The White House Releases Policy to Help Government Agencies Go Open Source

The White House Releases Policy to Help Government Agencies Go Open Source

Published By: TechCrunch, 8/8/2016

Summary: The U.S.’s Federal Source Code Policy was recently revised to require that all custom code created or commissioned by government agencies must be available to all other agencies, and that 20% of it must be released open source. This emphasizes how integral software is to government operations, and offers an opportunity to remind students about how open source software works.

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Extended Discussion Questions:

  • Why might the government think it was important to make sure software paid for by one agency can be used by another?
  • Why might the government want to make some of its software available for free through an open source license?
  • Are there any potential disadvantages to this policy?
  • Some people think all software created or paid for by the government, even through grants to researchers and businesses, should be open source (as long as it doesn’t pose a security threat). What are some potential benefits from such a policy? What are some potential disadvantages?

Alternative Article:U.S. Moves Ahead With Limited Code Sharing Policy” (Creative Commons blog, 8/16/2016) offers further discussion of the copyright vs. patent confusion and suggestions for even stronger open-source policies.

CSP Global Impact Learning Objectives/EKs:
EK 7.1.1N The Internet and the Web have changed many areas, including e-commerce, health care, access to information and entertainment, and online learning.
EK 7.3.1F Open source and licensing of software and content raise legal and ethical concerns.
EK 7.3.1G Privacy and security concerns arise in the development and use of computational systems and artifacts.
EK 7.3.1Q Open source and free software have practical, business, and ethical impacts on widespread access to programs, libraries, and code.

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