The Scientific Public License?

After our long software licensing discussion on the biology-in-python list, I realized that I wanted something different in a license for scientific software.

Specifically, I would like to attach the following clause to either a BSD or L/GPL style license:

Publications relying on derivative works of this software must
publish all such derivative works under this same license.

The intent is that Dr. Joe Blow, if he chooses to use and modify my software to support his data analysis or computation and then publishes his results, must republish the software with his modifications.

Has anyone seen anything like this?

I should also link to the Bayh-Dole Act, which -- for scientists -- is an extremely important law, because it grants universities copyright to source code produced under federal funding. This is why Caltech and MSU own my code, rather than the government, and it's why they can force me to release my code under the GPL.


Legacy Comments

Posted by Jonathan Eisen on 2007-09-29 at 17:25.

I want the same type of license for DATA.  I have written about this
but never gotten anywhere.  I think it is worth raising with the
Science Commons folks.     See <a

Posted by Paul Boddie on 2007-09-29 at 20:50.

To make an amendment as you suggest would be, in effect, to claim that
conveying the output of the software is equivalent to providing some
kind of interaction with the software, and that recipients of the
output have the right to receive the source code, similar to what is
described in the Affero GPL version 3, section 13 (in the context of
interaction over a network, however).    Given the predisposition in
some parts of the academic community to offer data files (and
services) without any substantial indication of how they were produced
(apart from hand-waving in a paper), I'd welcome an initiative like
this, provided it doesn't start to have negative licence
interoperability effects like the various invalid "non-commercial"
amendments to the GPL that one sees from various academic software

Posted by Titus Brown on 2007-10-01 at 14:33.

Jonathan, I think data is already covered to some extent, no?  I
realize not everyone actually adheres to the guidelines, but that
needs to be enforced by the journals.    Source code is a big problem
for me, because it's freakin' **methodology**.  Gotta reveal.  Grr.
Paul, I think you have put it into suitably lawerly language, although
bear in mind that the requirement only comes into effect if you've
actually modified the software (at least under my proposal).  Does
that change the language?  Not sure...

Posted by Paul Boddie on 2007-10-03 at 05:38.

Titus, I believe that there are some aspects of the GPLv3 which permit
developers to nominate other parties who will then provide the source
code for the covered programs:    <a href="
/gpl-faq.html#SourceAndBinaryOnDifferentSites</a>    What this means
is that someone who doesn't modify existing software could still fall
within the copyleft system by arranging for someone else - possibly
the original developers - to offer the source code for that software.
Applying this to an Affero GPL-style licence would mean that someone
offering data produced by an unmodified program could also make a
similar arrangement.

Posted by Matt on 2007-12-12 at 15:49.

Titus, this is a great idea.  I work in a simulation-based community,
and one of my annoyances is the idea of the Black Box computing,
wherein one group will publish results and then they will be
essentially unverifiable without a complete reimplementation of the
algorithm -- and as I'm sure you're aware, this is non-trivial and
sometimes impossible.  Part of the peer review process should be code
inspection, not simply inspection of the results.

Comments !