Input on anticompetitive characteristic of public code

Bastien bzg at
Fri Jun 22 06:21:00 UTC 2018

Hi Erik,

> Now my questions:
> * How can we oppose the argument that publicly financed software released as
> Free Software is anticompetitive?

I've found the following argument to be somehow convincing.

How do you know that a SaaS (Software as a Service) is not a free
software?  Well, you probably don't and most customers don't care.

If free softwares should be considered anti-competitive, then free
SaaS should be considered anti-competitive too.

But it's not just "free SaaS": any kind of SaaS comes with hidden
operational costs which prevents a rational approach of what would be
a fair price.  (Google Maps prices, for example, were certainly not
very fair regarding competition: they first killed the market then
increased their price a lot.)  When a company deploys free softwares,
they are just running a kind of service over some hidden operational
costs, that of the free softwares themselves, the difference being
that those costs are supported by the free software communities.

> * What can we bring up on the other hand in favor of publishing as Free
> Software from a competitive point of view?
> (except the usual non-dependencies)

IT companies deploying free softwares compete on better integration,
customization, documentation, support and maintenance, instead of
competing on supposedly better closed code.

> * What other arguments can be made in that context to balance an even
> anticompetitive decision pro Free Software (like public duty to supply,
> binding public money with public goods etc)?

Not knowing whether prices of commonly used SaaS are fair (like the
price of Google services paid by many universities) is to me a big
argument -- at least to destroy the naive vision that it's easy to
assess the fairness of a price in a closed-source business model.

> * Are there more examples in Europe in that - like in Switzerland - national
> courts decided in favor of publishing publicly financed software as Free Software?

In France, the law for a Digital Republic from 2016 simply says that
publicly-funded software is like publicly-funded data and should be
published as free software by default: "open source" is a particular
case of open data.

Of course, we're not there yet: administrations have yet to understand
free software, free licenses, and publish more code.  But we are going
in the right direction.

You can also mention the "Open-source contribution policy":

It basically says that administrations are encouraged to contribute to
existing free softwares and that public employees don't need to ask
for permission for this, they just need time.

All best,


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