[Linux-aus] Grant request: Contribution to Senate voting source code FOI request review.

Michael Cordover la at mjec.net
Mon Jun 23 18:06:50 EST 2014

On 23 June 2014 17:26, Bret Busby <bret at busby.net> wrote:

> What is the purpose of the application?
> Is it to simply challenge the methodology of the AEC in counting senate
> votes?

It's important to note that this is *not* the purpose or effect of what I
am doing.

I'm raising money to appeal against a decision made by the AEC. That
decision was to refuse a freedom of information request I made. My request
was to release source code written in-house at the AEC that's used to count
votes in Senate elections.

Importantly, even if this material is released it still will not be "open
source" in the relevant sense. People will have a right to see it but not
to use it, create derivative versions etc. Copyright in the source code
will still be held by the government, presumably on an "all rights
reserved" basis.

However, the code will be available to anyone who requests it and should be
published on the AEC website (because of what are known as the Information
Publication Scheme provisions of the FOI Act). It won't be released under
an NDA - but nor will it be open source. This is something of a murky
middle ground where people are allowed to see and study copies but not make
any actual use of them.

If successful however I hope there will be some broader consequences. I
believe this is the first instance where source code has been the subject
of a disputed FOI request. If successful this should lead to broader
availability of source code written within government departments. It
should mean government agencies think more carefully about source code, and
perhaps consider releasing it under open source licences. Certainly moves
towards CC licencing of government content can be traced back to FOI.

I also hope it will put to rest those concerns that making source code
available can result in "security issues" for important systems. We know
this isn't true, but it was still raised in argument against release of the

I think there are broad benefits in terms of promoting openness of source
code written within government. This isn't quite at the stage yet where
it's about open source licensing, but I think it's a step along the road.

Of course others are free to disagree. I understand and appreciate that
disputing a government decision may not be something LA wants to be
involved with. But I wanted to make clear precisely what that means and
does not mean.


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