Is lack of software freedom a valid reason for refusal?

Paul Boddie paul at
Thu Sep 28 15:05:10 UTC 2017

On Friday 22. September 2017 15.57.26 Florian Snow wrote:
> Carsten Agger <agger at> writes:
> > * I want to park my car in the city, but it's only possible to pay by
> > downloading one of two proprietary apps (real-world situation in
> > Copenhagen) on my smartphone. Can I refuse to pay an eventual fine on
> > the grounds that I couldn't pay?
> No, you get a fine because you have the choice of parking elsewhere.

If Copenhagen is like other cities, the opportunities for parking elsewhere 
may be very limited. In Oslo, I either *don't* want to know or I would 
*really* like to know (depending on how much I feel like looking closely at 
some potentially corrupt dealings) how the parking situation got to be some 
kind of cartel where supposedly "managed" parking is outrageously expensive 
and where many people consequently have to play the automotive equivalent of 
musical chairs to hunt down the limited number of available, free, on-street 
spaces that are the only real long-term parking option for many people.

> The situation is essentially the same for people without a smartphone.
> If there is an alternative solution for them (pay by phone call or text
> message), then you could use that as well, but if there isn't both
> situations pose the same problem.

It is a question of accessibility in a broad sense. If people can interact 
with the payment mechanisms using public infrastructure then there is no 
problem. However, "apps" are the modern form of the kind of private networks 
that various corporations wanted to cultivate before the general Internet 
became popular. It would be like someone in the 1990s saying that you could 
only park if you had either a Compuserve account or were an eager early 
adopter of Apple's eWorld (or whatever it was called).

So these parking operators are forcing you to do business with specific 
companies. This is also why people should not be forced to use proprietary 
software, especially when interacting with public services.

> If it is a private company that uses those apps, then I see no issue at
> all.  If it is the government, then I would say the government should
> generally not force its citicens to use non-free software.

One colossal problem is that municipalities outsource services to private 
companies, some even structuring their *own* operations using a network of 
companies that take on different forms, potentially to seek exemptions from 
public obligations. I personally believe that companies should, in any case, 
be obliged to operate using standards-based, open, public infrastructure.


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