[FSFE PR][EN] German Parliament elections: The parties' positions on Free Software

press at fsfeurope.org press at fsfeurope.org
Wed Jul 3 07:23:55 CEST 2013

= German Parliament elections: The parties' positions on Free Software =

[Read online: http://fsfe.org/news/2013/news-20130703-01.en.html ]

Today, the Free Software Foundation Europe publishes its Free Software
related election questions for this fall's elections to the German
parliament, which will take place on September 22. All political parties
have responded to the questions, which cover issues like users' control
over their electronic devices, the release of publicly funded computer
programs as Free Software, and software patents.

>From the responses, it's clear that most parties now know more about
Free Software than they did in the past. Below is the translation --
done by FSFE's volunteers[1]-- of FSFE's summary and an evaluation of
the complete answers[2]. In addition, FSFE encourages Free Software
activists to use these questions as an inspiration for their own
questions to candidates on federal and local level.

1. http://fsfe.org/contribute/translators/translators.en.html
2. http://fsfe.org/campaigns/askyourcandidates/201309-germany-bundestagswahl.en.html

First, something pleasant: SPD, the Greens, the Pirate party, the Linke
and the Free Voters want software where development was funded by the
public administration to be published under a free licence. The SPD
states that "publicly funded software should be available to the general
public as far as possible". The Greens demand the publication of such
programs as Free Software in their manifesto (see FSFE's overview on the
election and party manifestos in Germany[3] (German)). In their reply,
they justify this demand with benefits such as "bigger and more
sustainable innovation potentials, broadening of competence in handling
software, but also security-related advantages". They continually
criticise the migration away from Free Software in the Foreign Office.
The Pirates and the Left Party both advocate a general publication of
all software and content funded by the state. The FDP does not directly
address the question, but generally claims to "consider both proprietary
and Free software" in public procurement.

3. https://wiki.fsfe.org/WahlUndParteiprogrammeDeutschland

The CDU however points out "budget law restrictions" for the publication
and advancement of Free Software by the public administration. In their
answer, they refer to a paragraph in the Bundeshaushaltsordnung (BHO §
63 para. 2). The federal government however states the following in its
accompanying legal document to the migration guidelines (German)[4]:
This paragraph "does not constitute a limitation for the dissemination
of software" (p. 41) and "in the practically most important case, the
further development of GPL licences software, a public authority can
share its own development portions to private parties without levy of
licence fees" (p. 43). In contrast, these guidelines highlight a problem
in the gratis distribution to private parties for development of new
software or continuing development of non-copyleft software. It is worth
noting that in its past eight years in government, the CDU has not
improved the BHO law if they perceive it to be problematic. Furthermore,
the CDU/CSU state that in every single case, it should be checked "if
obvious modifications of the software would allow it to be used for
illegal purposes" and if this was the case, the software should not be

4. http://www.cio.bund.de/DE/Architekturen-und-Standards/Migrationsleitfaden-und-Migrationshilfen/migrationsleitfaden_node.html

The refusal to release a GNU/Linux version of the ElsterFormular tax
software (German)[5] meets with a lack of understanding, regret and
criticism among the parties. The FDP points to the platform independence
of the upcoming version of Elsteronline, which will not need Java to
run. Still, they regret that the Elsterformular is not available in a
platform independent way. The Free Voters perceive the given platform
dependency as incomprehensible in view of system security. The tying to
a single operating system development company is unacceptable for the
SPD and they want to engage to "make according software available for
alternative operating systems as well". The Greens want to advocate the
possibility to use the ElsterFormular for users of Free operating
systems. The Left Party voices its criticsm: "The provision of the
Elster-Formular solely for Microsoft Windows and the refusal to release
the GNU-Linux and Mac OS X versions by the Bayerisches Landesamt für
Steuern (Bavarian tax administration), which is in charge of the
development, is not acceptable." The Pirates demand the publication of
the software – even if it was of bad quality – and its documentation
under a Free licence to allow others to further develop the software.

5. https://blogs.fsfe.org/mk/?p=1031

All parties agree that public authorities should demand all rights
(access to the source code, the right for further developments (also by
third parties), the right to distribute the software to others) when
contracting out software development. The FDP states: "This creates
independence from the producer, strategic reliability and freedom of
choice when selecting a service provider." SPD and the Greens mainly
justify their demands from an IT security point of view. According to
the Linke, the state "should ensure that it has discretion over how the
software will be distributed, and use this discretion in the common
interest". The CDU attaches "special importance to [...] the possibility
of further development of the software from the beginning" in the
future. The Pirates and the Greens point to the fact that governmental
usage rights are a necessary condition to publish software of the public
administration under a Free licence as demanded by the parties. The Free
Voters state that they will consider fines for officials and employees
who sign contracts without these usage rights.

Asked about the control over mobile devices, the parties mainly focus on
aspects of data protection. The SPD sees "challenges especially
regarding the right of informational self-determination". The Greens,
Linke, Pirates and SPD demand data protection-friendly technology as a
basic adjustment ("Data protection by technology"), while CDU/CSU, FDP
and the Free voters target a better education of citizens. However, the
parties do not answer the question about the rights the users should
have on the software on these devices – a question that for example is
asked by FSFE's FreeYourAndroid.org campaign[6].

6. http://fsfe.org/campaigns/android/android.en.html

On the subject"Secure Boot"[7] all parties are in agreement: the White
Paper of the federal government[8] contains important demands which they
want to support and implement. "With the implementation of Secure Boot
the owners of IT devices get limited in the possibility to entirely
control contents and applications", writes the Left Party. The FDP wants
to "assure that users can make an informed decision about their
devices", and the CDU wants to pursue this issue on national and
international level. In their detailed answer the Pirates write:
"Systems which prevent the user from installing specific software are
inacceptable on political and economical grounds. This inevitably leads
to promotion of oligopolies or monopolies in the software market. But
more important is the socio-political relevance of control over IT
systems [....]". The Greens doubt how the federal government will
implement the key issue paper "with the extensive ties to Microsoft
services" and SPD demands an "initiative on European level [...] to let
these targets not only be a political declaration of intention, but to
really stick to them."

7. http://fsfe.org/campaigns/generalpurposecomputing/secure-boot-analysis.en.html
8. http://fsfe.org/news/2012/news-20121120-01.en.html

Except for CDU and Free voters, all parties explicitly support the
royalty-free licensing of standards. The Greens point to their demand in
the Enquete Kommission "Internet und Digitale Gesellschaft" (EIDG,
commission of inquiry in internet and digital society)[9] where they
want to place the public administration under an obligation to bring
forward interoperability and sustainability of their IT systems "to be
independent from interests of individual market participants at the
further development of the systems." Criticism of SAGA, the German
guideline for IT standards in federal government organisations, comes
from the Left Party and Pirates. The Left Party see in the
specifications without restrictions and licence fees no automatism for
increased implementation of Free Software. "On this, active political
will and proactive acting of federal government is required", so the
Linke. The Pirates criticise that ODF in SAGA is only a recommended
format what results to the fact "that non-free software and closed
formats can still be used in administrative practice." For this reason,
they consider SAGA to be merely a "paper tiger".

9. http://www.bundestag.de/internetenquete/

Unfortunately the CDU sees no problem in advertisement on public
administration's websites[10] for non-free software as long as such
adverts serve usability. The other parties reject this kind of
advertisements, and want to prevent them in future. The Greens refer in
their answer to their request "Advertisement for proprietary software on
websites of federal ministries and public administration" (printed
matter 17/8951) in which they picked up on this issue, and to the
following discussion of this subject in the IT planning council. The
Free Voters offered their help for solutions on municipal level.

10. http://fsfe.org/campaigns/pdfreaders/pdfreaders.en.html

FSFE's ongoing work against software patents shows effects: By now all
parties on federal level agree that patenting of software should be
limited effectively. To this they refer to the inter-fractional request
titled "Secure competition and dynamic of innovation in software sector
- limit patenting of computer programs effectively"[11].

11. http://fsfe.org/news/2013/news-20130612-01.en.html

The CDU/CSU is generally in favour of using "Serious Games", i.e.
learning games with the primary goal of imparting knowledge in an
entertaining way, in schools and universities and thinks about releasing
those games under a Free licence. The FDP wants to get more children
into programming and "ensure that newly acquired learning aids can be
used platform independently". The Free Voters want to promote Free
Software in the municipal sector. The Greens especially demand a
consistent procurement practice for software funded by the public
sector, continue to criticise regression like for example in the Foreign
Office[12] and want to serve as a good example by releasing their own
software ("betatext"). The Linke sees Free Software in the context of
common property economics and thinks about ways of funding Free Software
development, e.g. using parts of the broadcasting fees. The SPD wants to
primarily promote Free Software in the administration. In the commission
of enquiry on the internet and the digital society (EIDG) the party had
demanded that the state should "provide subsidies for usability analysis
and the improvement of user friendliness of selected projects".

12. http://fsfe.org/news/2011/news-20110511-01.en.html

- More election interviews done by Free Software Foundation Europe
  and publications about the last Bundestag election:


- References to Free Software in election and party manifestos in
  Germany (German):
  http://wiki.fsfe.org/WahlUndParteiprogrammeDeutschland (German)

== About the Free Software Foundation Europe ==
  The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a non-profit
  non-governmental organisation active in many European countries and
  involved in many global activities. Access to software determines
  participation in a digital society. To secure equal participation in
  the information age, as well as freedom of competition, the Free
  Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) pursues and is dedicated to the
  furthering of Free Software, defined by the freedoms to use, study,
  modify and copy. Founded in 2001, creating awareness for these issues,
  securing Free Software politically and legally, and giving people
  Freedom by supporting development of Free Software are central issues
  of the FSFE.

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