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New Zealand SSC Releases Revised Guidance on Open Source
Sunday, May 14 2006 @ 11:19 PM EDT

This is very welcome news. You'll remember in March when New Zealand's State Services Commission posted a paper providing "guidance" to departments regarding Open Source. The paper, prepared by a law firm that lists Microsoft as a client, used such controversial terms as "infectious" when discussing the GPL.

A revised document is now available, which has been improved markedly.

From their press release:

The State Services Commission (SSC) today released an updated version of their briefing paper, A Guide to Legal Issues in using Open Source Software.

Laurence Millar, Deputy Commissioner Information and Communications Technologies, said the SSC received over 100 emails from the open source community about the first version of the paper, and traffic to the e-government website, www.e.govt.nz, saw a fivefold increase in the days following its release.

"After we had reviewed the feedback, some of which was quite comprehensive, we recognized the need to develop a new version that more accurately represented SSC's position on open source," Mr Millar said.

"We believe the updated paper is an improvement and takes into account the views we received. We would like to thank the New Zealand Open Source Society for their assistance during the revision process. Their members provided valuable feedback on the initial document.

"The whole process has led to an improved document and one that more accurately reflects SSC's support for the use of open source in New Zealand government," Mr Millar said.

For one example of improvement, in the original paper, one segment read like this: "It is the infectiousness of open source licences that leads to many of these risks. Unfortunately it is not always clear-cut when any piece of open source software will be infectious. In addition, the practical significance of these risks for any particular piece of software will depend on the intended use of the software and whether anyone is likely to seek to enforce the terms of the open source licence... Managing open source software risks can be complicated."

That segment is simply gone. Now it reads, "Software is generally considered to be 'open source' when it is made available in source code (i.e. human readable) form, under a licence that allows it to be modified and redistributed. Some open source licences are said to 'propagate'." It then goes on to describe how the GPL and LGPL work in a straightforward manner, essentially making sure departments use it appropriately.

It is very commendable that the SCC made this effort to be more even-handed and more accurate, pointing out clearly that there are no restrictions on internal use and modification at all, for example (try doing that with Microsoft's code), and I thank them for listening to thoughtful and polite input and being willing to respond.


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