[Linux-aus] Advice for releasing code

John Kristensen john at jerrykan.com
Wed Jan 21 14:50:19 AEDT 2015

Hello Mike,

On 20/01/15 15:12, Mike Carden wrote:
> 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. :)

I suspect something similar may have happened here is the past as well,
but mainly for sending patches upstream and the like. This seemed like a
good opportunity to clarify some of this stuff though.

> 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.

I think for my project I am OK, but this is really useful for us to keep
in mind if we develop an internal policies/check-lists.

> 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.
> -- 
> MC


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