[EpiData-list] Epidata Recommend

epidata-list at lists.umanitoba.ca epidata-list at lists.umanitoba.ca
Mon Jan 22 14:42:59 CST 2007

epidata-list at lists.umanitoba.ca wrote:
> Dear all,
> You will find here an interesting comapraison of  free tools for
> Outbreak Investigation
> http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ew/2007/070111.asp#4
> And of course Epidata is recommended :)
> Thank's to all participating and specialy to Jens !
> Gilles

Unfortunately the authors of that article have confused "public domain"
with "available to anyone at no cost".

Software is only  "in the public domain" if no-one asserts copyright
over it - therefore it is owned by no-one , and consequently anyone can
create modified versions and assume ownership over those modified
versions and sell or distribute them to others.

"Public domain" software, which is quite rare, should not be confused
with "free, open-source software" (FOSS, sometimes also referred to as
"free/libre open-source software" (FLOSS). For FOSS, copyright ownership
is always strongly asserted and protected. However, the copyright
holders of FOSS also grant a license to others which allows them to use,
modify and re-distribute the software to others, provided that the FOSS
licensing arrangements and the copyright ownership remain unchanged. The
underlying source code is also made available to permit others to
modify or improve the software as they see fit. In practice, these
arrangements tend to encourage co-operative improvement of software
projects, rather than competitive splitting of projects into
incompatible derivatives, although the latter can and does sometimes
happen. The main effect of FOSS licensing is to remove the monopoly
which the copyright holder otherwise has on the fixing of bugs and the
creation of improved or customised versions.

An example of public domain software in the health sphere is the
hospital information system VistA created by the US Department of
Veterans Affairs. In theory, parts of Epi Info written by US Federal
government employees at CDC are, under US law, in the public domain.
However attempts by various parties over the last decade to obtain
access to the underlying source (program) code for the theoretically
public domain parts of Epi Info have been unsuccessful. In addition some
parts of the original Epi Info and large parts of Epi Info for Windows
were written by or belong to parties outside the US CDC and thus are not
even theoretically public domain. Thus Epi Info is at best partially
public domain in a theoretical sense, but in practice is not, because
CDC assert copyright of the software as a whole in the only form in
which it can be freely downloaded from their Web site.

EpiData is definitely not "public domain". Copyright over all parts of
it is asserted  by the EpiData Association.

Neither Epi Info or EpiData are free, open source software (FOSS) - they
are not provided under a FOSS license which permits enhancement or
modification or redistribution to others, nor is the programming source
code needed to make such enhancements available. I understand that there
are long-term plans to release EpiData and its underlying source code
under a free, open source license, but the timeframe for this change in
licensing is unknown at this stage.

Both Epi Info and EpiData are available to anyone at no cost. This is
probably the issue of greatest immediate interest to most
epidemiologists and other public health practitioners. However, in the
long-term, free, open source licensing of epidemiological and public
health tools should, in theory, lead to greater collaboration over their
development and thus faster progress.

Tim C

More information about the EpiData-list mailing list