basically an NSA creation, and was the first implementation of mandatory access controls for Linux. As the DOD implements and requires a MAC system for obvious reasons on their essential systems, this brought using Linux into the realm of possibility way back in 2000.

Re: This is very even (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29891773)

Microsoft products don't cut it with the interoperability.

Take a look at SharePoint for instances, It's painful to move data in and out. Sure there is the SDK, PowerShell, and good old manual labor.
But these products are sub-par. The SDK was written by what looks in the amount of 50 people who all had different ideas on proper coding.
PowerShell isn't even close to the usability as vbscript. Who ever heard of a function that returned the entire transaction, database table, and all the output feedback along the way.

By the way, forget coding for SharePoint on a workstation, you basically only code on a Windows SharePoint Services or MOSS server. Sure you can use Virtual Machines but forget that when you are
paying for per seat licenses. Got to be legit.

Another thing is that Microsoft makes everything seem like a risk. Global Unique Identifiers are on everything.
You have to activate your copy of Sh(it)arePoint Designer, Visual Studio[Torpedo].
Intellisense sometimes is missing things. It makes you dumb as you come to rely on it. Team Studio costs too much and is more complicated than CVS. .Net was a bad Idea. Ever notice it takes approximately 15 seconds to spool up an asp.net application.
That compounded with the 30 seconds you have to wait for your data to be retrieved from SQL Server and shoved in
a datagrid's Session State. Shouldn't there be automated paging by now?

C# is basically just becoming a python rip off.

Remember LINQ? 2XML 2SQL If you tried to use the XML you noticed it wasn't exactly finished. "namespaces?"

After a while the Xbox 360 will require you to go online to validate you are playing the game you are playing.
The games will be registered to you via a 32bit GUID that is randomly generated by the tool from Visual Studio.
Then you'll find out that at least 10 other people own your copy of Fears of War Unlimited. You are a pirate and you 360 has been
deactivated. Thats just where this hysteria is headed. EA, you're just as bad.

The Department of Defense would do well to just go totally opensource.

Ubuntu clients, Redhat servers, skys the limit.

But here is the problem with that. Redhat doesn't really want to attempt to compete in the desktop market.
They publicly stated this. This is BAD. Because they have to. They need too.
They have people capable of fixing the problems in components such as Xorg, the Kernel, and Gnome.
They have the capability to fork projects and put out decent alternatives.

Distributions act like they are Linux Prime the leader of the Great Linux.
But truly there is no one person Linux belongs too or you can go to to blame.
That's the best thing about it. Nobody really owns it. Nobody is going to come and put you jail for using it.
Nobody is going to force you to pay tax on it.

Ubuntu has a good Desktop product. But I'm not sure about the caliber of their employees.
I'm not sure they can continue to drag Debian along.

In an enterprise environment you need things to work. That's the problem with open source.
Companies aren't being forced to invest in the product. Sony should make sure the kernel supports it's laptops.
Intel should insure there are sufficient drivers for its latest video cards, network cards, and modems.

Another problem is Microsoft will slip in one of their MVP salesman and your management get big eyes about the possibilities.

But whatever. I don't care.

Cool story, bro. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29892187)

tl;dr

Re: This is very even (1)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892833)

I like how you made up half your story. Like the bit about everything needing activation. You know, no paid Microsoft developer tools need activation (developers may be the only group Microsoft treats relatively decently, but I digress).

Your stuff about ASP.NET is a lie too. Or rather, it takes as long to spin up the ASP.NET runtime as the Java or ColdFusion runtimes. Of course, ASP.NET isn't Open Source so clearly it's not good enough for you.

NMCI (4, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29890839)

I think at least 50% of the technical people in the Navy and Marine Corp would like to see (the next version of) NMCI switch to an open-source OS.

At least they can always dream...

Re:NMCI (1, Insightful)

superid (46543) | more than 4 years ago | (#29890997)

Are you KIDDING me? The SAME people forcing me to use IE6 want me to use OSS??

Re:NMCI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29891909)

Are you KIDDING me? The SAME people forcing me to use IE6 want me to use OSS??

Remember EDS isn't forcing anything that wasn't a GDA....

Re:NMCI (2, Interesting)

thtrgremlin (1158085) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892033)

I wouldn't complain to much about getting all the right tools for all the wrong reasons; better than all the wrong tools for the wrong reasons.

Re:NMCI (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892445)

I wouldn't complain to much about getting all the right tools for all the wrong reasons; better than all the wrong tools for the wrong reasons.

Yes, but from what I've heard, NMCI is providing all the wrong tools for all the wrong reasons.

Re:NMCI (2, Interesting)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892697)

I am a contractor on an Air Force project. My facility is up to IE 7 and windows Vista. IE 8 is strictly forbidden, and firefox is not approved for use on the project, though it works just fine with the exception that the default font is a little to small to comfortably read.

But ... (1)

KC1P (907742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29890887)

>and recommends that in certain cases the DoD release software as OSS.

How can the DoD release software under a copyleft license when the federal government is incapable of holding copyrights in the first place? I thought it was all automatically PD if it's not secret? Not that that's stopped anyone from asserting copyright when it suits them.

Re:But ... (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29890921)

Because the code will be developed by an outside contractor, and the copyright will be held by them.

Re:But ... (3, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891131)

Anything funded by the federal government including private work should be considered the property of the people and thus released into the public domain.
We, the public, should not be expected to pay twice for work done by the private sector. Either we pay for the work and have all of it released for us to utilize or the work remains proprietary and receives no funding from the public.

Re:But ... (5, Informative)

samkass (174571) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891271)

No software these days is developed from scratch, and the Government would be paying way, way more if it tried and probably getting significantly worse products. Most major programs utilize some proprietary code, for which the Government pays for "Government Purpose Rights". That means that the Government can use the software and often even demand the source code and deliver it to other contractors. But no one is allowed to use it for non-Government projects without contacting the original author and attaining their own license. It's kind of a Government version of dual-licensed open source.

Re:But ... (1)

thtrgremlin (1158085) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892051)

I think that was exactly what wizardforce was arguing against.

Re:But ... (2, Interesting)

risacher (41716) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892961)

For the Defense Department, the contractor typically retains the copyright to whatever they develop, and the gov't gets "government purpose rights" to it, or in some cases "unlimited rights". This is the way rules are laid out in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement. The DFARS read they way they do because Title 41, US Code says it should be that way. (Or in some cases, Title 10).

Individual procurements can be different, depending on the negotiated terms of the contract. The DFARS specifies what amounts to "default" clauses, that are usually in place.

Keep in mind that most gov't employees (and most gov't contractors) have never actually seen a real contract, much less read it. That's what lawyers and contracting officers do... so program/project managers frequently don't actually know what intellectual rights they own.

Also, it's different for the rest of the federal government (i.e. non-Defense). Copyrights are one of the areas where the FAR and DFARS differ.

Re:But ... (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#29893215)

Keep in mind that most gov't employees (and most gov't contractors) have never actually seen a real contract, much less read it. That's what lawyers and contracting officers do... so program/project managers frequently don't actually know what intellectual rights they own.

Not so in my experience, project managers will find out 'what's in the contract' if the contractor is claiming rights to the code just as soon as they try to re-bid the contract and ask the incumbent to hand over their code.

This was on the civilian side and contractor claimed all the code belonged to them. FAR said anything they brought from in-house previously developed and re-used on our project remained property of the contractor. Almost nothing was re-used.

We also had lots of contractors refusing to do the work to Certify and Accredit systems until it was written into their contracts. C&A is now covered under the FAR.

On the flip side contractor worker bees almost never read the contracts they are working on, so its managers that ensure scope creep turns into more money through contract mods.

Re:But ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29892797)

This may also cause an issue if one government contractor is contracted to modify the code submitted by a different contractor. Depending on the contracts involved, the second contractor may need to submit a request to the original contractor for permission to distribute a derivative work (IE, fix one of their errors). Its not quite as bad as it sounds, but its still a hassle.

Re:But ... (2, Insightful)

Yfrwlf (998822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29893277)

If the government created its own software, it would be far, far, far far far cheaper, especially of course any software used on millions of computers like for education, police, fire, etc, but also for the bloated central government as well. For example, school districts across the country paying $$$$$$ for hundreds of thousands of licenses for Reader Rabbit could easily pay 1/100000 the cost and developer their own. All it takes is communication/coordination/working together, which is of course what OSS is. Once you have the software, updating/improving it costs even less usually and so future costs would be very low unlike with closed software usually demanding the same high costs over and over again. That adds up.

Re:But ... (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892759)

Anything funded by the federal government including private work should be considered the property of the people and thus released into the public domain.

I'll generally agree with you, but there is privately developed software in use by the government, and the military in particular that isn't going to be released on the basis that releasing it would help our enemies more than it'd help citizens of the United States. Stuff like nuclear explosion simulation programs, ballistic missile targeting/flight programs, etc...

Now, things like the NSA linux build is available [nsa.gov] .

There's other software available, if you know where to look, but most of it isn't that useful to the average person.

Then again, such private work isn't exactly going to be 'free use' for the contractor either - it's developed for the government, with all rights handed over to the government.

Re:But ... (2, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29890953)

How can the DoD release software under a copyleft license when the federal government is incapable of holding copyrights in the first place?

Government agencies are required, IIRC, to respect* private copyrights, and releasing software that is derivative of private works that are under a copyleft license under the same license might be consistent with (and might even be necessary, if the software is released at all, to comply with) those regulations.

* As I understand, its not bound in the same way a private party is, but is restricted under the law in what it can do with copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright holder.

Re:But ... (2, Interesting)

Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891007)

How can the DoD release software under a copyleft license when the federal government is incapable of holding copyrights in the first place?

Come on! I like the GPL as much as any other free-software-loving-commie but even I don't think OSS==copyleft. Public domain, along with BSD and MIT type licenses are recognized as open source (heck, software released under them is even recognized as "free" by the free software crowd).

Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29892629)

That's because things that are released into the public domain are truly free, as opposed to those things that are released under various licenses, which are not truly free even though they are less encumbered than things released under normal copyright.

Re:But ... (3, Insightful)

KillerBob (217953) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891059)

How can the DoD release software under a copyleft license when the federal government is incapable of holding copyrights in the first place? I thought it was all automatically PD if it's not secret? Not that that's stopped anyone from asserting copyright when it suits them.

Just because the DoD develops software doesn't mean they have to release it at all. You can request the software under Access to Information (FOIA in the US, I think?), but they can always cite national security reasons for not releasing, say, the guidance code for the Tomahawk missile.

Without having read the memo in full, I would presume that they're talking about what license to use when releasing stuff. I'd sincerely doubt that they would use something like the GPL/LGPL to release code, but there are other open source licences that are more in line with what the government does. The ones that leap immediately to mind are the BSD and MIT licenses, both of which had their births in the need to keep government-funded developments in the public domain.

Re:But ... (1)

rob333 (1059248) | more than 4 years ago | (#29893055)

It can get more complicated; the AG can and often does issue a memorandum clarifying how it--and hence the DOJ-- feel the FOIA should be interpreted by the executive branch. Ashcroft (Bush's 1st AG) recently severely restricted the ease of getting a FOIA request granted, although Holder (BHO's AG) reversed that policy.

Re:But ... (1)

ascari (1400977) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891307)

Most open source licenses (such as GPL) have little to do with copyright, and more to do with distribution. For example from a GPL perspective it matters less who holds the copy right of a product than the fact that anyone who makes modifications to the product has to license the modifications under the same license and make the source code available.

Re:But ... (2, Insightful)

thtrgremlin (1158085) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892301)

Congress shall have the power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

Hmm... I think it has everything to do with copyright protection.

"securing for limited time" is the operative clause to the subject of the law being to "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts". The GPL is not only very clear about the when and how of exclusive control, but has in part been critical in maintaining law that has almost been completely lost to an age of fascism and tyranny.

good site:http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080220/020252302.shtml

Re:But ... (1)

KC1P (907742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892757)

Yeah but you must hold a copyright in order to put a license on the code in the first place. And my understanding (possibly out of date and/or misinformed) is that US law forbids the federal government from holding copyrights, for the reasons that wizardforce said (WE paid for it so it already belongs to all of us). Controlling distribution is exactly what a license does, since by default, copyright law basically says "no copying!" -- so the license gives conditions under which the copyright holder will allow users to copy the software.

Re:But ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29892285)

It's about releasing source, not the license.

there's a few useful bits of software already (5, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891001)

In addition to using externally developed free software, various parts of the military have periodically released and continued to support some decent bits of software. BRL-CAD [wikipedia.org] is from the Army Research Lab, and Delta3d [delta3d.org] is from the Naval Postgraduate School, to pick two examples off the top of my head.

Re:there's a few useful bits of software already (2, Informative)

TimeOut42 (314783) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891325)

SimKit, Discrete Event Simulation Library, also from the Naval Postgraduate School....

http://diana.nps.edu/Simkit/ [nps.edu]

Sean

Re:there's a few useful bits of software already (1)

lent (164114) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892609)

In another instance,

Nicholas Harbour, who at the time was working for the Department of Defense Computer Forensics Lab (DCFL [dc3.mil] )

wrote a loving modified dd [linuxquestions.org] that writes to multiple files and streams to multiple programs at the same time. The program, dcfldd [sourceforge.net] , also introduces the sorely missed VERIFY operation, and even block-by-block hashes, ( dcfldd Man page [die.net] )

Maybe someone will combine this with dd_rescue [garloff.de] , ddrescue [gnu.org] and dd_rhelp [kalysto.org] to make the ultimate "Convert and Copy" [roesler-ac.de] utility :-)

Ah and I can dream of SCTP support [wikipedia.org] too :-)

Re:there's a few useful bits of software already (1)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892979)

Open Scene Graph is also heavily utilized by a lot of military sim software.

I know in my old government contractor job we used and contributed to probably ten or fifteen different open source projects.

Mil uses lots of Linux and BSD (2, Informative)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891105)

Everywhere I go, there are Linux and BSD systems.

Re:Mil uses lots of Linux and BSD (2, Insightful)

dremspider (562073) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891439)

It all depends on what command or where you are. I have been in places where they are very pro open source, and places where they refuse all requests to OSS. Personally I am really happy about this.

Crash! (4, Funny)

hrimhari (1241292) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891109)

And thus another chair is thrown in Redmond.

Re:Crash! (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891339)

How goes the saying: Every time you throw a chair, somewhere, a Windows system crashes... or was it the other way around...?

Re:Crash! (1)

Stupid McStupidson (1660141) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891385)

Open Source? In MY global thermo-nuclear war?

Re:Crash! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29891431)

Holy SHIT chair-throwing jokes are old... and weren't even that funny to begin with...

Re:Crash! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29892139)

Actually, they're still quite funny, so fuck you.

Re:Crash! (1)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892845)

No, no, they really aren't. They're as funny as RMS-bath jokes, which is to say not.

Re:Crash! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29893081)

They're both funny because they both stem from ridiculous but true events. Ballmer threw a chair because he was pissed at Google for taking his employee. That's comedy gold. Stallman is afraid of water. That's also comedy gold. You're a fucking M$ fanboy baboon. That also is hilarious. Also, quite pathetic; yet, it's still hilarious.

Re:Crash! (5, Funny)

elijahu (1421) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892555)

Shut up, Steve, and go back to figuring out how to get people to think that Windows 7 is as cool as Binging things on their Zune.

Re:Crash! (1)

Hucko (998827) | more than 4 years ago | (#29893885)

Zunes are binging and squirting? eep.

C'mon Steve (4, Interesting)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892643)

We think it's funny. We know you don't think it's funny. That's part of why it's funny. You want to fucking kill google, and all you can do is thrash furniture. Your team can't even keep a fucking SideKick working and you want to take on Android. What is it, a decade of WiMo, and 6.5 is the best you can do?

Get over it. You're Wile E. Coyote and Google is your Roadrunner. That's some funny shit there. If they call their app store ACME that would complete the joke. Somebody get Sergey on the horn.

Re:Crash! (1)

rob333 (1059248) | more than 4 years ago | (#29893113)

Eh, Windows , OS X and other non-crazy secure systems (Linux without MAC through SELinux being enabled/configured or AppArmor) stay pretty far away from the computers that help run one of the largest militaries in the world. With some of the systems being replaced only after decades of use, things would get ugly. Imagine if the main systems were still running Windows 98 or System 8. Not a pretty picture.

This is great... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29891111)

My federal manager was decidedly anti-OSS, he would state that we can't get support on the OSS, so we couldn't use it, denying anything and everything that came through. All I can say now is read it and weep.

Re:This is great... (3, Informative)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891291)

Uhh, no support? Red Hat, Novell, Mandriva, HP, IBM, CSE, Dell, Perot...

Re:This is great... (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892681)

openfiler.com offers support for openfiler - the open source iSCSI SAN.

No, I do no business with them. But there's a lot of folk excited about this at work.

Re:This is great... (1)

jawahar (541989) | more than 4 years ago | (#29893319)

Support = Collusion (for PHBs)

Snort/SourceFire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29892607)

Totally worth the $10K per box for Sourcefire so you don't have to get your hands dirty with any of that icky open source Snort garbage.

Shameless plug (3, Interesting)

dremspider (562073) | more than 4 years ago | (#29891421)

I wrote about this a little while ago on why the federal government needs to be using Open Source. http://www.dremspider.net/?p=15 [dremspider.net] This is what I have seen as a federal contractor.

Re:Shameless plug (2, Interesting)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892729)

Hell, I warned them about the trap of commercial software when it was fairly new.

People don't really remember that almost all software used to be FOSS.

Hmm...not so sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29891627)

While I'm all in favor of OSS making it into DoD, the wording of the memo puts DoD on shaky ground.

In particular, 2(e) suggests that you can release modified OSS software to a government entity and you won't have to release the source code. If it's GNU GPL software, then you can release the modified binary to other entities within your organization, but you have to release source code to them (not a problem) and you cannot restrict their further distribution of source code or binary (a big problem). GNU GPL v3 uses the words "anyone who comes into possession of a copy."

2(g) suggests that DoD staff can release software as open source. DoD staff, as US government agents, cannot claim copyright over their work. Most OSS licences (e.g. BSD, GPL) basically say "I am the copyright owner, and I hereby allow you to do stuff." Contractors developing software on a DoD contract may (in certain circumstances) be in a position to say that, and thus be able to release their software as OSS. Software developed by DoD staff themselves, if it is to be released as OSS, needs to be released under a very carefully worded license, which would by its nature be incompatible with GNU GPL and many other licenses. Thus for example for DoD staff to modify GNU GPL licensed code, and release their modifications (necessarily under GNU GPL) raises all sorts of legal problems.

M$ have lobbied DoD heavily in the past, against OSS, on just these grounds. I can't think why they wouldn't do so again. This is not something that can be solved with a memo, even from DoD CIO. We need legislative change to insulate DoD against lawsuits from M$ and other proprietary software vendors.

Re:Hmm...not so sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29892343)

Some very valid points here. To answer your Microsoft statement: Microsoft has recently been digging their hands deeper and deeper into OSS software in attempt to sell more of their crap; they call this interoperability. If they lobby now, then they would definably sell less because of limited software they chose to license under their pseudo free licenses.

Re:Hmm...not so sure... (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892859)

Here's a template for a C or C++ program:

//Copyright symbolset (c) 2009
//License: GPL 2.0 or any later version. Use and share it all you want - but if you publish executables compiled from derived code you have to publish the source under this license.
int main(int argc, char **argv) {
//This comment is unique to Symbolset's GPL Code Template.
}

Now any government agency can take that template, expand it to do anything they want, and it's GPL rather than public domain.

Some Points on the Memo (5, Informative)

perry64 (1324755) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892395)

I was at the Mil-OSS conference this year where this memo was discussed quite a bit, and I just want to mention some things in response to some of the comments. Most of this was in David Wheeler's blog (the first link), but some might have been missed.

Most government program/project managers are very slow to try new things like OSS. Generally, this is not due to laziness or not being technically up to date, but rather because the number of rules and regulations that they can get hammered for failing to follow is so large that they tend to continue to follow a safe path unless it is incredibly clear that they won’t get in trouble. This memo is designed to give top cover and make clear to all PM’s that using OSS is more than acceptable, it is actually preferred.

1) Although I can't say for sure how much the new administration's personnel in the Pentagon had to do with being signed, it probably was very little since the memo had been in production for years (rumor was that Dr. Pepper was going to give a free soda to everyone if it came out before 2010, but I don't think that's true). Over beers, one of the people involved with its writing told the story of being asked whether the memo would be out before Thanksgiving and responding, "Without a doubt." That was in 2007!! It probably emerged more from the "Open Technology Roadmap" by John Scott, Mark Lucas, and JC Herz for Sue Peyton in 2006 than any political changes.

2) Much of the memo just clarifies parts of the DoD's official position on OSS, especially areas that were major targets for FUD by contractors who are trying to sell proprietary systems to the government. For example, they would claim that procurement law requires commercial software to be used, and OSS wasn’t COTS. This was addressed by the 2003 memo, but still the misinformation persisted. Additionally, procurement law requires that software either be warranted or the source code available. Vendors would claim that since OSS isn’t warranted, it couldn’t be used, neglecting the second part of the requirement about source code.

Re:Some Points on the Memo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29893577)

Over beers, one of the people involved with its writing told the story of being asked whether the memo would be out before Thanksgiving and responding, "Without a doubt." That was in 2007!!

Well, he was right, it's still like two months until Thanksgiving anyway.

I thank 7ou for yOour time (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29892767)

You join toJday!

ABOUT TIME. Too many confused auditors in the DoD (3, Interesting)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 4 years ago | (#29892973)

I had been having ongoing arguments with auditors and DoD scanners about Open Source Software versus "freeware" - it's free, so that means it's Freeware - right? Finally, Daniel Risacher from the "Defense Department's Office of the Chief Information Officer" made this announcement. [gcn.com]

Reading that, I got all excited...and waited patiently. For a bit. Finally, come April, I emailed him directly with this question:

At a RedHat conference on Oct8, 2008, you made a comment that the DoD would further clarify that OSS is not the same as Freeware/ Shareware, for those who are still confused about the subject. We are currently undergoing an audit, and are being told that we can't use various products because they are "shareware" - specifically, mysql was on the hitlist. Discontinuing use of mysql would be an engineering nightmare for us, esp since anything else would also be "freeware" according to the auditors.

Of course, 8500.2 says that we can't use shareware because we don't have access to the source code, and we obviously have access to the code of open source products. I can't find the memo that you mentioned would be coming soon - has it been released?

To which he responded:

From: Daniel Risacher ((redacted))
Sent: Monday, April 06, 2009 3:54 PM
To: Brian LaMere
Subject: Re: OSS in DoD?
The memo is essentially finished, but stuck in an near-endless do-loop of executive-level staffing.
Forward the names of any gov't personnel who are giving you trouble to my work email: ((redacted)), and I'll try to talk to them.

Wow...that was back in April. Things sure do move fast around there ;)

There are countless documents that say so many different things, compounded by the fact that there are a multitude of auditors who have been trained that "Open Source" is "Freeware." And since "Freeware" is disallowed according to 8500.2, they then decide that "Open Source" is too. Nevermind that the Linux kernel is Open Source, no - they would pick and choose randomly which software we could and couldn't use. On a whim they'd suddenly decide mysql was no longer ok, no matter what evidence I could provide otherwise.

G-d, how I miss that circus.

Re:ABOUT TIME. Too many confused auditors in the D (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29893281)

G-d, how I miss that circus

OMG, FFS.

Terrible news, we were using it already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29893207)

Now the company corporate folks I work for has open source on its radar.. Now we have FOSS (Free Open Source Softwaree) training about all the viral open source licenses and to upgrade or install anything we needs a subject matter expert. We have a unix gnu utility that needs upgrading, can't do it, now we need sign of.

  Never mind that we have Unix guru and were using perl/gcc mpi and a bunch of other software installed. Open Office was a usefull tool on our Unix machines, some of those perl modules helped us write custom code documentors, no more. we'll be waiting a couple years for an upgrade.. Closed network means it all had to go through IT anyway.

sigh......

Anything written by gov't employees is Pub. Domain (1)

trygstad (815846) | more than 4 years ago | (#29893335)

Any software product written by government employees (not incorporating proprietary or OSS code) is one better than OSS--by law it's in the public domain. As long as the software is not classified anyone can use and modify the code. When I was the Admin Officer for a Navy helicopter squadron in San Diego in the late 80's, we used to get software from the local Navy Air Rework Facility, who had a code shop. They would always tell us we MUST pay them for the software (yes the military uses chargebacks just like any other business) but we would just laugh at them and tell them that their code was in the public domain--so it was free. Then they'd tell us we could not use it without paying for support and we'd tell 'em if we couldn't figure it out, we just wouldn't use it. They had not figured out that you can't charge money--even bongo bucks--for something that is free.

Hmm, for us non-Americans... (1)

Dice Fivefold (640696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29893421)

When I contribute to OSS projects I like to think of it as doing some work for the good of the global community. What I don't like to think of it as, is to work for a foreign military for no pay. Actually I think i rather have foreign military spend some more on programmers and have less over to spend on bombs and soliders.

Is there some alternative OSS license that don't allow the software to be used for military purposes?

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