[clug] Your Best arguments please

Kim Holburn kim.holburn at anu.edu.au
Thu Aug 7 23:51:11 EST 2003

At 9:42 PM +1000 2003/08/21, Carl Jackson wrote:
>Hi All,
>    I'm currently corresponding with an ACT MLA about OSS legislation
>and the MLA has challenged me with the article at the link below .  I
>would appreciate the input of the list Brains Trust on the best
>counter-arguments.  Any and all opinions welcome.  Give it your best -
>there is a vote hanging in the balance here...
>Carl Jackson
>> "<i>A Great Number of Servants</i>: The case against government
>software preferences"
> > http://www.acton.org/ppolicy/comment/article.php?id=150

Here's some of my ramblings in reply to that article:

>In light of the obvious success of open source software, some advocates - whose passion for the technology could truly be described as religious -

??? as opposed to those who are paid by a company or those who have paid enormous amounts to a company?  As long as I can remember computer people have had "religious" positions on hardware and software.  It goes with the territory.  You know, there were the Apple II people and the cp/m people.  The mainframers and the microcomputer people.  The VMS people and Unix.

>- are pushing for laws that force government and public school procurement policies to favor "platform neutrality," i.e. OSS technology.

I can see good arguments for procurement policies based on open standards.  You don't want to have all you documents tied into a proprietary standard so that to communicate or even to read archives later would require proprietary software and proprietary standards that meant that if there were errors in the documents, the data in them could not be retrieved?

Platform neutrality is a furphy - after all to some extent MS products are "platform neutral" -

Government can mandate standards for their purchases.  Companies can adapt or lose business.  It's not the government's job to adapt to what companies give them.

>In Texas and Oregon, for instance, bills SB 1579 and HB 2892 were recently introduced, both virtually requiring adherence to OSS standards. HB 2892 of Oregon, for example, includes an important line that reads:
>"It is in the public interest to ensure interoperability of computer systems through the use of software and products that promote open, platform-neutral standards."
>Several paragraphs later the bill states:
>"Open source software ensures interoperability through adherence to open, platform-neutral standards."
>In other words, the goal of "platform neutrality" is a state interest, and the only software that fills such a category is OSS.

No it isn't at all and misses an important point.  Look at the Diebold business.  There are good reasons for governments insisting that software they run has no hidden "back doors"!

>Thankfully, neither bill has passed. However, aided by arguments that open source can reduce software costs, the campaign to create government purchasing mandates is gaining strength. According to an April study prepared for the New York City Council, there are now 70 active proposals for OSS procurement policies in 24 countries - comprising a $22.5 billion government software market. OSS activists are opposed by Microsoft Corp. and the Computer Technology Industry Association, which argues through its Initiative for Software Choice that open-source mandates are destructive to intellectual property rights and innovation.
>The emergence of state intervention through anti-proprietary open source preferences is imprudent for several reasons. First, technological innovation for the most part has been, and will continue to be, spurred on in the context of for-profit entrepreneurial ventures. The protection of proprietary copyright law provides incentives for continuing innovation via the market-based feedback of the pricing system.

I'd like to see proof of this.  OSS is, I would have thought, proof that we can have significant and powerful innovation without ownership of ideas.

>The benefits of dispersed property ownership, expressed well by Thomas Aquinas, is equally applicable to intellectual property:
>"Ševery man is more careful to procure what is for himself alone than that which is common to many or to all: since each one would shirk the labor and leave to another that which concerns the community, as happens where there is a great number of servants." Summa Theologiae ,  II-II, 66, a.2 .

All these ideas and laws based on material goods "which can not be copied at the click of a button".

>Second, even if software is labeled "free of charge," hidden costs associated with OSS maintenance will often equal or exceed the costs of a propriety package. Most proprietary software companies will include the costs of future maintenance and support in their packages.

The old TCO lie.  All software costs to install and maintain.  If it also costs to buy and upgrade it is simply going to end up more costly - much more costly.

Kim Holburn 
Network Consultant - Telecommunications Engineering
Research School of Information Sciences and Engineering
Australian National University - Ph: +61 2 61258620 M: +61 0417820641
Email: kim.holburn at anu.edu.au  - PGP Public Key on request

Life is complex - It has real and imaginary parts.
     Andrea Leistra (rec.arts.sf.written.Robert-jordan)

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