&quogovernment mandate open source&quo

Posted 26 Jan 2003 at 00:29 UTC by lkcl Share This

is this a bit like racism, where the minorities can in fact themselves be just as racist as the majorities, but the majority has, by sheer numbers, more power?

what is monopoly law for? why do we have laws against racism? why should we need laws about open source and free software?

what _is_ it that makes open source so special that it has to be fought over and controlled?

are there any underlying principles more important that this: any icebergs of which this is only the tip?

Well..., posted 26 Jan 2003 at 02:17 UTC by tk » (Observer)

...perhaps if the pointy-haired government bosses can easily grok the idea of "interoperability guidelines", then we won't have to push free software this far. But I suspect they don't.

Enforcing Fair Competition, posted 26 Jan 2003 at 04:21 UTC by glyph » (Master)

Let's not forget that the government is the entity that gave us the artificial protections embodied in intellectual "property" to begin with. These are, as most OSS aficionados are no doubt aware, artificial monopoly rights granted to copyright holders. In the US constitution they are specifically declared as such.

These monopoly rights were originally considered necessary to stimulate the development of technology and art. As the Open Source movement demonstrates, there are other ways to incentivize this kind of development, and the government need not get involved.

The problem that we're seeing here is that existing software companies are addicted to these protections and see any threat to existing intellectual property regulations as very dangerous to their way of life. And they are! Without intellectual "property" protections, these companies are forced to compete on an honest basis with their "hobbyist" counterparts, and that's a very grim picture for them. Microsoft would actually have to innovate, and it's pretty clear that they're not interested in that.

Much like the RIAA, the BSA seeks to legislate its own business model and thereby insure that its way of thinking about software will never be obsolete. The correct response to this is not really more legislation, but given the dire state of the crusade to address the real issue -- e.g. Eldred vs. Ashcroft -- this may unfortunately be the only realistic way to even the balance.

international software balance, posted 26 Jan 2003 at 06:49 UTC by atai » (Journeyer)

Governments regulate software in order to balance the software development levels between different world regions. Currently the USA has a lead over other countries in software, mainly due to Microsoft's monopoly. Free Software is available to the general public, not just the general public in the USA but the general public earthwide. Free Software levels the playing field internationally.

Governments do this for national interests, among other reasons.

This argument naturally does not apply to the US Government.

OS market can no longer afford for-profit operation , posted 27 Jan 2003 at 00:43 UTC by sye » (Journeyer)

Since GNU/Linux offers source code and most affordable distributions on all sorts of media. Countries where the government need to pass law to mandate its agencies to use open source whenever applicable is only doing so because their news media do not have capitals to compete with noises made by M$ controlled propaganda channels on how Windows OS can pave the way for your nation's educational need from this day till the end of forseeable future ...

Free software a MUST for a democratic government, posted 27 Jan 2003 at 14:11 UTC by Omnifarious » (Journeyer)

Countries that allow themselves to use software that does not have clear, freely published standards impose a tax on their citizens that is paid to the vendor of the software they use. In order that citizens might participate fully in their government, they will need to purchase this proprietary software.

I also argue that there is no real standard but code. All else is just a description that may have something to do with reality. This argues that government should only purchase software for which there is a freely available implementation so that the standard is publically documented in code.

I think people who think of this as bigotry or unfair preference are missing some key points about preserving national sovereignty. Allowing a corporation to impose a government participation tax on your people needlessly throws away your national sovereignty and hands over a portion of it to the corporation.

Re: Free software a MUST for a democratic government, posted 28 Jan 2003 at 02:27 UTC by jbucata » (Apprentice)

Interesting thought there. At first I disagree, that an open standard specification is enough, as long as those standards aren't extended once they're embraced. But then you get into Gödel-Escher-Bach-style arguments of just how precisely the spec would need to be written--to the point that it might well have to be computationally equivalent to code.

But beyond that, pretending that's not a problem (though writing specs that aren't terminally vague is a problem), you get to the point that it's economically inefficient to write the same code twice. In the J2EE space, application servers like Websphere and such like are written to conform to the requisite litany of specification documents. AIUI, nobody just implements the specs--they either go above and beyond (=embrace and extend) or have minor incompatibilities. Otherwise there's no competitive advantage for one product over another. If they didn't do that, basically all you'd have to compete on is price, so all but one would have been wasted effort as the cheapest of the bunch would prevail in the marketplace.

In the same way, even though Perl can be considered a language with an open specification (though it's not necessarily 100% formally documented), so that you could go and reimplement it if you wanted to, in practice it would be a waste to redo that effort, since you're not restrained by proprietary rights from making use of the code which would force you to duplicate the effort--so it winds up being that perl (the program) is the only interpreter of Perl (the language).

So that's interesting... If such a specification were considered an act of law, requiring passage by Congress (in the United States), and if the code itself ultimately in fact is the specification, then the code is the law! President Bush would have to approve or veto every upgrade to Apache that some government Web site somewhere wanted to do, unless overridden by an act of Congress. Eureka! Somebody call Larry Lessig! :)

I'm definitely interested in the point about handing national sovereignty over to a corporation--since I believe corporations often wind up with law-like powers without the accountability that a government {of,by,for} the people would have. I've been thinking about writing a Cluetrain-like article on the subject at some point.

MS is the one pushing for open source adoption, posted 28 Jan 2003 at 22:10 UTC by riel » (Master)

This might not be their intention, but by threatening suspected software pirates and intimidating government agencies with costly audits, restricted usage rights and increased license fees they're pushing people towards open source. Add to that the pressure MS is putting on IBM, HP, Sun and others and you've got the perfect recipie for open source adoption.

Without the extremely agressive attitude Microsoft is taking against their users and competitors, I doubt open source would have been embraced as much as it is. Then again, Microsoft doesn't have much choice either; their accounting strategy is based on growth (without growth their employees wouldn't want stock options and they'd end up paying $22bn in extra wages) while PC sales are leveling out. They've painted themselves into a corner, with extra-sticky paint all over the floor...

Now, back to the subject at hand. I don't think legislation should mandate open source, but I do think that open standards should be mandated...

laissez faire or legislate?, posted 28 Jan 2003 at 23:22 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

okay, so when the "opposition" plays dirty - buys or bullies their way through the US government's laws that are supposed to stop them - it's okay to also play dirty?

riel, your point about open source standards being mandatory has merit: whilst it does not encourage development of software to be turned into a fight over the legal system, it at least levels the playing field for future development.

the european directive on copyright law (90/EC/250?) was _supposed_ to exclude from copyright protection "interfaces" of any kind, software-software, hardware-software, software-network, network-network etc. even to the extent of permitting reverse engineering as a last resort.

this directive has apparently disappeared from google and other search engines that trawl the web site...

91/250/EEC, 14 may 1991., posted 28 Jan 2003 at 23:37 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

91/250/EEC not 90/250:

COUNCIL DIRECTIVE of 14 May 1991 on the legal protection of computer programs (91/250/EEC)

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