NASA proposes free software exception for contractors

NASA just submitted a proposed update to its acquisition regulations, specifying that contracting software developers may request to retain their copyright in order to release their software as part of a free software project. This is a good update, and parallels earlier language that allowed contractors to request to retain their copyright to use in commercial software projects—obviously more choice for free software is nice.

Here’s the language of the proposal:

[1827.404-4(b)](2) The contracting officer may […] grant the contractor permission to assert claim to copyright, publish, or release to others computer software first produced in the performance of a contract if:


(ii) The contractor has identified an existing open source software project or proposes a new one and states a positive intention of incorporating identified computer software first produced under the contract into that project, or has been instructed by the Agency to incorporate software first produced under the contract into an open source software project or otherwise release the software as open source software;

Of course, in the absence of such a provision, NASA could get assigned the copyright and choose to release it into the public domain or under a free license itself. But a developer interested in continuing work on the project would probably do a better job, so it’s good to see they now can request the right to do so.

This proposal is open for comments for the next 60 days, in case anybody is interested in weighing in.