[clug] What sort of OSS legislation would you like to see

Carl Jackson carl at videohost.com.au
Mon Aug 11 15:44:17 EST 2003

My apologies to the list - I had assumed it would be across the history
of OSS legislation.  I should  do some explanation.

First, please bear in mind that this is an "adversarial" situation.
Microsoft and
others are spending big on the ISC with the objective of crushing
OSS legislation before it starts.  There is no such funding from the OSS
To have any chance of achieving anything through the legislative process
will need to take an strong position to the assembly and let it be pared
back by others.

The OSS legislation that has been sweeping the world of the last 12, and
particularly last 6 months has been of 3 types:

a)Absolutes OSS mandates (actually the most common)
b)Coercive OSS language (eg. you must use OSS whenever possible)
c)OSS Equity (eg. in all buying decisions OSS options must be given fair
and equal consideration)

It is the precedent set by this wave of legislation that has created a
window of opportunity for a bill to get up in the ACT.   It may be a
long time coming again if this opportunity is not taken.

So,  given that issues such as Open Standards are actually more
pressing, why have all this bills been drafted and/or passed?  Why pass
legislation at all?

Answer:  To pursue a range of public and local interests that public
service buyers cannot, indeed should not consider.

  There are a number of issues that are commonly brought up in OSS
debates, and they are generally regarded as properly the sphere of
 elected representatives -such as:

1) To apply coercive  pressure to Microsoft.   In the case of Peru MS
gave the school system free software in perpetuity to get them NOT to
pass OSS legislation.  Microsoft has demonstrated a range of more
agreeable behaviour to its government clients in the face of OSS

2) To create local jobs.  There are "gaps" in an all OSS desktop for a
typical Government that need substantial custom develpment work at
first, and an ongoing development effort over time, that is  greater
than that required in an MS desktop environment.  The reports from
places such as
Brazil (100% OSS) suggest the increased development expenses are more
than covered by the reduction in licensing costs.

3) To create opportunities for local companies.   Big software companies
have the most trouble with OSS legislation due to their vast investment
in a secret code base.  Small software houses have adapted to OSS
environments and actually increased their revenues via training and
support contracts.   I note the ACT has no large software companies but
lots of small ones.  It is possible that OSS legislation would
effectively divert substantial revenue that currently goes to Seattle
into the local ACT economy instead.   And no trade rules would have been
breached.   If legislation by the ACT gov can be sold as a model to the
Federal gov then this advantage will be greatly magnified.

4)To increase the pool of local development talent.  OSS programmers are
often, ironically,  the key minds behind successful proprietary
software.  If there are more of them in town to help with then
changeover then there will be more available to be hired onto other
development projects, that will lead to more export revenue for the ACT.

5)Data Security.  It is argued that closed source could already be a
vehicle for "spy code"
- very private data could be extracted to the detriment of the
government and members
of the public.

6) Taxpayer dollars. This was the driver for the Republican-sponsored
bill in Oregan.
In many jurisdictions MS licence fees have become a substantial
componment of the budget
and attract scrutiny on purely financial grounds.

7)Overkill.   Many argue that windows and office are massively overkill
for PS desktops
It is argued that the cost of the licensing is connected to the
continual bundling in of new features
and products that very few public servants will ever have need of.  It
is argued that the default desktop for a
public servant should be very simple and that more advanced desktops
should only be deployed
"as required"

It hope we can all agree that the factors above are not the sort of
things that
PS buyers of desktop software could effectively weigh up in a technical
buying process
They are issues that are simply "out of scope" and genuinely should be a
matter for politicians.

Countries in which open source software proposals have been put forth
include Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, Italy, Peru, South
Africa, Spain, and Venezuela,  "All are serious proposals
and many have government support,"

And the UK has a major investigation underway as does the EU.

A number of posters to the list have noted that OSS legislation would
a number of internal players offside.  It would - for a while - then
people accept
the new environment and get on with things.    The many that have passed
OSS legislation
have simply accepted this as part of the cost - and guess what? the
world didn't come to any end.

So I'd ask you all to consider the "broader" benefits to the ACT of OSS
legislation in
one of the 3 types listed above and give it your support.

OSS legislation NEEDs a group like this behind it  to succeed.  There
will come a point in the
process where a constituancy will have to be demonstrated and guess who
that is....

Carl Jackson

----- Original Message -----
From: "James Ring" <sjr at jdns.org>
To: "Canberra Linux Lovers Club" <linux at lists.samba.org>
Sent: Saturday, August 09, 2003 2:06 PM
Subject: Re: [clug] What sort of OSS legislation would you like to see

> I agree. A higher level of public awareness is all we should be aiming
> The benefits of adopting free software should speak for themselves as
> more people realise that there is an alternative.
> No need to push OSS on people, there's no rush.
> James
> Brad Hards wrote:
> >All that said, I still think that the concept of OSS legislation is
> >fundamentally flawed. Education would be better, and is necessary in
> >case.
> >
> >Brad
> >

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