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Free Software Wins Court Battle in Quebec 172

Posted by kdawson
from the one-judge-not-bought dept.
courteaudotbiz writes "In a court battle in the province of Quebec, Canada, initiated more than two years ago, free software activists Savoir Faire Linux (translated 'Linux know-how') won the right to submit offers (Google translation; original French version) when the government takes public requests for submissions to replace its desktop operating systems and office suites. This opens the possibility in the future of replacing Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office in favor of Linux and OpenOffice.org, or any other operating system and office productivity suite. In his judgment, the magistrate said that the government acted illegally when it discarded the proposal of Savoir Faire Linux for replacing Windows XP with a Linux distribution."
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Free Software Wins Court Battle in Quebec

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  • by MagicFab (7234) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:06AM (#32457186) Homepage

    No doubt the court decision documents will help many people understand what Free software is and how it can be considered for government use.

    Full (French) PDF of the court decision is available here:
    http://blogs.savoirfairelinux.net/cyrilleberaud/KMBT35020100602152155.pdf [savoirfairelinux.net]

    English background information:
    http://www.fabianrodriguez.com/blog/2008/03/17/gnulinux-integrator-complains-to-supreme-court-about-quebec-government-illegaly-upgrading-to-vista-without-proper-rfps/ [fabianrodriguez.com]

  • by McGiraf (196030) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:08AM (#32457210) Homepage

    Vive le Quebec libre!
    - Charles deGaule

    • by Pojut (1027544)

      ::French Accent:: "Eh Vive Jay Shermaaaan...eh Vive Quebec-eh." -Jay Sherman

    • by Etyenne (4915)

      Libre == Free (as in speech). That couldn't be more fitting!

  • by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:08AM (#32457214) Journal
    Seriously, doesn't this yell corruption into everybody's ears? What right is held back next?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by OzPeter (195038)

      Seriously, doesn't this yell corruption into everybody's ears? What right is held back next?

      Nope. What it more likely yells at me is a bad translation from French political/legal speech to English.

      • Read the article in the original french. The judge made it quite clear that what the government did was illegal. Not just "illegal", but totally illegal, and that they tried to cover it up after-the-fact.

        And F/LOSS is political. Using F/LOSS is as much a political statement as it is an economic statement - that it's our computers, our data, and we have a right to see the source, to use open formats, to modify it the way we want, and no private corporation should be able to lock us out.

      • Seriously, doesn't this yell corruption into everybody's ears? What right is held back next?

        Nope. What it more likely yells at me is a bad translation from French political/legal speech to English.

        No, he's right: it's corruption.

    • by Etyenne (4915) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:16AM (#32457292)

      The RFP specified "Windows Vista license", which by definition excluded anybody who wanted to submit a proposal desktop OS replacement plan based on Linux. What Savoir-Faire Linux won is, basically (paraphrased, read the judgement) the right to submit a proposal to upgrade Windows desktop to Linux.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Rogerborg (306625)
        Sure, the RFP should have said "Windows Vista, or better".
        • Actually it should have said Windows Vista or equivalent.

          RFPs from the Quebec government can specify products (say an HP server) but must accept equivalent products in the bid (an IBM or Dell server with the same characteristics and capabilities).

        • by Zumbs (1241138)
          So, Windows XP would suffice?
      • Wrong. The government is required by law to consider all functional equivalents. The government's own studies show that linux is as good as, and often better, than Windows.

        By specifying Windows Vista, MS-Office, and Visio, rather than "products that provide the following functionality ...", they broke the law. Then they tried to cover it up, Worse, they claimed it was a "software upgrade" when it in fact included the purchase of new computers as well.

        To quote from the judgment Savoir-Faire Linux included this request when they became aware of the intended purchase: Page 8: "L'article 12.4 impose une 'recherche serieuse et documentee', pourriez-vous nous faire parvenir cette documentation?"

        Translated, it means "Article 12.4 requires that an in-depth, documented study be done, can you send a copy of the study to me?" There was no study done before deciding what to buy, and the government tried to cover up that they didn't follow the law.

        The government, under threat of legal action, agreed to meet with Beraud, but refused to give the specifications, nor the study that was requied to be done (because neither existed).

        Beraud then offered [56] an outside expert to help them do the study that they were required to do by law anyway (and hadn't done) during the procurement process.

        Now check out para. 84: (page 19) "A l'audience, le procureur de Microsoft souleve " - Mr. Softie didn't sell the software directly. I was bought through Compugen. But Mr. Softie knew that losing here would mean opening the doors to losing more $$$ later.

        Para 150 (page 29), quoting para 116 of Judge Silcoff in Alstrom "... the court notes that the study, to be in conformity with the law, must not only be in depth but also documented. If th STM (the city transit commission) wants to use an exception provided by law (to this requirement), they must document their research and conclusions .. before making their decision."

        This is the law for all procurements exceeding $25,000.00 (para 152, page 29).

        Para 153 (page 30) shows that there was no study done - quite the contrary.

        Para 156 (page 31) - back in 2005 the Regie had put out a policy saying that when it came time to renew software in 2006-2007, open-source would be considered.

        The smoking gun: para 157: (my translation) "I'd like an expert on open source software from CGI to comment on the following reply that we have made to a promoter of linux/openoffice. Are these valid arguments? What are the weak points that the promoter will attack and how will he do it?"

        In other words, "We didn't do the study required by law, and we want to cover our asses - tell us where we fucked up."

        It blew up in their face: para 160 (page 32) : "I believed that the objective was to compare the two solutions. Instead, it's a request to confirm that Linux-OO is no good. That would be a bit paradoxical for (us) to make such a statement when we are publicly stating the exact opposite ourselves."

        Pares 198 ff (page 38) the court completely rejects the government's arguments.

        The judge agreed that the government had no right to do what it did.

    • by Interoperable (1651953) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:26AM (#32457378)

      Quebec has a long history of failing to put contracts to tender properly. In particular, the construction industry has long been involved in the corruption of government officials to win contracts on dubious grounds. It's part of the reason that the infrastructure is so bad. I doubt that corruption was involved in this case however; I think it comes more from the fact that a large slice of the public doesn't realize that non-Microsoft operating systems exist.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by value_added (719364)

        I think it comes more from the fact that a large slice of the public doesn't realize that non-Microsoft operating systems exist.

        Now that they have a chance to learn just that.

        It's entirely possible that the rate of Linux adoption will be faster than elsewhere; not having to grapple with distinctions involving beer metaphors should make things easier. ;-)

      • the corruption of government officials to win contracts on dubious grounds. It's part of the reason that the infrastructure is so bad. I doubt that corruption was involved in this case however;

        I'm more of a cynic than you, I think the bureaucrat in charge of this was expecting something in return for handing a contract this big to someone in particular.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      What it yells is that people can't understand it if it isn't Microsoft Windows and isn't Microsoft Office. There was a time when the choices were IBM's DOS and Microsoft's DOS; Word Perfect and whatever; Lotus 123 and whatever. But that market-scape has changed and nothing else is within the realm of consideration. It is not just F/OSS that is to be denied but anything that isn't Microsoft.

      Let's look at it another way. If the product were ball bearings and there was only one maker of ball bearings, that

      • "Let's look at it another way. If the product were ball bearings and there was only one maker of ball bearings, that would be the only brand that would get consideration."

        And then it would be illegal for a public procurement. If they need ball bearings, then they'll have to ask for "ball bearings" not for "ACME ball bearings", disregarding how many competitors there are in the market.

        But then, let's look at it another way. I bet that there was a time when there was no black judges in Canada, (or in the US

        • by erroneus (253617)

          Once again, not excusing what has been going on, just saying that is a very likely reason. Never attribute to malice what ignorance or sloth could result. Technically, there not being an alternative to Windows makes it illegal for many governments to procure. There once was OS/2 but that is no longer. I imagine an exception has been made for all these years, but someone should be called to the floor over the matter and then require Microsoft, just as was required for Intel, to allow a competitor to use

  • by Interoperable (1651953) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:19AM (#32457312)

    Here is some English reporting [www.cbc.ca] on the subject.

  • by Etyenne (4915) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:22AM (#32457340)

    Correction to the article text: Savoir-Faire Linux is a commercial Linux service provider (an integrator), not an "activist". Look them up on the web. They sued the government because buying Windows specifically without considering Free software options was witholding them business.

    FACIL, which also sued the government for the same reason in a different case, *is* an advocacy non-profit organization, somewhat akin to APRIL or the FSF.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by stakovahflow (1660677)

      Even if this is an action by a business, it will not be the first time, nor the last...

      Red Hat sued the Swiss government (2009 IT World):
      http://tinyurl.com/o6mv2f [tinyurl.com]

      And how many times have M$, Apple, Novell, etc done similar things?

      I'm just happy to see a law suit that does not revolve around copyright/patent infringement.

      --Stak

    • by millette (56354)

      It's also worth noting that Mr. Béraud, owner of SFL, was on the board of FACIL when that association sued the government for the same reason. That case was thrown out.

  • Should not that Canadian flag be a Fleur-de-lis? Calis!

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:33AM (#32457452)
    Please note that your response posts must be provided in both English and French.
  • by MagicFab (7234) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:37AM (#32457492) Homepage
  • Vive le Linux libre!
  • by Anon-Admin (443764) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:40AM (#32457522) Homepage Journal

    I did some government biding some time ago. It was such a joke, they would request bids for "150 Dell Latitude D830's to be delivered over a 12 month period" The thing was, Dell was bidding and the government would through out anything that was not a Dell Latitude D830. So No comparable systems and no way to beat Dell's bid. As far as I was concerned it was a rigged bid and most of them went that way.

    So, For the government to request bids on "Windows Vista" and to ignore all other desktop OS's is the same thing as far as I am concerned.

    Now, the real question is: Was the bid written so that they could only get a bid from who they wanted or was it written that way because the guy in charge listened to the sales person, decided that was what he needed, and then wrote a bid because it was required that they take bids?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I did some government biding some time ago. It was such a joke, they would request bids for "150 Dell Latitude D830's to be delivered over a 12 month period" The thing was, Dell was bidding and the government would through out anything that was not a Dell Latitude D830. So No comparable systems and no way to beat Dell's bid. As far as I was concerned it was a rigged bid and most of them went that way.

      So, For the government to request bids on "Windows Vista" and to ignore all other desktop OS's is the same thing as far as I am concerned.

      I disagree - there is the probability that there already exists an infrastructure built around Windows desktops, including systems management and applications. In such a case, does it really make sense to consider bids for an alternative desktop OS, which would require extra unbudgeted expenditure in order to integrate into the existing infrastructure (or replace the existing infrastructure altogether, with all the costs associated with that)?

      With regard to the Dell example, I regularly got Dell equipment

      • by wrook (134116) on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:44AM (#32458236) Homepage

        I disagree - there is the probability that there already exists an infrastructure built around Windows desktops, including systems management and applications. In such a case, does it really make sense to consider bids for an alternative desktop OS, which would require extra unbudgeted expenditure in order to integrate into the existing infrastructure (or replace the existing infrastructure altogether, with all the costs associated with that)?

        The answer is YES! The government is required to consider all competing bids. It's not just a good idea, it's the law and for good reason. It helps stop corruption when doling out taxpayer's money. IF it can be shown that a competing bid is more expensive for the same value, then of course they are quite able to reject the bid. However, disallowing competing bids is extremely bad because you don't know what the cost will be, or what the issues are -- because nobody has made a bid! Given that the capital cost for the average Linux distribution is zero, there should be plenty of money left over for other expenditures required to integrate into the existing infrastructure. In fact, from a reputable integrator, this (along with training and support of course) should be the vast majority of the cost.

      • This judgement is that the government must at the very least consider the alternatives like Linux in an "appel d'offres", a bid request, and evaluate if it is the better, cheaper alternative. Instead the government agency in question had purposefully derided and torpedoed the Linux option and made the bid request essentially "Microsoft product only", which the judge declared was illegal.

        The judge didn't force the government to go with Linux, and indeed in many situations it would not make sense economically

      • by Hatta (162192)

        does it really make sense to consider bids for an alternative desktop OS, which would require extra unbudgeted expenditure in order to integrate into the existing infrastructure

        Yes, it makes sense to consider a one time, up front investment in your infrastructure as opposed to a perpetual license fee and vendor lock-in.

    • by DarthVain (724186)

      That's stupid.

      Sure the thing with the Dells is a rigged Bid, no question there. Likely whoever was in charge of the bidding didn't know what the hell he was doing, and if was ever brought to task would be in deep crap. Or he was getting a kickback from Dell, which is doubtful... they are too cheap :) jk.

      However to say having a requirement for Vista falls into the same category is foolish. In an enterprise environment they will have many requirements that must me met, and many of them, such as the choice of

      • Bull Shit!

        What do people use at work?

        Office, Explorer, Outlook, and maybe an IM software. That is about it.

        Sure your accountants will use an accounting software, which BTW, in large corporations and government offices tends to be a UNIX app that they telnet or open a terminal to.

        So tell me, in what area is Linux not going to work for standard office work?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DarthVain (724186)

          Yes because all our software licences we currently own are linux compatible. As is all our server software. All our web is hosted on linux. Also all all IT staff all know Linux, and also know how to support it which is pointless anyway as all the users know how to use Linux, as well as all the Linux equivalent office software.

          Sarcasm.

          Heck some of the negative airspace here can barely use Windows. Giving them Linux would be akin to giving a caveman a cellphone. Ook Ook Ah Ah Ah!

          Just about everything is Windo

          • by sznupi (719324)

            You seem to be under impression that the motivation for public servants should be maintaining their short term comfort?...

    • The City of Calgary, Canada, is under investigation by the Auditor General for awarding contracts without competition, just as the Quebec government is now.
  • makes my brain want to liquefy and seep out my ears.
    • || makes my brain want to liquefy and seep out my ears. ||

      Hey! Don't knock it till you've tried it!

  • ...they rejected a bid submission for upgrading their XP machines to Vista which didn't actually successfully meet their requirement that the OS in question be the one they asked for?

    I'm not trying to push anyone's buttons, but what if the proposal was to upgrade their linux servers with modern systems running linux. If a vendor came along and part of that proposal included a server running Windows Server 2008 and they rejected that proposal because it didn't meet their requirements, would the OSS communit

    • sorry

    • by clarkn0va (807617)
      Any RFP that names brands has missed the point. A better RFP would describe exactly what the new OS needs to accomplish, rather than what vendor or product they want to accomplish it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Delusion_ (56114)

        That's fine in the abstract, but in the real world, it doesn't always hold up, particularly when what a new OS needs to accomplish is often something as mundane as "run the apps we've already spent money on" or "be compatible with the third party vendor software that we don't have (or want) an alternative to", such as enterprise small format and large format printers.

        I've had this discussion with people before who migrated to Vista too soon who wanted drivers for $60,000 devices. In a couple of cases, I ha

    • If a vendor came along and part of that proposal included a server running Windows Server 2008 and they rejected that proposal because it didn't meet their requirements, would the OSS community be up in arms then?

      Maybe. For example, if the requirement was to upgrade all RHEL to all bids for the next RHEL version with trademarks in place, then yes. Up in arms. If requirement was upgrade to any GNU/Linux: Novell, RHEL, Oracle (he he he), Ubuntu, CentOs with support of local firm, then no. The concept is competition. Yes, I understand the comparison in this context doesn't fit perfectly, but any time I can be unfair to a corporation, I'll jump at it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Changa_MC (827317)

      We put out for bid by task to be accomplished, not by tool used.

      Flying a bid to revamp the electricity in one of our old buildings using DeWalt tools would be... inappropriate. It's incompetence if accidental, illegal if collusion occurred (this is an example, I only wish I got bribed with power tools).

      This is subject to some caveats, since sometimes only one company makes the tool you want -- but generally that's means you reject other bids quickly/there are no other bids. Not that you get to circumven

      • by Delusion_ (56114)

        When one of the tasks to be accomplished is "not throw away the investment we've already made in our accounting package" or "maintain compatibility with third party vendor apps we have no control over" or "ensure we have continued support for drivers for expensive hardware we already purchased", then the OS isn't merely a tool. It's a platform.

        Or to look at it another way, if your electrical company needed to re-purchase a supply of bolts via a bidding process, the fact that the tools you have are all metr

    • Does a government body seeking bids on computer systems have the right to specify which OS they plan to use

      No. They were required to do a study to assess their needs, and instead just decided to go with Vista. Worse, when challenged, they lied to cover their asses.

      And WTF are you defending someone's choice to buy Vista? VISTA!? Come on!

      • by Delusion_ (56114)

        I'm a Windows user out of practicality - I follow the apps - but I'm with you about Vista.

        What I'm trying to defend isn't the idea of Vista.

        What I'm trying to defend is an organization's right and ability to choose its own OS without someone trying to force the issue in the courts.

  • This isn't perfect, but it's hopefully better than the machine translation linked to in the summary.

    (Quebec) The Régie des rentes du Québec (RRQ) acted illegally in February 2008 when it acquired Microsoft software without a bidding process, Superior Court's Judge Denis Jacques concluded.

    In a lengthy ruling of about forty pages, the magistrate sided completely with the company Savoir-Faire Linux (SFL), who brought this action against the RRQ and the Centre de services partagés du Québec

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