Government petitioned to "free the code"

locked up
Image by
submit to reddit
(5 votes)
Should all taxpayer-funded software developed for governments be licensed as open source by default?
65.5% (133 votes)
4.9% (10 votes)
Depends (add your comment)
29.6% (60 votes)

Open Source for America has asked the White House to "Free the Code," meaning that the U.S. federal government should share government-developed software under an open source license. OSFA's petition has since expired with not enough votes, but stay tuned for future efforts on this issue.

Three top reasons they say the government should mandate open sourcing of custom federal software are:

Openness: Open Sourcing ensures basic fairness and transparency by making software and related artifacts available to the citizens who provided funding, consistent with the President’s 2009 declaration that “Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset.

Economic Multiplier: Provides an economic stimulus by serving as the raw material that supports a competitive software development and services industry.

Supports the Federal “Shared First” Agenda: Maximizes value to the government by significantly increasing reuse and collaborative development between federal agencies and the private sector, consistent with the current Office of Management and Budget (OMB) “Shared First” initiative. 

Creative Commons License


debbryant's picture
Open Minded

The White House petition expired August 16th but the initiative continues. More info at . And thanks to everyone that signed!

Deb Bryant

Jen Wike's picture
Open Source Sensei

Thanks Deb! Do you know what the next event is for this effort?

jhibbets's picture

Deb - Awareness is a critical component to this.

I forget exactly what I was reading or who said it...but this idea has been stuck in my head for quite some time...

Why is our government closed by default? Shouldn't we, the people, be instructing our government what information should be openly available and what information needs to be guarded?


Aahit8's picture
Open Minded

Well said Jason.!!

Aahit Gaba
In-House Counsel
Lyra Infosystems Pvt. Ltd.

Stephen Alexander's picture

By default, yes – but there should be the possibility of an exception, of course. The bar should be set pretty high for the exceptions, though, I think. This being said, I doubt we'll see this on the top of any legislative agenda in the USA any time soon.

debbryant's picture
Open Minded

Thanks for sharing, Unidentified !

Deb Bryant

Jen Wike's picture
Open Source Sensei

From the link shared by "unidentified" and The White House blog: "I'm thrilled to announce that we are publishing the source code for We the People, the online petitions system that has been a popular way for the public to connect with the White House over the past year... We would like to develop an API that would allow users to sign a petition via a third party website, but with some level of verification that confirms a valid email address to potentially receive a response."

Dwight's picture

Some government activity is by nature sensitive, and the same can be said for software. Some things must be kept secret for valid national security reasons. I realize that "national security" is way too often used as a buzzword to end debate and justify anything, but there really are times when these concerns are actually legitimate.

S.J. Lawson's picture

Firstly, I've been a nearly-exclusive Linux user for more than a decade, I read the mags, write open-source code... I never heard about this petition. Maybe that says something about why there weren't enough sigs.

Secondly, I don't believe half the things that are supposedly 'sensitive' are really sensitive. There should be ONLY two kinds of information to which every citizen shouldn't be privy: 1 - the identity of under-cover officers/cia agents/people under witness-protection, and 2- details about FUTURE military/law enforcement operations. No technology should be secret. Just don't make guns you couldn't deal with if they were pointed in your direction. EVERYTHING the government has done in the past (being the day before today), plans for everything the government has developed from code to cars to submarines - should all be open-source. One reason for this is that I don't want a government doing anything they think I should know about. Another very practical reason is that in the case of a catastrophe, we wouldn't have to re-invent the wheel if plans to all recently developed technologies were readily available. The government that hides what it does is a government that is ashamed of its own actions.

Dick Moran's picture

There are other things that should be kept private:
1. Financial negotiations WHILE IN PROGRESS if publication would cause speculators to increase the cost of purchase of an item.
2. Diplomatic negotiation WHILE IN PROGRESS.
3. Diplomatic information about another country which, if revealed, would work to our detriment. (there is no real reason the general public of THIS country need to know that the king and queen of Lower Slobovia are having a 3-way with the Prime Minister. But our ambassador better know about it.)