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NASA provides a visualization software called Panoply. There is a Credits and Acknowledgments page that acknowledges and lists the licenses of software dependencies, but provides no information about its own license.

I have looked at other software produced by NASA, including the source code for GISS and can not find any information about a licence.

The closest information that I can find is in the FAQ for the global climate model EdGCM Global that says the code is in the "public domain"

  • is it standard practice at NASA to release code into the public domain?
    • are there exceptions?
    • Can I assume that Panoply is public domain and can be used without restriction other than than those imposed by licenses of software dependencies?
    • Is the absence of specific permission to reuse the code a concern (this issue was raised in the answer to a separate question)
  • How common is this practice across government agencies?
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Not being from the U.S. I'm no expert on U.S. copyright law but I think there is a law about U.S. government work by default being public domain. –  johannes Nov 2 '12 at 22:47

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It's free software, subject to the constraints of the third party software upon which Panoply depends. From http://gcmd.nasa.gov/records/NASA_GISS_Panoply.html (you'll have to click on the "Click to view more" under "Use Constraints" to see the license):

Scope of License. Subject to all the terms and conditions of this license and of the individual licenses of any third-party libraries, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies grants the user royalty-free, nonexclusive, nontransferable, and worldwide rights to reproduce, modify, reverse engineer, and distribute the Panoply software package, herein referred to as the Product.

Conditions and Limitations of Use. Neither the U.S. Government, nor any agency or employee thereof, makes any warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to the Product provided under this License, including but not limited to the implied warranties or merchantability and fitness for any particular purpose.

Liability. In no event shall the U.S. Government, nor any agency or employee thereof, be liable for any direct, indirect, or consequential damages flowing from the use of the Product provided under this License.

Non-Assignment. Neither this License nor any rights granted hereunder are transferable or assignable without the explicit prior written consent of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Names and Logos. User shall not substitute its name or logo in identification of the Product.

Export of technology. User shall comply with all U.S. laws and regulations restricting the export of the Product to other countries.

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Your comments about the differences in attitudes at Goddard, JSC, and AMES would be relevant to my question about the (in)consistency of licensing; (JPL also has a large group of earth observers who use these tools). I gather my bulleted questions could be answered "no, yes, no, na, and uncommon but inconsistent" (?) –  Abe Nov 3 '12 at 12:15

tl;dr - NASA software is not public domain.

NASA releases some software under the NOSA. A great deal of NASA software is classified or restricted to NASA staff. The source code for the GISS GCM Model E requires that you be internal to NASA to access it. The Johnson Space Center has a complete list of the various levels of control over licenses.

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Any ideas about Panoply in particular? –  Abe Nov 2 '12 at 23:02
It appears to be free but not open source. I'd email the author of the software in question. –  World Engineer Nov 2 '12 at 23:12
There is a list of software released under NOSA which doesn't include Panoply, so it's fair to assume that it isn't open source. –  Peter Taylor Nov 3 '12 at 9:36
Why so many upvotes for what is a wrong answer? Panoply is open source. There's a rather liberal license agreement for it. The link to the Johnson Space Center Technology Transfer Office describes software developed at JSC. The link Peter Taylor provided describes software developed at Ames. Panoply was developed at the Goddard Institute for Space Sciences, an off-campus (and somewhat rebellious) part of Goddard Space Flight Center. –  David Hammen Nov 3 '12 at 11:21
@david he did address (though not directly answer) some of the more general questions that I raised, although your answer and comment provide me with more directly useful information. –  Abe Nov 3 '12 at 12:08

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