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Government Open Source Your Rights Online

WhiteHouse.gov Releases Open Source Code 161

Posted by kdawson
from the of-by-for-and-to-the-people dept.
schliz writes "The White House has released four custom modules for the Drupal content management system. The modules address scalability, communication, and accessibility for disabled users, and the release is expected to benefit both the Drupal community and the WhiteHouse.gov site as the code is reviewed and improved by the open source community." Reader ChiefMonkeyGrinder adds an opinion piece with a somewhat envious view from the UK: "Open source is treated as something akin to devil-worshipping in some parts of government. So, the idea that a major project in the government backyard would be based on something as basic as Drupal is pretty far-fetched. No, this side of the Atlantic would have involved a closed-tender process; a decision made [behind] closed doors based on proprietary software and we'd be completely in the dark about costs, about delays, and about functionality."
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WhiteHouse.gov Releases Open Source Code

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  • Um... bullshit? (Score:4, Informative)

    by nacturation (646836) * <`moc.liamg' `ta' `noitarutcan'> on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:05AM (#31954772) Journal

    About the UK and Open Source:

    No, this side of the Atlantic would have involved a closed-tender process; a decision made by closed doors based on proprietary software and we'd be completely in the dark about costs, about delays, and about functionality.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=uk+government+open+source [google.com]

    Odd... seems the opposite to what the esteemed "ChiefMonkeyGrinder" claims. Of course, one of the links there is "words, not deeds" so perhaps all the noise about open source is just that.

  • by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:59AM (#31955546)

    There's no requirement that work done by the Federal Government has to be published or released. Unreleased code can be classified or avoid FOIA for various reasons, but it cannot be protected by copyright.

    In this case, they actually did release code and they attached a copyright notice to it. They don't have to publish it, but if they do, they can't copyright it either.

  • by ProdigyPuNk (614140) on Friday April 23, 2010 @10:08AM (#31955690) Journal
    I'm sure this is a minor oversight and the person responsible just didn't realize this. Here's some more info on copyright re: the government:

    3.6) Can the government copyright its works? This one has to be taken slowly, and we'll look at federal and state governments separately, because the rules are different. With one exception, works of the United States government are public domain. 17 U.S.C. 105. The only exception is for standard reference data produced by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce under the Standard Reference Data Act, 15 U.S.C. 290e. However, there's a big loophole here: while the U.S government can't get copyright for its own works, it can have an existing copyright assigned to it. So if the U.S. government produces a work, it's not copyrighted. But if an independent contractor working for the government produces a work, it is copyrighted, and nothing prevents that contractor from assigning the copyright back to the government. This reconciles the fact that the U.S. government can't copyright its works with the fact that if you stay up late on weekends, you'll see Public Service Announcements against drunk driving that say "Copyright U.S. Department of Transportation." Also, there are some entities that might seem to be part of the U.S. government, but are not. For example, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer a branch of the U.S. government. In addition, while under U.S. control, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and organized territories of the U.S. are not considered to be part of the U.S. government for purposes of copyright law.

  • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Friday April 23, 2010 @11:18AM (#31956760) Homepage
    Nope, the code was almost certainly produced by a contractor and thus the copyrights vests in the contractor in the first instance. The contract will require the contractor to relinquish at least some rights to the government, this typically extends to a general requirement to 'open source' the code. GPL is actually the most restrictive open source license that is commonly used. If you are a contractor wanting to prevent other parties from selling your code in a commercial product that is not open source, the GPL allows you to do that. If on the other hand you want to make the code as open as possible then BSD or public domain are better. The original Web code running in the Clinton White House was the NCSA server. It may have changed to Netscape Server at some point, but that was pretty much understandable when the NCSA server was falling into disrepair pre-Apache. Incidentally the reason that the Clinton White House adopted the Web as their standard over the alternatives was that they had free use of the NCSA copyright code because it had been developed under a US government funded grant. At this point the British Government has gone way beyond open source to open data. This is a much bigger deal as I really could not care less what office suite the civil service use, it has no effect on me. Allowing access to government data in machine readable format is a much, much bigger deal. That is something I cannot do for myself. Rather than having this bizarre obsession with open source on the desktop, I wish people could take a look at the bigger picture of government IT contracting and ask why every IT project attempted turns into a fiasco. The amount spent on desktop and O/S apps is a drop in the bucket compared to what has been wasted on the NHS IT system.
  • by chthon (580889) on Friday April 23, 2010 @12:32PM (#31957716) Homepage Journal

    Chlodovech (or Clovis)

    Charles Martel

    Charlemagne

    There was for cebnturies rivalry between England and France, but Louis XIV basically created the France that we know now.

    Napoleon gave most other European nations enough to think about. I think they more won the war finally due to attrition than anything else.

    I think it is only since the Franco-German war of 1870 that France got this reputation.

    But look at the first world war. France did not run. They had some difficulties, but ultimately (with the help of the English and the resistance of Belgium at the Yzer) stopped the German troops before they reached Paris.

    Look at their record at Verdun, they did not run, they made huge sacrifices.

    And the second world war ? Leadership in all the allied nations had not taken into account the advances in battlefield technology, and it was Belgium, England and France that where on the run.

  • by snowwrestler (896305) on Friday April 23, 2010 @02:08PM (#31959118)

    The new Whitehouse site was developed by a team of private contractors including Acquia, Phase 2 Technologies, and General Dynamics IT. The modules are posted to Drupal.org by staff from Acquia and Phase 2, so I would assume they hold the copyrights.

    My company worked with Phase 2 on a Drupal site and the contract did make provisions for them to retain the copyright of certain kinds of work.

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