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Canada Government Linux Business Open Source The Courts Linux

Free Software Wins Court Battle in Quebec 172

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 @09:06AM (#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 Interoperable ( 1651953 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:19AM (#32457312)

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

  • by Etyenne ( 4915 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:22AM (#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.

  • by Interoperable ( 1651953 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:26AM (#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.

  • by MagicFab ( 7234 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:37AM (#32457492) Homepage
  • by stakovahflow ( 1660677 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:39AM (#32457504)

    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.


  • 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.

  • 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 Delusion_ ( 56114 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:31AM (#32459018) Homepage

    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 had to put it rather undiplomatically: "You have a $150 OS and a $60,000 device, and you're going to have to choose between them until the vendor is done with their driver update". If this is a company with 5 computers, the device wins. In business, you're often straddled with legacy applications that you as an IT person don't have the luxury of saying "it's not compatible with the new OS, so find a replacement".

    Even worse, in a few rare cases we were talking about legacy equipment that was never, ever going to have a Vista/7 driver written for it. Most decided to stick with XP for a while longer and put off the question for a few months until they had a better picture on which to base such a decision.

  • RTFA. These computers were plain-jane desktops running Office '97. Openoffice is completely able to read and write office97 documents.

  • It means that more tax dollars are wasted on the trials, even then the cost of the trials outweigh any benefit to be gained by avoiding licensing costs

    It means that the acquisition price is lower over time because of increased competition, and that there is less likelihood of corruption. It's the corruption aspect that was specifically cited in the law that set out the tendering process.

    finding Linux support people that are cheap (like windows support people) is next to impossible

    You get what you pay for. You need fewer linux boxes to provide the same services as Windows, and the linux boxes (and bsd boxes - let's not forget them!!!) are easier to administer because the os is more robust, and you don't have to click through 20 dialogs and edit a stupid registry to change something, and then have to do it over again the next time the machine boots.

    So they won the right to submit, that only means that the RFP's will include WHQOL (sic) standards.

    1. RFPs can't include WHQL standards when specifying software
    2. linux supports most Windows hardware better than Windows does

    When it comes to maintenance, linux is cheaper, because you save on boxes, electricity, space, licensing, lost time due to viruses, and you need fewer staff to maintain them.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.