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Free Software as a Public Good

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the this-would-be-nice dept.

GNU is Not Unix 445

acone asks: "Have any national governments taken measures to subsidize open source projects? I'm aware that many have endorsed Linux in particular, and free software in general, but I was wondering about actual funding. I ask because the notion of a good built and maintained by the community almost inevitably suggests that such be treated as a public good. Many of the public goods we now take for granted--such as police, public libraries, and public fire departments--were historically provided either by private enterprises or by loosely-organized volunteers, neither of which have proven nearly as effectively for the common goods as their current government-run equivalents. An excellent example is the organization of the police force, libraries and fire department in colonial Philadelphia, in which these services became established in a very grassroots manner, then gradually gained acceptance as something that the state should provide. This pattern looks temptingly applicable to free software. In addition to the current, community-based mechanisms in which free software is developed, wouldn't it be beneficial to have dedicated groups of professional free software developers, paid by national governments to serve the overall interests of society? Seems to me like such would be a Good Thing."

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Free Software, and other Good Things (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649692)

I really like reading slashdot.com. I enjoy the friendly people and the free and open exchange of ideas.

After a long hard day at work (ok, actually I dont have a job, but if I did...) there is nothing better than hanging out with my message board buddies at slashdot.com and having a nice intelligent discussion about the important issues of the day.

What are you guys doing toinght? Maybe we can just talk about our experiences with Linux and PHP and we can all hang out. That way I don't even have to leave the basement.

Re:Free Software, and other Good Things (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649724)

Oh and by the way...

FROSTY PISS, BITCH-CAKES!!

suck on that.

Re:Free Software, and other Good Things (0, Offtopic)

Gherald (682277) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649746)

I do wish slashdot had a general forum section where we could discuss things not directly pertaining to a particular story.

Re:Free Software, and other Good Things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649878)

then we could bash Microsoft, and the Riaa, and have the whole thing degenerate into a flaming morass, where everone rabidly agrees that open software is a good thing, even though no one's contradicting them.

(note, it's not that I disagree with these opinions, it's just that I don't think there's much chance of an insiteful, drawnout conversation here.)

Now that I've made a calm and hopefully rational, but dissenting point, mod me down for 'trolling'

it's called a journal (1)

poptones (653660) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649957)

you can talk about anything you like, and leave it open for comments and discussion.

I LIEK LINUX (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649757)

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649693)

fp

RKZ FOR PUBLIC GOOD (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649694)

fp you dirty nigs!!!!! GPL MS windows XP

Nintendo to whore Yoshi for profit; news at 11 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649697)

Check out the amazing Yoshi girl [bayou.com] and her playful tentacle friend! Rides starting soon at $29.99 (Saddle not included).

More pictures soon, be patient /.'ers. In the meantime try these other quality sites for all your horny geek fanboy needs:

Lara Croft Land [goatse.cx]
Natalie Portman covered with hot grits [tubgirl.com]
RMS gone wild! [stallman.org]
CowboyNeal: behind the blubber [cowboyneal.org]
Taco's new .com venture [orbitz.com]



# Important Smurfs: Please try to keep posts on Smurfette.
# Try to spooge on other people's comments instead of starting new threads (of semen.)
# Read George Bush's subliminablble messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. (Like George W and his Dad)
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Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to Hitler [tiscali.dk]
# Important Smurfs: Please try to keep posts on Smurfette.
# Try to spooge on other people's comments instead of starting new threads (of semen.)
# Read George Bush's subliminablble messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. (Like George W and his Dad)
# Use a clear lubricant that describes what your message is about.
# Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be NAZI-Fied. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the Loser Rights Page)
# If you want replies to your trolls sent to you, consider logging in or creating a trolling account.

Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to Hitler [tiscali.dk]

# Important Smurfs: Please try to keep posts on Smurfette.
# Try to spooge on other people's comments instead of starting new threads (of semen.)
# Read George Bush's subliminablble messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. (Like George W and his Dad)
# Use a clear lubricant that describes what your message is about.
# Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be NAZI-Fied. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the Loser Rights Page)
# If you want replies to your trolls sent to you, consider logging in or creating a trolling account.

Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to Hitler [tiscali.dk]

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 GNAA! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649702)

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The Straight Truth About the GNAA (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649781)

The GNAA is a small loose knit group of trolls whose sole purpose is to post retarded shit to various websites. Membership of the group is really irrelevant, but they do have guidelines, which are really just part of their elaborate "troll". Basically, you gotta be a nigger, gay, or both, blah blah. Post an fp for the group and your ub3r l33t, bs ,bs . ...

The cold hard facts about the GNAA
There's nothing gay or black about the GNAA. In fact, the GNAA doesnt have a single gay or black member at all, and most likely never will.

IRC Chat log
(Nws4Turds) pocide
(Nws4Turds) i m teh luv j00!
(koft) yo, st0p b3ing teh gay
(koft) gh3y is teh sux0r
(pocide) i luv u 2 Nws4Turds !, lets felch!
(Nws4Turds) y3s!
(Nws4Turds) pocide
(koft) ph3lch is teh sux0r
(Nws4Turds) i like teh ph3lch
(koft) thats nasty, yall are gay niggers if i ever saw gay niggers
(Nws4Turds) i'm a gay nigger
(koft) stop being t3h gh3y.
(Nws4Turds) actually, i'm a straight honkey

And at this point, Nws4Turds ebraces his heterosexuality, coming out of a "reverse closet" for a brief moment, exposing his inner self. He then feels the need to expound on this idea.
(Nws4Turds) i had sex this morning
(Nws4Turds) it felt good
(Nws4Turds) she came twice

After these statements i was threatened!
(pocide) k0ft: do not even attempt to fr0st
(pocide) not only will YFI but you'd be testin my gangsta and you don't wanna do that, oh no

Following our conversation, my ids picked up a portscan from 24.174.81.26, the address from a user in the channel known as "penisbird".
(pocide) I see your running IIS and exchange. your machine is going down the deep dark anus hole of goatse!
(koft) Damn, i didnt realize that apache and sendmail were part of IIS and exchange... You guys are leeter that i immagined...

Truth: GNAA is a group of wanna be script kiddies who troll on lame message boards like 'Slashdot'
Truth: The GNAA leader 'PenisBird' has a prefrence for porn depicting under age individuals
Truth: All GNAA members are white
Truth: None of the GNAA members are gay
Truth: All GNAA members live with their mothers

Don't take my word for it though, check out the lameness for yourself. efnet #GNAA

Good idea but. (0)

ArCaNe50 (587961) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649709)

There is no orginized fashion to the linux community like the police and such however

Re:Good idea but. (2, Insightful)

TheIzzy (615852) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649907)

There actually is organization. Linus has the kernel, developers have the applications, and distributors act as the "editors." Appropriate subdivisions exist in each of these catagories.

I personally don't see this going anywhere though because it really is a community effort. Almost like voting in a way. If you want a feature, simply "vote" it into an implementation. That can be done by actually programming it or requesting the developers to add it.

Government employees could work out specific algorithims/implementations (the best example being SE Linux), but the heart of open source is the community, and I don't see that shifting to the government anytime soon. There will always be more community developers than government ones. Small time additions to the open source world is all I see from government institutions. I doubt anything bigger than the SE Linux kernel would happen, especially as the Department of Free Software Production or something.

Besides, would any government really want to help create the infrastructure of another government for them (e.g. "terrorist" nation uses the USALinux distro)? There's a reason for export restrictions on certain cryptographic algorithms in the US. Or would those nations really trust foreign governments to do this? Might make an electronic war pretty easy if you wrote all the software.

SkoleLinux (School Linux) (5, Interesting)

nordicfrost (118437) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649714)

School Linux has recieved a grand from the Norwegian educational ministery. The grant was for USD 27,673.81 and funded a fundamental research into the feasibility of Linux in schools.

Re:SkoleLinux (School Linux) (4, Informative)

nordicfrost (118437) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649759)

A link [skolelinux.no] could be useful... Sorry!

Re:SkoleLinux (School Linux) (-1, Troll)

MisterFancypants (615129) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649893)

$27,673 and they still can't spell a simple word like "school". What a sad, sad state of affairs!

We must do something about this -- think of the children!

There won't be some "Office of Open Source" (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649719)

But you will see various governments writing or commissioning code for their own needs. The important thing is to get that code licensed appropriately (BSD or GPL or whatever your particular views are) so that the populace can use it freely.

Public domain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649886)

If the government makes code, the code is in the public domain.

why is slashdot racist? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649725)

why are the only ones allowed to contribut are obese, smelly, socially inept sexless losers like Cowboy KNEEL?

KDE and Germany (3, Informative)

Nick of NSTime (597712) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649727)

I remember reading something a year or so ago about the German government subsidizing KDE development. I may be wrong on that.

Someone's been reading Lessig... (3, Insightful)

madMingusMax (693022) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649730)

Haven't they? And for good reason, this is basically what a good portion of his book "The Future of Ideas" is about....that is, a commons for everyone which enriches society, and how corporations are taking it over to the detriment of society in general. Read this book.

Re:Someone's been reading Lessig... (1)

dist_morph (692571) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649949)

Ah, the evil corporations at it again... we should disband all of them, then we wouldn't have any problems left.

I think it's totally normal that some corporations and individuals will try to corrupt anything that is good and pure. I also think it is normal that the harder they work at it, the bigger a backlash they will cause eventually. Just look at how monopolist practices in software have given a huge boost to Linux without anybody footing the bill.

I just hope that we don't involve the government in everything to protect us from ourselves.

bad (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649734)

open sorce is teh downfal of are country! stop the terorists plz!

dood wtf r u thinkin supportin free warez. open sorce is communeizm!

One of these things is not like the other.... (2, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649736)

It seems to me that the very idea of paying someone to write free software is the very antithesis of what free software is all about. (Not to mention the practical problems of managing the stable of programmers, ensuring that work actually gets done etc...)

Far better would be something like the Ford Foundation giving grants to folks after they have a track record.

Government needs software, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649808)

They've got lots of data to handle. They pay someone for software, why not let the people paying for it (the taxpayers) use it? If the government pays for a road with taxes, everyone can drive on it (most of the time).

Re:Government needs software, too (2, Insightful)

JordanH (75307) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649888)

If the Government develops software, it's public domain since the Government is not allowed to hold copyrights. Sometimes the Government holds software as a state secret, but still cannot hold the copyright.

This points out a problem with this. The GPL is based on Copyright Law, your right to copy the software is granted under the GPL only if you follow the provisions of the GPL. Since the Government can't hold copyrights, how could the Government fund copyrighted development?

Now that I type this, I realize the Government CAN fund copyrighted development. They do it all the time. Government contractors often copyright their works and license it to the Government. The Government could let contracts for software requiring that the software be licensed exclusively under the GPL.

Re:One of these things is not like the other.... (1)

Outland Traveller (12138) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649819)

It would seem less strange to you if you read up on what the industry is doing.

Plenty of people from all over the world are paid to improve and author free software.

Re:One of these things is not like the other.... (1)

eggnet (75425) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649835)

You're contradicting yourself. In your example, the Ford Foundation would still be paying someone to write free software.

Why couldn't a government do that?

Re:One of these things is not like the other.... (2, Insightful)

proj_2501 (78149) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649858)

Not so!

The FSF got its start by selling tapes of the Emacs source code and precompiled binaries! You could also get GCC+binutils+stuff tapes and X11R4 stuff.

They were $150+ a pop for a while. [geocrawler.com]

Don't be fooled (1)

Outland Traveller (12138) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649860)

Despite what Microsoft might say, there is a great deal of value in Free.

Re:Don't be fooled (0)

rwven (663186) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649884)

lol well said my friend.... half of our servers here run on things that cost us....nothing. the things that run on the software we paid for generally have more problems as well...

Re:One of these things is not like the other.... (1)

koekepeer (197127) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649896)

nonsense!

beer vs. freedom has nothing to do with making money.

Re:One of these things is not like the other.... (1)

cabalamat2 (227849) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649906)

It seems to me that the very idea of paying someone to write free software is the very antithesis of what free software is all about.

It seems to me that you've no idea what free software is about. Rerhaps reading this [gnu.org] will help.

Public AND Private Funding are both Appropriate (5, Insightful)

FreeUser (11483) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649935)

It seems to me that the very idea of paying someone to write free software is the very antithesis of what free software is all about. (Not to mention the practical problems of managing the stable of programmers, ensuring that work actually gets done etc...)

Then you don't know much about free software. Free software is about freedom, not price. GNU and the FSF have sold free software since the 1980s, on magnetic tape and later CD ROM. Some of their products were quite pricy (and available for gratis download besides), but they still made some money selling the media, as the convinience was worth it to some.

Government funded public works is a Good Thing(tm), whether it is highways, the last mile of connectivity (which alas, is privately owned by local monopoly barons in most, but not all, of the US), or basic software infrastructure used to hold and manipulate public data.

We would never tolerate our highway system being held hostage by a single company. Why on earth would we tolerate such a thing with our public information?

As for private funding, that is all well and good, but private funding has limitations (such as the profit motive, which works sometimes but, contrary to right-wing myth, does not always work or yeild the best results). Public funding has its limitations as well, but pulling projects that are serving the public interest because of no immediate exploitable profit generally isn't one of them.

Indeed, the best public goods are those which include both private and public funding, where the limitations of one are generally countered by the strengths of the other. Examples include, but are not limited to, academia and university research.

GnuPG funded by Germany (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649738)

The German government sponsored GnuPG, an open-source version of PGP GnuPG press release [gnupg.de]

YOU WISH NAZI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649775)

NAZI

Re:YOU WISH NAZI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649863)

Troll!

Re:YOU WISH NAZI (1)

CubicDDD (556754) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649956)

Well, maybe he/she is only capable to express his disagree in that kind of sentence.

  • Mom: Do your homework!
  • AC: You wish Nazi!

I cry for the downfall of mankind and hope he doesn't reproduce

No (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649741)

Open sores is no good for anyone.

LUG (1)

Simon (S2) (600188) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649742)

LUGs in our province ub italy take some money for the expenses they have (computers, rental of rooms for lessions, ...) but not for the actual software they write. better than nothing anyway.

Nonono! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649743)

This is /. Do NOT mention goverment funding. It's uncapitalistic, unlibertarian, and thus 'uncool'. Remember, only dirty communist hippies have a goverment that *does* something for its people.

hrm well (1)

Tirel (692085) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649748)

Almost all the library computers in my country (Sweden) run FreeBSD, does that count?

no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649793)

see subject

Government Subsidy (2, Informative)

Egonis (155154) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649758)

I am in the process of obtaining a government subsidy for the development of a Client Management System for Youth Shelters in Ontario... things are looking good, very good.

So yes, if you present your plan to the Canadian Government, anyway, in good terms, showing that it will benefit all; it is easy to obtain a subsidy.

Re:Government Subsidy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649841)

Sounds great, eh?

in short, no (1, Redundant)

king_ (143380) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649760)

In sort, no. Public goods need to benefit EVERYONE, not EVERYONE uses linux or open software. Not EVERYONE trusts such software as it is not funded. Its like saying any volunteer hobbyist should be compensated by the gov't. it doesnt apply here as it doesnt benefit everyone.

Re:in short, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649849)

Libraries don't benefit those who don't use them, public hospitals don't benefit those who are healthy, etc.

There is nothing wrong for goverment to finance writing of the open-source software in following cases:
- it reduces costs in the various goverment organizations (for example make OpenOffice better so it can replace MS Office).
- it benefits many citizens (for example creating cryptography software to improve privacy or creating localized Linux distro which will run on low-end hardware so citizens may access net more easily).

Re:in short, no (5, Insightful)

Simon (S2) (600188) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649852)

Public goods need to benefit EVERYONE, not EVERYONE uses linux or open software.

and not everyone is driving his car on that road, but the gov payed for it. and not everyone is going to the public library, but the gov payed for it, and so on.

oss is just like a library: free information for everyone.

Re:in short, no (1)

KMAPSRULE (639889) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649866)

Someone Mod parent up! , This is an extremely salient point!

Re:in short, no (2, Insightful)

aducore (649002) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649894)

Look at the FAA: They are funded with tax dollars, but a lot of people don't feel safe flying (even before 9/11), and choose not to. That doesn't mean that the FAA should be privatized, it just means that it isn't necessarily going to benefit everybody who pays taxes.

Re:in short, no (1)

Ron Harwood (136613) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649921)

So if a government agency wrote and released free software (and the source code was open)... no matter the platform (as open doesn't mean it has to run on linux) then people wouldn't use it because it was free and open?

I think you have a few errors in your logic.

As for the hobbyist... not all open source software is written by hobbyists... some is actually done by commercial ventures...

Re:in short, no (1)

Bobke (653185) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649944)

Everyone surfing the net ends up visiting a webpage that is running on an open source operating system. So yes, everyone benefits. And don't I remember seeing in "Gangs of New York" there being rival firemen? Everyone's house could catch a flame on day. Everyone's pc might get hacked one day.

And then we all end up working for the feds... (1)

dist_morph (692571) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649762)

I'm all for public services, but there is a reason that we have a distinction between the public and the private sector. I can see how something like this would start out very nicely and end up as a massive make-work project where politicians can dump their relatives and gradually take over the management of the project.

And who exactly would be paying whom exactly for what exactly?

I don't think I want to go there...

Privatize all public goods NOW! (1)

spun (1352) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649766)

What is this? You mean there are still some public goods someplace that haven't yet been privatized? Wait 'till the Republicans hear about this!

(It's a joke, Republicans. I promise, if you learn to laugh at yourselves, I will learn to laugh when you call me a dirty longhair commie-pinko pervert.)

I see.. (1, Insightful)

WolfieN (654940) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649772)

So, you're(government) going make M$ workers pay a tax for Open Source? or better yet, are you going to give SCO more "free" money than they have tried to get? Linux has worked so well because it doesn't need any money to operate. It's a bunch of us nerds who get together on a daily/weekly/whenever basis and code then upload our code. just my opinion folx.

Government funding (4, Interesting)

KillerHamster (645942) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649774)

I'd be happy to take their money, it's their influence I don't want. As I see it, part of the freedom associated with free software is freedom from corporate or government bureaucracy deciding what goes into the software. I doubt most governments would agree to sponsor something if they could not exercise tight control over it.

Re:Government funding (2, Insightful)

eggnet (75425) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649924)

And the difference between that and private funding is?

Everyone has an agenda.

Governments (1)

w.p.richardson (218394) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649778)

already have too much to fund to worry about getting in the business of software development. Be satisfied with the tacit endorsement provided when the software is used.

You mentioned police, fire departments, teachers, etc. Why not give these folks a raise instead?

Re:Governments (1)

geomon (78680) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649821)

Software is developed in the process of basic research. The government either owns outright, or reserves the right to use in most cases, all software developed under contract paid for by public funds.

That is how my employers contract is written. That is a basic understanding for government contracting.

Now service contracts with the government where software is developed may be another matter. That is a grey area that is usually negotiated with the vendor before the contract is let.

Good Idea but... (1)

Cheeziologist (596855) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649780)

in todays world if such things were to happen I would think that working on open source software would become tied up in government red tape, bureacracy (sp?), and legislation. The idea looks good when all simple but would probably become considerably more complicated with government involvemnet. Just my $.02

Maybe... (2, Interesting)

r00zky (622648) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649782)

Have any national governments taken measures to subsidize open source projects?

China?
Don't know for sure, but it would be a clear candidate to subsidize

Another case is Germany paying for that KDE project... how was it kalled? Kroupware? But that's not subsidizing...

I think the day is near (1)

Baron_Yam (643147) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649785)

when we'll wake up and realize that our computing infrastructure is just as important to our modern society as roads, schools, and hospitals.

Does that mean that the populace, through the means of the government, will ever arrange for public funding to develop and maintain an operating system and telecommunications infrastructure? Unlikely in my lifetime.

DARPA (2, Informative)

Megaslow (694447) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649792)

Was funding OpenBSD and OpenSSL, for a little while until they changed their minds [theaimsgroup.com]

Re:DARPA (1)

normalperson (552607) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649880)

DARPA still sponsors ReiserFS development

Re:DARPA (1)

Tirel (692085) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649908)

Yup, more details on that here:

http://www.deadly.org/article.php3?sid=20030417181 810 [deadly.org]
http://www.deadly.org/article.php3?sid=20030421190 834 [deadly.org]
http://www.deadly.org/article.php3?sid=20030422123 107 [deadly.org]


basically, Theo said expressed anti-war sentiments and they killed the funding including the (non-refundable!) hotel reservations for the hackaton.

oh well, what can you expect from the govt?

politics.. business.. (1)

nicsterrr (529317) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649796)

As long as big business is funding politics, there's little chance of such a thing happening in a big scale, regardless of how beneficially it would be.

Conversely, in countries without such a strong link between politics and business (presumably this applies mainly to less developed countries), isn't this already happening?

Re:politics.. business.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649948)

It also happens in more developed countries where Microsoft did not pay enough bribes.

For example: German Bundestag, Munich city council, etc.

Business (2, Interesting)

Quill_28 (553921) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649799)

Yes, software companies love to pay taxes and then the money used to create software to drive them out of business.

On the other hand, I do think it can be used for to help society in general.
But I feel it should be written under BSD-like(public domain) license, putting under a GPL-like license is just wrong for this situation.

America's Army game? (2, Informative)

Thinkit3 (671998) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649800)

That's what America's Army game essentially does now. Try it out, it's a great example of government making software that is freely copyable (read the license).

Re:America's Army game? (1)

The Lynxpro (657990) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649939)

Uhm....America's Army is a cheap form of recruitment...think of the millions of dollars the military spends on commercials people zap through on their TiVos and VCRs, or they simply visit the restroom when the commercial is playing. It is a far better allocation of recruitment dollars to spend the money on developing a highly addictive videogame that is pro-military than mindless commercials... Now if only the Air Force would bring out a decent multiplayer flight sim on some of their fighters since the flight sim market has collapsed... Falcon VI anyone?

G-Men and OSS (2, Interesting)

luzrek (570886) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649801)

I'm wondering what the mechanism would be for government support. About the only thing that I can think of would be something equivalent to the way the government funds art. AKA small grants to private individuals.

Basically I would worry that if a burocracy was added to the development process, it would end up mucking the development process up.

However, I'm pretty sure that some OSS softwares are directly descended from various government projects that were developed under the GPL or made open source after completion. (can someone help me with examples, or tell me I'm wrong).

Who funded BSD? TCP/IP? (5, Informative)

brentlaminack (513462) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649807)

Check your history. Guess who funded most of the BSD development? Right. The US Government. Who funded development of TCP/IP? Right again. Are these open source? Yes. Were they funded by Government for the Common Good? Yes. This is nothing new. This has been going on for a couple of decades now.

Re:Who funded BSD? TCP/IP? (4, Interesting)

Jungle guy (567570) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649892)

Very good point. It is also intersting to note that BSD and TCP/IP can be used by private companies any way they want (like, putting it on free software or on a proprietary software). An interesting point would be: shuold government fund GPL-licensed software? Only OSS software companies may benefit from it. Microsoft oposes it strongly, but professor Lessig thinks this kind of funding is OK, as governmenta also funds proprietary software and software patents, that can't be used on OOS.

One day, though, governments might find interesting to fund software that are essential to the internet (like, servers and clients for DNS, http, e-mail, etc).

Free? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649812)

If the government subsidized free software then it would not really be free.

The GNU Manifesto and the Software Tax (1)

JordanH (75307) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649823)

In the GNU Manifesto [gnu.org] , Richard Stallman long ago proposed the idea of a Software Tax to fund Free Software.

Scary thought... Commissioner Bill... (2, Interesting)

Cephas Aurelius (137477) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649827)

If you examine the parallel to its logical conclusion this is kind of scary. Do you really want to allow political action groups (such as all officers of the Microsoft corporation) the opportunity to affect the election of the Open Source Commissioner? Part of the state-sponsored common good is to put it under the control and regulation of elected officials. This is not a win to my mind...

Code is International... (3, Insightful)

Popsikle (661384) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649832)

Police Forces are national.

There are some United Forces (UN) but they really arent a major say in what goes on (US war on "Terrorists").
If governments have thier say, they will think what they choose to write is the right way. Governments of different nations dont always agree (AKA WAR).

Whats to stop the US government to hire more professional coders to get more of what they want to see in OSS

Yes OSS has the branches and someone has the overall say in what makes it in and what does not but when was the last time you heard someone disagreeing with the government and not getting some sort of herassment for it (raisethefist.com) ?

Do you really want to add that much more politics into OSS?
Do you really want to wait for the government to finish coding something that you need to use (we all know how governement deadlines work!!!) ?
Just my .02

idealism (1)

koekepeer (197127) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649834)

yep it would be good if governments would subsidise development of free software

the german kroupware project springs to mind

as for companies: services based businees models, and not selling it-can-do-anything-and-a-lot-no-one-will-ever-need -software

this free software idea can bring back all these nice little nifty customised applications, and even better: they won't get lost on some old server in some company. that is, if they are useful for a larger group of end clients.

i'm considering a new .sig: no clue whether this comment is helpful in any way ;)

typo mess (1)

koekepeer (197127) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649859)

end clients -> compromise between 'end users' and 'clients'?

i definetly need some sleep

to some extent this is the case already... (1)

homerjs42 (568844) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649838)

It seems (to me at least, I may be wrong) that this is already the case. The software that is developed by the goverenment generally gets put into the public domain eventually ( i suspect not always ). Of course the majority of free software doesn't come about this way. My personal inclination is to let the goverenment stay out of the software business except for research/stuff they need. Basically I want the goverenment to have as little to do with my life as possible. But that's just me, and what do i know?

gov't (1)

pixelbend (628541) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649842)

Why do we have to ruin everything by getting the government involved. Look at any gov't agency and it's independent counterpart (i.e. FedEx vs. USPS)

Read the news... (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649844)

Maybe you haven't heard but the global economy, from the US to Germany to Japan to Argentina is in major trouble. Governments have many more pressing needs for their decreasing revenue than spending huge amounts to pursue some Stallmanist vision of crushing the proprietary software industry.

Damn those Dukes! (1)

ArmenTanzarian (210418) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649846)

Can I be the Boss Hog of Open Source? I already met Congressman Cooter at his museum!

i like it (0)

rwven (663186) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649857)

i think it's a great idea personally. open source projects as it is are typically very low, to no income projects and would be able to produce an even higher level of software quality if they sould really employ teams of more talented software developers to work due to the gov't help. sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Ask the germans (1)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649862)

After all, they seem to have subsidized SuSe into winning the Munich contract over "M$"... at least that's what it looks like now that more details on the deal are being made public.

The start of a great synergy.

(btw: governments - as consumers - have the right to buy anything they want. It doesn't matter that SuSe won the contract. The problem is hailing that as a "great victory" just to find out that the government decided to "buy german" instead of "buy open source" is kinda deflating)

What about the flaming libertarians here? (1)

Thinkit3 (671998) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649870)

Well, first of all abolish all intellectual property laws to get the corporations out. Then lower taxes so individuals can donate to their favorite open source project.

But I'll keep playing America's Army anyway.

I can't wait! (0, Flamebait)

brooks_talley (86840) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649871)

Look at how well (as measured by effeciency, cost, quality) the government administers those police, fire departments, etc. Sure, the people who do the work are almost uniformly (ha!) good people, but the bureaucracy around them makes the groups slow to innovate and/or respond to changing community needs.

I'm sure the government could bring the same level of bureaucrazy and expense to open source. Do you really want them to?

I think this is one for the "be careful what you wish for" files.

Cheers
-b

BSD (1)

Senator_B (605588) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649873)

Back in April, the OpenBSD people landed a contract with DARPA (previous story found here [slashdot.org] ). After several anti-war statements made by several Theo de Raadt involving his dislike of the war in Iraq and the Bush administration, the contract, which was funneled through the University of Pennsylvania was pulled (previous story here [slashdot.org] ).

the united states (3, Informative)

drfireman (101623) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649874)

The US, through the NIH (Dept. HHS), funds software development projects, some of which are free (GPLed) software projects. NIH funding comes to researchers through a variety of mechanisms, including specific requests for proposals, and often through programs devoted to particular public health related goals. Fundees are often at Universities and sometimes have the freedom to release their software under whatever licenses they choose.

I don't want to Slashdot the particular office that funds my work, but if you poke around on the NIH web site (www.nih.gov) for informatics-related programs, you can find some good examples of programs that fund software development. If you poke further, you'll find that some of those projects develop GPLed software.

I don't know that this is the ultimate expression of a government supporting free software as a public good, but it's certainly an area in which you'll find examples of government-funded free software that's designed to promote public health and/or basic science.

Yes yes yes. Start with voting software. (1)

jcsehak (559709) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649890)

Apparently Australia is paving the way here. eVACS [act.gov.au] , as I learned from another poster, is open-source and was used in the Australian Capital Territory elections in 2001. I think a great start would be to have some federal or state IT workers adapt it for use here in the states, and test it out in small-scale elections. Maybe by 2008 we'll be able to vote via the web, and we'll see lots more voter turnout and it'll be impossible to rig the election. A guy can dream...

Impossible to manage (0, Offtopic)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649895)

Government are the height of beauracracy. How do you get a diverse bunch of divested interests to decide who does what? Who manages the projects? What happens to the developers during slack periods ?

Secondly you may not have noticed but many government services are being moved either partially or completely back into the private sector

Who Does this Benifit? (2, Interesting)

jetkust (596906) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649899)

So who will benifit from the funding other than open source developers? This will not provide any new software to the public. The same software will be availiable, only more developers will get paid for it.

Free Software != Needed for Society (1, Insightful)

akiaki007 (148804) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649911)

(or any other word(s) that means Free Software/Open Source, etc)

I don't understand how the poster of this article goes off and talks about how the police and fire deptartments all started and then compares it to FS. Why? Because these were public services that were needed by the people for their own good and for the better of the country and the society. This wasn't something that needed competition to stay alive. At this point it is a basic need. And it was then too, we just didn't realize it.

FS is NOT a basic need and it needs competition to survive as does the entire Computer and Software industry. The Gov't shouldn't make it a "pulic service" type of industry where all most public software comes from the gov't (it wouldn't be public anymore, now would it?)

Sure, the Gov't can subsidise some costs by providing funs and grants to some people/companies/organization for developing software (even it is to be put out under GPL), but this isn't an industry that should be seen as a public need. Gov't shouldn't control this, it shouldn't promote it, nor hinder it. Gov't should use what is best for it, and we (me and you, the programmers, the users) should user/program what we think is best.

Quotes to keep in mind, open-source socialists! (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649917)

"The Business of America is Business."
- Calvin Coolidge, POTUS

Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility.
- Ambrose Bierce, rapscallion

"I understand small business growth. I was one."
- George W. Bush, sound biter

NSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649918)

When security is involved, the US government is sure to foot the bill. NSA linux is a good example of a government developed opensource project that fits this catigory.

Careful with the term 'public good' (4, Interesting)

madro (221107) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649926)

There are goods and services provided by the government and there are public goods. There's some overlap between the two, but in terms of market-based economics, there's a limited definition of a public good (from http://www.bized.ac.uk/stafsup/exams/revec_mfail.h tm)
A pure public good is a good or service which is consumed by everyone and from which no-one can be excluded, defence is a good example. It has two characteristics, non-rivalry i.e. one person's consumption of the good does not reduce the amount available for someone else and non-excludability i.e. no-one can be excluded from consumption of the good.

This brings in the problem of free riders, which is someone who consumes a good or service without paying for it. This problem arises with public goods because why should one person pay when everybody else will contribute to the cost. If everyone took this attitude the good would not be provided hence the need for government intervention.

Software certainly meets the non-rivalry requirement, but non-excludability is not met given the current legal atmosphere concerning the concept of intellectual property.

That said, there are cases where introducing excludability means that what used to be public goods can now be provided through market mechanisms: toll roads are not public goods, but universally accessible roads are. Government intervention is required to provide the latter, but (ideally) not the former. The same can be said for private security forces as a replacement for police. You could even slap gates around libraries so that only those who pay can gain access. The debate then turns to what resources *should* have non-excludability -- what goods and services should any person be able to expect from their government?

Outside that debate, you cannot eliminate non-excludability from certain items: national defense and global climate quality come to mind.

Suggested Program Name... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6649929)

Commies for Coders?

Ick.

I think it could be helpful, but... (1)

ihummel (154369) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649937)

I think it would be a Bad Thing if government became the primary supporter of Free and Open Source Software. I want the government to control my software, via controlling the direction of Open Source projects through funding, even less than I want M$ to control my software. But a National Endowment for Free Software to provide grants to a limited number of projects could be helpful.

SE Linux (1)

TheIzzy (615852) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649943)

Would the NSA's Security Enhanced Linux kernel (http://www.nsa.gov/selinux/ [nsa.gov] ) count?

If You Think The Private Sector Is Dilbertized... (2, Interesting)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 11 years ago | (#6649945)

If you think working a "day job" at an "big dumb stupid corporation" is oppressive...

If you think having to fill out forms to requisition a 256M stick of RAM from the IT Department is oppressive...

If you think having to fill out more forms and get them signed by your manager, the IT manager, and the Purchasing Department's manager, and then wait two days for Purchasing to order the RAM is unproductive and oppressive...

If you think having to fill out even more forms the next week when you find that the fuckup in Purchasing bought two sticks 256M of PC133 SDRAM (or worse, one stick of 512M DDR instead of two sticks of 256M DDR for your dual-channel workstation), because "You wanted memory, and we found that PC133 was cheaper"... is assinine, counterproductive, and oppressive...

...then you, yes, you, have the adventure of a lifetime when it comes to filling out the forms and signing the declarations and attestations associated with applying for a government grant to develop a web browser, e-mail client, spam filter, office suite, regular expression parser, scripting language, or even /bin/true!

NOTICE: As a condition of receiving a grant under the Patriots' Freedom Software Allowance Act, I affirm, under penalty of perjury that Software developed under the Patriots' Freedom License will in no way be used to transfer data by Specially Designated Nationals, nor any data in violation of the PATRIOT Act, nor will it be used by any third party to facilitate violations of the Communications Decency Act. Software will not be made available to Migrant Employees of any Railroad as per the Railroad Workers' Protection Act of 1966, except such Migrant Employees of Railroads covered under the Railroad Pensioners' Guarantee Act of 1968 (amended 1972), and will comply with all other ordinances and conditions of local, state, and Federal law, subject to amendment.

Friday Afternoon Paradox: Free Software is a Public Good, but the instant it becomes a Public Goods, it ceases to be Free Software.

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