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UK Govt Warned: Don't Buy GPL 806

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the just-download-it-instead dept.
JPMH writes "ZDNet is reporting that a UK IT industry body backed by Microsoft, IBM, Intel, BAE Systems and other high-tech heavyweights has urged the UK government not to commission open-source software, and particularly not software covered by the General Public License. According to Intellect, which lobbies for about 1,000 UK IT companies, the requirement of open-source licences for software funded by the government could have a negative impact on competition for contracts, the quality of the resulting software and even the confidentiality of government departments. In particular, Intellect recommends that the government drop the GNU General Public License (GPL), the licence upon which the GNU/Linux operating system is based, from its list of acceptable default licences for government-funded software, and steer clear of the GPL generally."
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UK Govt Warned: Don't Buy GPL

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  • Hard to buy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:28PM (#6246331)
    That which is free.
    • Re:Hard to buy (Score:5, Informative)

      by sxe_p06 (576333) <slashdot&p06,ixokai,net> on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:33PM (#6246414) Homepage
      Don't automatically assume free (as in beer), just because of the GPL license. Remeber, a GPL'd piece of software _can_ be charged for, as long as the source is included or available to all parties.
      • Re:Hard to buy (Score:3, Insightful)

        by smallpaul (65919)
        You've forgotten part of the GPL's requirements. Not only is the source included and available but the source and binary must be redistributable which means that someone else can take your code (even your build) repackage it and give it away. This happens often with Linux Distros. That's why you can't charge much money for GPL software. It only takes one altruist to put your software on a web site and you have "compeition". Given that, it's a little ridiculous to charge more than a nominal fee for GPL softw
        • Re:Hard to buy (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pe1rxq (141710)
          You can charge for writting it.
          Most software in use is special purpose.
          It actually makes sense for a customer to want his program to be gpled, he is not dependant on the original supplier for later upgrades.
          (Although usually the original supplier is the best place to go for such things as they have the best knowledge of both the product and your setup).

          Jeroen
          • Re:Hard to buy (Score:3, Interesting)

            by tshak (173364)

            You can charge for writting it.
            Most software in use is special purpose.
            It actually makes sense for a customer to want his program to be gpled, he is not dependant on the original supplier for later upgrades.


            This has nothing to do with open source. I write special purpose software exclusively. My clients buy the source - they are not dependant on my company to make changes (although they can hire us to do so). GPLing it just means that our company can just take the source and give it away - in most al
    • Re:Hard to buy (Score:3, Insightful)

      by acid_zebra (552109)
      I dunno, whasn't the profit-making scheme collecting money on support calls, installation fees, maintenance and such? (commonly labeled services)

      just my 2 eurocents.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:28PM (#6246333)
    IBM is GOOD, because they are making SCO look like fools, but now IBM is BAD, because it wants to make money from its software.

    What should I do??

  • big surprise.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jspectre (102549) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:29PM (#6246346) Journal
    they'd rather sell you their closed source buggy software at over-inflated prices. did you expect "industry leaders" to suggest otherwise?
  • That's pretty weird (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:29PM (#6246351) Homepage Journal
    Considering that IBM sells solutions powered by Linux. Am I missing something critical here? Perhaps this was not a unilateral action by the member companies, but instead an action taken by whoever is nominally "in charge" of the consortium?
    • by Jennifer E. Elaan (463827) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:39PM (#6246510) Homepage
      Well, the article states that an IT group backed by 1100 companies, including IBM, put forth this motion. I strongly suspect IBM hasn't even heard of this.

      I would even go as far as to suspect that IBM's Linux services division would be upset at this.

      From IBM's own mouth, they make over 80% of their revenues on custom integrations and support, which means that GPL software is a good choice from their perspective. Proprietary software wouldn't make them much more money.

    • by mcgroarty (633843) <{brian.mcgroarty} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday June 19, 2003 @04:30PM (#6247181) Homepage
      Considering that IBM sells solutions powered by Linux. Am I missing something critical here?

      I don't think IBM or any of the other old-UNIX-gone-Linux vendors especially prefer Linux. They sell it because customers demand it.

      If they had their druthers, they'd still be locking folks into AIX, OS/2, or other solutions they can control. There's a huge benefit to customers making purchasing decisions based on insurmountable need for more of your product, rather than price shopping whenever a cheap new commodity box might lighten a load.

      They'd also be quite happy if the software wasn't getting faster instead of slower. It used to be a given that the new versions of your software with new features you need would run slower than the last version, mandating extra hardware upgrades.

  • by buck09 (212016) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:30PM (#6246357) Homepage
    On one hand, they do tons of work on GPL'ed software, now here they are against GPL code.

    What gives??

  • Good Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nightsweat (604367) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:30PM (#6246363)
    Of course this makes sense. The government's job isn't to promote systems programming and advance the art of science behind information technology.

    The government is there to hand out taxpayer money to corporations.

    It's so obvious.

    • Re:Good Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Blue Stone (582566) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @04:15PM (#6246964) Homepage Journal
      "The government is there to hand out taxpayer money to corporations.
      It's so obvious.
      "

      Parent is modded as funny, but it's actually fact.

      The Public Private Partnership, championed by the New Labour government, was all about (in it's propaganda blurb) the private sector getting the profits, because it was taking the risks.

      In practice, however, they take the profits, and the taxpayer bails out the compaies concerned when things go wrong - the private sector gains and the public sector takes all the risk.

      The government does hand out taxpayer's money to corporations.

      It's not obvious, though, it's bleedin' blatant.

  • by Boss, Pointy Haired (537010) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:31PM (#6246368)
    telling you not to buy Kentucky Fried Chicken.

    DUH.
  • Its a bitch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sh0rtie (455432) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:31PM (#6246373)
    when your competion give away their software (and a good lot of free help too) is it fair that these firms should go out of buisness (the 1000 lobbying), i thought captitalism was supposed to work where the cheapest/most efficient solution wins , those that can't play , don't.

    interesting times indeed
  • IBM (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Kholdan (670731) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:33PM (#6246401)
    Is there a sonyesque powerstuggle going on inside IBM that results in left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing?
    • Re:IBM (Score:3, Insightful)

      by praedor (218403)

      So what else is new? In the OS/2 days, there was an internal segment of IBM that loved OS/2 and promoted OS/2 while at the same time another segment of IBM was doing almost everything in their power to destroy OS/2. Schizophrenia at IBM is not unheard of.

  • by DataShark (25965) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:33PM (#6246404) Homepage
    fact is: opensource is changing the IT industry economics and IT providers should adapt or die ...

    as usual some people really don 't get it (not a big deal - dynossaurs got extint anyway) and will try all sorts of dirty tricks like this one ...

    I hope as an european netizen and taxpayer that EC watch bodies look very wel at this kind of tricks ...

    Other than that - lots of good publicity for OpenSource ... (anyone in it 's sane mind really believes that OSS is inherently bad and insecure ? got tell that to NSA, NASA, ESA, IBM, the City of Munich or google ...)

    Cheers from Portugal

    • I don't think you have to expect much from the EU. Just this week the juridical department of the europarliament approved the new proposal for allowing software patents (and therefore . The woman responsible for preparing the final decision-making - a british labour member of the europarliament: Arlene McCarty somehow is in a lot of hurry to force this through by 30 june already. I think she has a hidden agenda.

      Anyway - all pro-Open Source talk from the EU IMHO is just a lot of nice words and no action whi
    • [A]s usual some people really don 't get it (not a big deal - dynossaurs got extint anyway) and will try all sorts of dirty tricks like this one...

      True, but by the same token, a lot of people do get it.

      I'm the lead developer of LISSARD [lissard.org], an open-source school administration system. I am having discussions with someone in the U.K. who is very interested in free software, and in particular, using LISSARD in several of the schools he represents.

      As I understand it, some U.K. courts have recently ordered thei

  • by Frater 219 (1455) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:33PM (#6246407) Journal
    • British Bloodletters' Association and the Snake Oil Forum have issued a joint statement decrying the use of surgery and medicine in UK hospitals.
    • Mercenaries Union has called for a more aggressive foreign policy "to protect national interests".
    • The Direct Marketers' Association is continuing to lobby against effective anti-spam regulations on the grounds that they "will prevent the expansion of your penis^W^Wour industry."
    • The Royal Mad Scientists Society has petitioned for an end to BSE prevention efforts, staging street protests with the slogan "prions are people too!"
  • by lord sibn (649162) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:33PM (#6246413)
    "Hi, we don't like having to compete with these guys. Could you please help us destroy our competition? If you do this, competition between the existing installations will improve! Really!"
  • "Don't buy GPL" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by presroi (657709) <neubau@presroi.de> on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:34PM (#6246419) Homepage
    * Don't sponsor RMS
    * Don't send a gift to Linus
    * Never buy a beer from the OSI guys
    * [your 'I misunderstood the topic,too'-line here]
  • by SlashChick (544252) <ericaNO@SPAMerica.biz> on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:37PM (#6246467) Homepage Journal
    Before you get upset and say "The UK is no longer allowing open-source!", consider this:
    • Apache is not licensed under the GPL.
    • Perl is not licensed under the GPL.
    • PHP is not licensed under the GPL.
    • MySQL is dual-licensed (i.e. you can buy it with a non-GPL license.)
    • Few (if any) Java technologies are licensed under the GPL.
    • (Obvious) FreeBSD is not licensed under the GPL.

    From the list above, you can see that some of the most popular open-source technologies are not GPL. "Recommending against the GPL" does not mean "Recommending against open source."

    Just something to keep in mind...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "Recommending against the GPL" does not mean "Recommending against open source."

      Perhaps not. But if you would have read the article, or heck, even the summary you would have seen this little gem:

      ZDNet is reporting that a UK IT industry body backed by Microsoft, IBM, Intel, BAE Systems and other high-tech heavyweights has urged the UK government not to commission open-source software, and particularly not software covered by the General Public License.
  • by hoggoth (414195) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:37PM (#6246468) Journal
    A study commissioned by the fox, today issued a strong warning against putting a lock on the henhouse. "Locks are dangerous things. They can pinch your fingers. They cause changes in behavior that are undesirable."

  • by Dr_LHA (30754) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:38PM (#6246484) Homepage
    Number of mentions of the word innovations per page is roughtly equivalent to the probability that this report was funded and ghost written by Microsoft.

    Lets see: 3 mentions in 4 pages. MS probabilty factor - 75%.
    • In addition to the 75% MS probability factor, there's also a 150% chance Ballmer wrote it himself. The word "developers" is mentioned 6 times in those 4 pages.
  • by zptdooda (28851) <deanpjm&gmail,com> on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:40PM (#6246522) Journal
    I have a feeling the UK's loyal friends within the Commonwealth will have a different opinion [slashdot.org].

    The Commonwealth looks like it's verging towards a common strategy.

    "The OEE and the DTI are considering establishing open-source licence terms as the default for government-funded software"

    This sounds like it's swinging the pendulum even further than South African plans.

    "When the Government decides to develop software using a restrictive licensing base, such as the GNU GPL, (it) should be aware that this would prevent it from deriving commercial gain ..."

    Which would be bad because we all know how much of our software we buy from the British government.
  • by Zergwyn (514693) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:43PM (#6246557)
    I have to agree completely with a previous poster, who suggested that the BSD license would be the most appropriate. Government contracts are paid for by tax dollars ultimately, and in the end a large percentage of that comes from business as well as from individuals. Having had to fill out taxes for my business for the first time last year, I can tell you that the IRS (or whatever the tax collecting body for your government is) certainly requires a large chunk of change. Therefore, I believe it only fair that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from software developed with government dollars.

    I don't believe a closed source license is a good one at all, but likewise I don't think the GPL is the best idea either. Either putting it directly into the public domain, or using a BSD style license is the best solution, IMHO.


    NOTE: This is for discussions of software being *developed* with government dollars, not when bidding is going on to use existing software for a contract, which is a whole different issue. But when development is done with everyone's dollars, it should be open for use by all.

    • by listen (20464) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @04:23PM (#6247059)
      So why can't corporations adapt, and use govt code in the way that brings the most benefit to all of society?

      They are not losing anything but the ability to fuck over the citizenry with proprietary lock in schemes and dodgy data formats. How the hell is that in the public interest?

      There is a weird proposition here, that because a business says they would like govt to give them code they can lock up, they should get it. The point is that no corp would have that code without the govt forcing them to fund it via tax. Why, exactly, are they deserving of the right to take from the commons and not give back?
      • "So why can't corporations adapt, and use govt code in the way that brings the most benefit to all of society?"

        I agree absolutely, which is why the government should create software under a BSD license.

        "There is a weird proposition here, that because a business says they would like govt to give them code they can lock up, they should get it."

        Whose locking up anything?

        Under the BSD license the code is FOREVER free. The only thing locked up is the extra contributions added to it, which is their work and
    • by civilizedINTENSITY (45686) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @04:46PM (#6247409)
      "But when development is done with everyone's dollars, it should be open for use by all."

      Absolutely it should be open for use by all. GPL software is absolutely "open for use" by one and all. The GPL even states it has to be. So don't worry, your business can run linux, too.
  • Intel? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by djh101010 (656795) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:46PM (#6246613) Homepage Journal
    Does Intel not realize how many of their processors are running Linux? Are they just telling us to buy AMD?
  • by verloren (523497) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:49PM (#6246651)
    One of the factors highlighted in the ZDNet report is that of commercialisation. The position paper states that using the GPL would remove the option for the government to commercialise and profit from its work.

    Call me old fashioned (and having said that I know I'm going to get at least one post that says "You're old fashioned"), but I thought governments were about internal order, external defense and maintenance of currency. Even being relatively liberal they should still only be concerned with generally looking after their citizens, not creating software.

    After all, the British govt. providing the NHS really limits its ability to make money by running private hospitals. And if they didn't provide all those policemen they could make a fortune as a private security firm!

    Cheers, Paul
  • by bstadil (7110) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:50PM (#6246656) Homepage
    There is not one word in this document of the Cost of interoperability or rather the lack of it using closed source SW. Why is that? In general I have never seen anything in any TCO analysis that takes this into account.

    It might make MS stuff look better in the short term, but I think we need to send emails etc. to the makers of theres TCO analysis and demand it be included. Why would the cost of interoperability be any less than say education of system Operators.

    Once the component is included it is much easier to have a sober debate on the long term cost of "lock-in"

  • Sounds about right (Score:3, Informative)

    by whoisjoe (465549) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:52PM (#6246693) Homepage

    Yet another well-formed opinion from those who would save us from ourselves, our own prosperity and our own happiness as a society.

    It just amazes me that there are still people who listen to these self-important, avaricious cry-babies who have somehow gotten it into their minds that profits from their current business models (without regard for their viability) are an inalienable right.
  • by temojen (678985) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:53PM (#6246701) Journal
    Intellect also charged that it would be a mistake for secretive government bodies to use open-source licences, since these might require the revelation of sensitive information. "There may in some cases be a conflict between the Government's desire to maintain confidentiality and the requirement to disclose the software laid down by a restrictive licence, to the extent that the source code itself discloses attributes about the Government body that are regarded as confidential," the paper said.

    They clearly either misunderstand the GPL or are blatantly lying. The GPL does not require you to disclose anything unless you distribute the modified version.

    Thus the MI-5, CIA,CSIS, Interpol, or whatever can freely develop their own internal software under the GPL, and deploy it throughout their systems. The requirement to include source only applies if they distribute the product. I expect intelligence agencies don't normally distribute sensitive software outside the agency.

  • by semanticgap (468158) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @03:56PM (#6246749)

    Unlike BSD, the GPL carries a political message in it, and the government would have to back all the statements in GPL such as "All published software should be free software", the definition of "free", etc.

    For what it's worth, I personally don't think all software should be free, but more importantly, I disagree with the idea of having to distribute a political message with my software.

    All the OSS software I wrote has been released under BSD-like terms, and when I use software in my projects, I give preference to BSD-licensed ones.

    • I just had a quick look at the GPL. I didn't see any assertions that 'all published software should be free.'

      It did say something to the effect that, if you want to publish software, you can protect yourself and make sure someone else doesn't profit from your effort by making it 'free.'

      Commercial software licenses and BSD licenses also contain political messages, if implied. Isn't it nice to have choice.

  • Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by inerte (452992) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @04:04PM (#6246837) Homepage Journal
    One of the previous arguments of proprietary vendors is that a governament shouldn't base their decisions on the license of the software, specifically, the GPL. Instead, governament should decide based on the functionalities of the software. For example, Microsoft Office's Word is the best word processor available, so the governament should buy it, since it meets the user's demands.

    Now, the table have turned. These UK lobbists are asking to deny a software based on its license, and that it doesn't matter if it is the best tool for the job. As long as it is GPL, it is wrong.

    Highly amusing. It only indicates that proprietary vendors are shooting everywhere hoping that one of their arguments convince someone. And that the "feature-rich" argument, after all, isn't working.
  • by OYAHHH (322809) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @04:06PM (#6246865) Homepage
    I,

    Am in the unfortunate situation alluded to in the article referenced.

    As a sole proprietor I've worked two years on a fairly sophisticated aviation simulation program that has usages in planning new airports and in airspace changes.

    I would like to make my project GPLed.

    Unfortunately, there are companies much more politically connected than I am that would absolutely love to take the code, go to the government official that they have in their hip pocket and sell it to them.

    Sure, the stuff would have my name written all over it, but the government official would probably never ever see the code. All he would know is that some slick sales person sold him on the software and more importantly the big fat maintenance/upgrade contract that goes along with it.

    That sort of thing is basically how it works in government contracting. Government guys have zero ethics and will screw you over in a heartbeat.

    It's sort of like an ego trip for them. They know they have you (especially if you really want to sell them something) and they will jerk you around bigtime.

    So yeah, if you're in a particularly giving mood then GPL is just fine. Just plan on not being able to put gas in your car for the rest of your life if you're gonna deal with government people.

    Because there is always somebody who is going to make they government person more happy they you will, even though you might be the "expert".

    Having said that, I have made my software's code available with fairly lax licensing terms.

    The terms basically state that if you license the code and then try to sell anything based upon it then you owe me a piece of the pie.

    If you want to use it for in-house purposes then you are free to use it.

    If you don't like the terms then you can develop the code yourself.

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @04:10PM (#6246906) Homepage Journal
    I've seen code from professional programmers and I've seen code from open source programmers and I think everyone needs to realize that there's nothing holy about professional programmers. In fact the open source guys usually seem to be using more advanced techniques. Take a look at some of the odd stuff they're doing in gtkmm or the database template library sometime. The only time I've ever seen code that advanced in the professional arena is when I was auditing the C library for Data General.

    Now the Industry might be spreading some lies around about how open source code is buggy and of lower quality than stuff done by the "professionals" but I think that's a load of crap. Even the worst open source projects I've looked at seem to be only as bad as the average professional code-base. Open source guys tend to code toward the features they need only, but if you paid them to implement features you need, I'm sure they wouldn't have a problem doing that.

    As far as the license issue, if I were in charge of a government (or other) agency, I would demand access to the source code of the work I'd commissioned. I would even consider releasing that code to the world, if not under the GPL license at least under a BSD one. Big IT companies might fear that because if their code made it out into the world, they would have commit seppku from the embarassment of the code quality or having some wise-ass kid releasing a much-improved version.

  • dead wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dh003i (203189) <dh003i@noSPaM.gmail.com> on Thursday June 19, 2003 @04:16PM (#6246966) Homepage Journal
    There may in some cases be a conflict between the Government's desire to maintain confidentiality and the requirement to disclose the software laid down by a restrictive licence, to the extent that the source code itself discloses attributes about the Government body that are regarded as confidential

    Absolutely incorrect.

    The GPL does not in any way cover internal distribution. This is not the same as public distribution. Making modifications and keeping them within your company, but not releasing the source, is completely uncovered by the GPL.

    In regards to software that the government funds, the government should NEVER fund proprietary software development (except for things which are meant to always be secret, like the US govt's program to predict how radar bounces off of curved surfaces). Public money should not be used to create private information, or proprietary programs, which the public then has to pay for again.

    In regards to what software is acceptable for the government, this organization's concerns about the GPL are bogus, and anything they say should be ignored. Irrelevant of the truth, they are going to advocate the use of proprietary software. It benefits them.

    The proper course of action is for the government to give strong consideration to FOSS, and if it decides against using FOSS, it should have to publish and explanation of it's decision to the public. In fact, any decisions on what software the government uses should be justified to the public, and the government should be required to consider FOSS, for the very frequent cost advantages of using it. The government has an obligation to tax-payers to consider what is likely to in most cases be a less costly solution.
  • by lynx_user_abroad (323975) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @04:29PM (#6247153) Homepage Journal
    ...everything looks like a nail.

    When the Government decides to develop software using a restrictive licensing base, such as the GNU GPL, (it) should be aware that this would prevent it from deriving commercial gain from any subsequent derivative programs and prevent or severely limit the opportunities to work with commercial companies on such projects," Intellect said in the response paper.

    Businesses are geared to think only in terms of how profitable a certain action can be, and are incorrectly projecting that necessity-for-profit onto others. Intellect appears to be trying to equate their perception of a reduced commercial value of GPL'd software to a reduced societal value of GPL'd software. And while the former is an unproven assertion at best, the latter is downright wrong.

    Should we abandon the creation of roads where the cost of building a new highway exceeds the revenue of the resulting taxes? What about housing for the poor? Surely we're not "deriving commercial gain" out of those projects?

    Seems to me this is yet another case where commercial organizations need to be reminded by the public that they exist only at the pleasure of the populace, and by their grace. When a commercial organization (or other entity) begins to promote it's own interests over the advancement of the society as a whole, that society is correct in recognising such an organization as hostile.

  • by ctid (449118) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @04:38PM (#6247288) Homepage
    There are many people here posting that the GPL is inappropriate for government-funded projects because it makes it harder for commercial organizations to make money from government-funded software. This position is, I believe, untenable in a market where an abusive monopoly exists. Here is an example which I have posted to Slashdot before:


    Suppose I am a government funded researcher. To be precise, people and businesses in my country pay their taxes and the government awards me some of this money to fund a new software system. Suppose my system is useful for SMEs to quickly help them to communicate opportunities to do business. It doesn't matter what it does exactly; the key is that there is communication between different organizations and that this is facilitated by my government-funded project. If I GPL this software, everyone in the country gets to use the software. If you're so inclined, you could go into business to try to make money from the software; you could improve the interface, or make it easier to search for partnerships, or whatever. Of course, you must GPL your changes, but you might be the clear leaders in the installation and configuration of this SW, so you could make some money. In any case, whether you can make money or not, the taxpayers do not lose out.


    Suppose now that the software is released into the public domain, or even under a BSD licence. Suppose further that half-a-dozen firms spot a market opportunity to improve this project and make a commercial product out of the system. This is fine in principle, but if one of those six firms is Microsoft, we have an immediate problem. MS could decide to integrate the system into MS Outlook; perhaps the system uses email to communicate opportunities. We still have no problem of course, because there are five other competitors, any of whom could come up with a better approach to improving the product. Perhaps some of them will flourish in organizations which do not use Outlook for whatever reason.


    However, if MS wishes to, they can simply make a subtle change to the protocol used by their version of the software. Because MS Windows is universal, this new protocol becomes the de facto standard. Of course, even this wouldn't be a problem, so long as MS published their changes to the protocol.


    Suppose however that MS declines to publish their changes to the protocol. Our five other competitors are pushed out, and whatever money there is to be made from the software will accrue to Microsoft. For all I know, MS are paying a huge amount of tax, and perhaps they should have the opportunity to make a killing like this. The problem is that all the other taxpayers get to pay twice; they funded the original software with their taxes. And now if they want to get the benefit from the money they "invested" before, they have to pay again, this time to Microsoft. Of course you could argue that MS might have made significant improvements, but I don't think that argument holds, because they wouldn't have to make any useful changes to effectively require taxpayers to pay again for what they have already funded. All Microsoft needs to do is to make some subtle and unimportant and secret change to the communication protocol and they've made an instant market for themselves (or, more accurately, they've damaged another market).


    I think that this is the key problem with BSD and public domain licensing for taxpayer-funded software.

  • Write your MP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Basje (26968) <bas@bloemsaat.org> on Thursday June 19, 2003 @04:39PM (#6247310) Homepage
    British citizens.

    Now is the time to write your MP. Write him a _polite_ letter (snail mail is best in this case), in which you explain to him that GPL is good, esp. for government funded software. Read the comments in this thread, to get some arguments.

    The most important thing is that you stress that this is important to you. Important decisions win votes.
    • Re:Write your MP (Score:3, Interesting)

      by spinlocked (462072)
      British citizens.

      Now is the time to write your MP.


      That would be write to your MP, Yank. Fax [faxyourmp.co.uk] is best actually (in my experience).

      I find this sort of rabid Linux/GPL/open source zealotry particularly irritating. As far as I'm concerned (as a UK tax payer) I want the government using the correct tool for the job required, using cost as the primary deciding factor. I'm sure time will tell that a UNIX (not necessarily Linux) solution would prove to have a cheaper TCO than an MS Windows platform. Ideally, I t
  • by LittleStone (18310) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @04:43PM (#6247350) Homepage Journal
    You can read the original Intellect's analysis in here [intellectuk.org].

    The ZDNet article misinterprets many things Intellect suggest:
    1. Intellect does not suggest OSS licenses are all bad. Only GNU GPL could be problematic for the Government uses (ZDNet's title is so misleading)
    2. The "GPL not suitable for secretive government bodies" is also overblown. The Intellect just suggests that if the Government wants to maintain confidential codes, they can't do it under GPL.

    All in all it's fair to recommend the Government not going for 1 type of development model/license by default. The only question I have on the Intellect's analysis is that they suggested that businesses can't get back value of their IP under GPL. As far as I understand, GPL does not require distributing their software free (as in beer), nor giving up the right of redistribution (so I can't distribute a piece of GPL software in which the copywrite holder does not grant me the redistribution rights.) In that sense, GPL won't hinder commercial interest in software development as suggested in Intellect's paper, and the whole analysis could falls apart. But I'm not sure I'm correct on the GPL, better have someone more familiar with GPL to point it out.
  • by mijok (603178) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @04:52PM (#6247475)
    governments considering buying open source software is considered. Frequently people here say "right tool for the right job" and talk about open standards being more important than the software. What has surprised me is that so far I haven't encountered one of the most important arguments: The right choice for governments is not necessarily the best software for the lowest price. For companies that reasoning is the only sound one but for governments it's not since they need to take more things into consideration - such as jobs in their own country. Have you ever seen police cars in a country made by a non-domestic manufacturer if there is a domestic manufacturer? I simply don't understand why so many European governments are so happy to send money to Redmond instead of trying to increase employment in their country. Obviously MS Office is better than OpenOffice and whether the total cost of ownership of Windows is lower than that of Linux (for eg. government desktops) is debatable. Can you imagine what it would do for Linux if the German government decided that since there is a domestic supplier of operating systems (SuSE) that must be used even though compatibility with MS Office wouldn't be perfect and even though people would need re-training. And if the French did the same with Mandrake? Why can't governments (and others) see that with a little effort Linux can be considered just as generic an operating system as Windows - why, why, why? If they buy other domestic products simply because they're domestic why not apply the same logic to operating systems since with a little effort they can be just as generic as cars.
  • Considering the increasing popularity of open source alternatives amongst government circles in other European Union member states, this effort will be a waste. I'm sure its a safe bet it will become a European Commission code to use open source platforms such as Linux for member state governments...if such legislation is sent to the European Parliament, all of the greens/socialists/leftists/anarchists/communists and crazy French peasant tractor driver respresentatives (MEPs) will vote gleefully for an act aimed at punishing an American cash-cow such as Microsoft.
  • by ansible (9585) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @05:42PM (#6248041) Journal

    If a piece of Governement funded software were to be subject to a restrictive license, such as the GNU GPL, commercial companies would often not see a benefit in entering tinto such an agreement because:

    1) There is a limited amount of money that could be made from the original development because of the limited opportunity for further revenue.

    2) They may not want to make public and available for free use any of their IPR that is employed in the development.

    Feh. If in today's economy you've got someone balking at developing FOSS, then you can just find someone else. There are plenty of software companies who are hungry for work. They're not worried about future profits, because they're trying to stay in business today.

    This is just B.S. cooked up by our "betters" in the IT industry to try to keep their pockets lined with taxpayer cash.

  • A Critique (Score:3, Interesting)

    by simon_aus (649753) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @05:57PM (#6248188)

    Read the pdf, what a hodge-podge of unsupported statements. Firstly it is written from the perspective of the "Sponsoring" software companies. As pointed out, it totally ignores the fact that 99% of Government funded in-house code is for internal use. Why? Perhaps because they have specailist needs. How many Defence Departments or Internal Revenue agencies does any nation have.

    Suddenly the premise that commercial software houses "do so in order to supply the software on a repeating basis and thereby to generate licensing revenues that allow them to make a profit on their investment" becomes null and void.

    Governments do create or sponsor code for distribution to end users or clients, particularly in Health and Internal Revenue. Much of this is distributed free in the interest of eGovernment and reducing costs to the taxpayer. The development platform here is dependant on what the client machines have (usually Win95/98) and they can code it in VB if they are stupid enough. A large segment of the economy is still run on clipper code.

    "Such a proposal would inevitably act as a deterrent to commercial involvement in Government sponsored R&D software projects because they would have such a limited opportunity to exploit any commercial gain from any privately owned IPR.." So this reads like they expect to profit from Government funded R&D, I thought this was where stendards otfen arose from due to the long term investment and the free rider effect. Normally, when a company pays you to write code they own the IP and I fail to see why this should not be the case with the application of public money. This effect was again raised yesterday by Hans Reiser. US style Corporate Welfare is perhaps not that appealing to the rest of the world.

    Some other points;

    Lack of adequate competition in the bid process.....

    What they are really saying is that "we want to be protected from competition". Especially from small independant development firms that may be able to deliver on a more cost effective manner and with much less overhead. That would be worse that government bodies buying the development tools and coding it themselves.

    Software that would not include leading edge developments.......

    Like corporates and Governments implementing JAVA and web services and not waiting for .NET

    This doesn't mean "we have established products and would like you to help protect the monopoly positions we have created by lack of interoperability

    Very basic software which would only provide minimally useful solutions.....

    Ah yeah, like "Hello, Microsoft. We are thinking of standardising on WinServer2003 if you could add...".

    Confidentiality issues....

    Well dont release the code. And if you do, don't copy any privacy law protected personal data into it.

    And finally "For the reasons discussed the setting of a default position for use of restrictive licences such as the GPL, brings with it some commercial disadvantages that may in some cases outweigh the benefits." Read any MS EULA.

    I would be interested to see the role IBM really has in this as it smacks of biting the hand, Linux and JAVA seem to be a large factor in the slowing down in the death of the mainframe.

    I hope I haven't taken any quotes out of context, but they really need to be speaking to someone like Richard Alston in Australia.

  • Reminds me... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dacarr (562277) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:03PM (#6248232) Homepage Journal
    This reminds me of those occasional commercials that the UFCW or Teamsters unions will do when urging a boycott of a particular independent non-union supermarket or two - buy ad time, say don't buy, and watch as their commercials had no effect.

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