Norwegian Free Software Center Opposes Government Pro FOSS Policy

MJ Ray mjr at
Mon Sep 13 12:18:04 UTC 2010

Alex Hudson wrote: [on preference laws]
> Personally, I'm pretty much against them: you can't argue coherently and
> simultaneously against the preference given to other platforms and for a
> preference given to free software*; the basic principle is the same and
> people will smell hypocrisy.

I'm not convinced by preference laws, but I don't think they're
hypocrisy.  It is possible to argue coherently that free software
should be preferred because the four freedoms are vital in achieving
better government:-

It has been demonstrated time and time again that it is not possible
to completely privatise the machinery of government and simultaneously
hold it completely democractically accountable.  It is necessary to
realise that non-free software in government is as much of a black box
system as an outsourced service.  In most places, some services of
government are not allowed to be outsourced.  So equally, some
software used by government should not be allowed to be proprietary.

Isn't this why the US has some requirement for government works to be
outside copyright restrictions?  If it's even accepted there...

> *. People love to fall back on "oh, free software is different because
> it's ethical and stuff", but it's a poor argument.

Actually, it's a strawman that I doubt anyone would make.  I'd prefer
to argue "free software is ethical because ...".

> For some, the ethics
> of public spending is you do as little as possible and get best value
> possible: reducing it to an "ethical" argument fails because not
> everyone's ethics are the same.

No, maybe not everyone's, but maybe there are enough with common
ethics to carry the argument - and isn't that what matters?  I suspect
we're never going to please Bill Gates with a free software preference

BTW, disappointed by this spamsig:
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MJ Ray (slef), member of, a for-more-than-profit co-op.
Webmaster, Debian Developer, Past Koha RM, statistician, former lecturer.
In My Opinion Only: see
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