Norwegian Free Software Center Opposes Government Pro FOSS Policy

Alex Hudson home at
Mon Sep 13 12:54:09 UTC 2010

On Mon, 2010-09-13 at 13:18 +0100, MJ Ray wrote:
> 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.

I think you've made exactly the same leap that Carsten made. You can
argue in favour of things like transparency and value, but mapping that
to the software freedoms isn't straightforward.

If we take that argument at face value, what we're saying is that for
any Government website (as an example), people should have the right to
run a modified version of it for their commercial purposes that have
nothing to do with the Government data. It would be interesting to see
the construction of an argument that those freedoms are necessary for
good governance.

Of course procuring free software can fulfil these requirements (so long
as they behave as a good free software citizen, which is a different
topic) but to say that is the _only_ way you can fulfil those things is
a much harder case to make.

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

I think that has more to do with the taxpayer not paying twice for the
same thing. It's a real shame we don't have that in Europe too, it's the
same for public data over there too, but I think it's a different
argument: if we're saying the Government shouldn't publish and license
proprietary software to taxpayers, I think that's a much easier argument
to make.



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