License guidance for federal source code pilot program

The federal pilot program for releasing at least 20 percent of new custom-developed code as open source software requires federal agencies to select an open source license for the released code.

Guidance on selecting an appropriate open source license for code released under the pilot program can be found at code.gov. Agencies are encouraged to select a standard license that can be applied to all open source projects rather than choose a license on a project-by-project basis. The following items are to be considered by federal agencies in choosing an open source license:

using a license that is considered “popular” by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) may maximize the interoperability of the license with other open source code;

choose a license that does not place unnecessary restrictions on the open source code; 

avoid the creation of ad hoc licenses in order to avoid uncertainty on the part of contributors with respect to legal rights regarding distribution and reuse; and

use standardized and well-vetted licenses.

There are, of course, many other issues that could be considered with respect to selecting and applying a license to free and open software, but the above items are good for starters.