Sunday, September 19, 2004
Linux in Government
Federal Contracts, a New Era of Competition: "Peter Gallagher, of DevIS worked diligently for several months to have the first federally funded GPL project released. When he finally saw light at the end of the tunnel, he realized he achieved his goal but not without a high degree of difficulty. It took nine months of negotiations, extensive legal fees and many sleepless nights--a high cost for a small business. He still wonders if he created a model agencies can follow in the future. Peter explains:

Our experience working with the Dept. of Labor to have our work released under an OSS license was telling. Here we are talking about software development that was funded by the government as opposed to buying a license in an existing product. The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) have something called 'Rights in Data' that are part of any Federal contract. The basic clause says authors generally have the right to their copyright--this applies to a research paper as well as software although it does get complicated.

To release under the OSS license you need to have a copyrighted work, and the government generally does not create copyrighted works. So in the case of the DoL, DevIS transferred our copyright to the DoL who released the work. I think it would have been easier to just have us release the code directly as a small business. Developing the copyright transfer document cost us over $20,000 in legal fees but in this case our customer, the DoL, wanted the responsibility. The important thing for us was that a product we developed, primarily with federal funds, was now released on a .GOV site as OSS."

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