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30 January 2013, 12:31

US Democratic Party relicenses voter registration application

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Democrats logo The US Democratic National Committee (DNC) has changed the licensing on its open source voter registration application to be more in line with usual licensing practices in the community. The initial licence imposed restrictions that were criticised as not being compatible with what is usually accepted as constituting open source software. The DNC has now changed the licence for the code to the MIT License accompanied by an advisory document that does not impose any further instructions.

The release of the application's code on GitHub last year was followed by a discussion about the licensing problems. Mike Milinkovich, Director of the Open Source Initiative (OSI), requested that the DNC either relicense the code or cease claiming it was open source. The MIT License was eventually chosen after a proposal by OSI board member Karl Fogel. The DNC had selected the original licence because of the highly regulated nature of voter registration in the US and because of concerns that the DNC would be liable for illegal use of the software.

The MIT License should isolate the DNC developers from this liability, and the accompanying advisory warns potential users of the software about the legal ramifications. Deputy Technology Director for the DNC, Paul Smith, says the new notice is not binding and that "like any piece of open source software, people are 'free' to use it illegally, and free to suffer the consequences if they do."

The voter registration software is written in Ruby on Rails and its source code is available from the Democratic Party's GitHub account under the MIT License.


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