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Share Fixes, NASA Asks

Open-source agreement, if approved, would require developers to reveal code modifications
In a bid to make greater use of the open-source community, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration has submitted an open-source licensing agreement to the Open Source Initiative. If approved, the NASA Open Source Agreement will require developers using NASA code to share modifications with NASA and the open-source community.

In return, an indemnity provision protects software developers from any liability arising from use or distribution of NASA's software. Indemnification has increasingly become an issue as SCO Group files lawsuits against Linux vendors and users. NASA revealed last week that it received a letter from SCO Group in December in which the company claimed that Linux contains improperly contributed Unix source code. The letter didn't request any action from NASA, says Gary Borda, a senior patent attorney in NASA's Office of the General Counsel. The Energy Department and other agencies received similar letters.

Government agencies can't use the General Public License to protect shared code, because works that public-sector employees produce can't be copyrighted.