[FSFE PR][EN] [GNU/FSF Press] FSF Responds to Congressional letter

Ravi Khanna ravi at fsf.org
Wed Oct 23 19:54:18 CEST 2002

The Free Software Foundation is outraged by the letter submitted by 
Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia (Chairperson of the Government Reform
Subcommittee of Technology) and Rep.Jim Turner of Texas (Ranking Member
of that Subcommittee) to Richard A. Clarke (who is chair of the
President's Critical Infrastructure Board). This letter brings to light
the desire of these Representatives, likely funded by campaign
contributions from Microsoft, to limit the free market development of
software.  There suggestions do not offer the software industry a true
choice for a competitive ecosystem of software licensing legal
strategies.  By contrast, these Congressional Representatives seek to
limit choice in software licensing not even through legislation, but
through brow-beating the administrative branch.

Prof. Eben Moglen, Board Member and General Counsel of the Free Software
Foundation and Professor of Law and Legal History of Colombia Law School

and Bradley M. Kuhn, Executive Director of the Free Software Foundation

are available to respond to this most recent attack on software
freedom.  Please write or call me, Ravi Khanna (Director of
Communications of FSF) at <ravi at fsf.org> or 617-620-9640.

In this letter, which can be found at,
the two Congressmen write "it is essential that the National Strategy
affirm federal tradition by explicitly rejecting licenses that would
prevent or discourage commercial adoption of promising cyber security
technologies developed through federal R&D."

This letter was in response to the "National Strategy to Secure
Cyberspace" a documented circulated to Congress by Mr. Clarke.  The
congressmen further write that "We believe the National Strategy should
explicitly recognize that overall cyber security will improve if
federally funded research and development is made available to Americans
under intellectual property licenses that allow for further development
and commercialization of that work product. This is a long-standing
federal principle that should be explicitly stated in the National
Congressmen Adam Smith of Washington, Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Jim
Davis of Florida circulated a letter dated Oct. 18, 2002 to members of
the New Democratic Coalition asking them to support the position taken
in the letter to Mr. Clarke.  In asking for their colleagues to support
the letter they write, "Attached is a letter that is being sent to Dick
Clarke, the Chair of the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection
Board. As he shapes the "National Strategy"on cyber security, it is
important to affirm that government R&D should be made available under
intellectual property licenses that allow for further development and
commercialization of that work. Licenses such as the General Public
License (GPL) are problematic and threaten to undermine innovation and
security. I urge you to sign this letter.

The terms of restrictive license's - such as those in the GNU or GPL -
prevent companies from adopting, improving, commercializing and deriving
profits from the software by precluding companies from establishing
commercial IP rights in any subsequent code. Thus, if government R&D
creates a security innovation under a restrictive license, a commercial
vendor will not integrate that code into its software. So long as
government research is not released under licensing terms that restrict
commercialization, publicly funded research provides an important
resource for the software industry. 

Ravi Khanna				Phone: 617-620-9640
Director of Communication		Fax: 617-542-2652
Free Software Foundation		E-mail: ravi at fsf.org
59 Temple Place, Suite 660		Website: www.fsf.org
Boston, MA 02111-1307

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