[Linux-aus] Advice for releasing code

Mike Carden mike.carden at gmail.com
Tue Jan 20 15:12:46 AEDT 2015

Hi John,

I left the National Archives a couple of years ago now, but while I was
there I worked with several pieces of software that we released as open
source projects.

I suspect that our default approach of "Easier to ask forgiveness
afterwards than permission in advance" may not necessarily work for you but
it sure worked well for my team. :)

The main piece of advice I'd like to share is that before you select a
license, take a look at the licenses of any libraries or external code that
you might be pulling into your project, including those of runtimes like
java, GUI toolkits,  etc. Many open source licenses do not play well with
other open source licenses so you may be constrained in what license you
can select for your code and it's entirely possible that you have other
code with conflicting licenses that won't let you release at all without
breaching someone's license conditions. This happened to us at the NAA and
we had to:

* replace some libraries with libraries that offered similar functionality
but with different licenses and,
* change the license under which we released our parts of the code and,
* write from scratch the bits we couldn't find replacements for.

Sometimes discovering what actual license a project uses can be tricky. We
found projects that listed one license on their web site, another in a
COPYING or LICENSE file in the root of their source tree and yet another in
the headers of individual files within the project. Those ones required
persistent chasing of their developers.

This all occurred once our project(s) were several years old so it was
quite a large undertaking. If your project is small and doesn't rely on
much that you haven't written, then you'll have a lot less difficulty.

As another data point, I know that Geoscience Australia has released code
as open source too.

Anyway, best of luck and I hope you can get your project out there.


On Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 1:56 PM, John Kristensen <john at jerrykan.com> wrote:

> Hello All,
> Towards the end of last year I spent a bit of work time developing a
> simple tool for internal use, but it is generic enough that it may be
> useful to others.
> I would like to release the code under a free license, but because a
> large part of the code was developed during work time it isn't as simple
> as slapping a license on it a pushing it out to github.
> My manager is supportive of the idea and has asked the usual
> people/departments about what the procedure is, but the only response
> seems to be "we don't know, talk to the lawyers".
> I work for one of the Tasmanian state government departments, so before
> we "talk to the lawyers" we though it might be helpful if we could find
> any existing policies/procedures that exist within governments in other
> states or at a national level.
> Most free/open source stuff I can find seems to be related to software
> procurement or open data, but not releasing code.
> So... does anyone have any experience with this sort of thing, know of
> any resources they could point me to, or any advice in general?
> If the request is a bit vague and you need more info, let me know.
> Thanks,
> John.
> _______________________________________________
> linux-aus mailing list
> linux-aus at lists.linux.org.au
> http://lists.linux.org.au/mailman/listinfo/linux-aus
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