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Free Software Law in Peruvian Congress 436

Posted by michael
from the god-bless-the-grass dept.
An Anonymous Coward writes "There is a story on oreillynet.com on the response by a Peruvian Congressman to Microsoft's letter opposing a proposed Free Software Law. Here's the translated letter and this is the original letter that Microsoft submitted in response to the proposed law. It's always cool to see governments trying to enact these kinds of laws and watch the Microsoft backlash against them :)."
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Free Software Law in Peruvian Congress

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  • NOOOOO!!! (Score:2, Funny)

    by tempest303 (259600)
    This will DESTROY their IT infrastructure! Their economy will collapse! THE SKY IS FALLING!!!!

    Or... maybe businesses and gov't down there can stop spending tons of $$$ on software, and spend it on improving their products/services instead...

    On second thought, nah... that could never work!
    • I like your sig. Too many people like to confuse the issues when it comes to GPL restrictions, and your sig really makes it clear.

      Personally, I don't use the GPL on my code (I use a Open Source, Closed Content model, much like id software does with Quake and Doom), but I respect the fact that coders who do should be allowed the choice to do so, despite the whining of a few lazy bastards who want a free meal.
      • Thanks... that's the whole idea anyhow - freedom. I very much encourage the use of the GPL, but it's surely not the One True License(TM), and it's not the devil people make it out to be, either. Anyone who doesn't like the GPL should make equal complaints against all closed-source licenses as well, since they're even MORE restrictive on redistribution.
        • Like I said...It's just a bunch of people who want a free lunch who complain about the GPL(that and yes-men, but they don't really matter, do they?). Use of the software is truly and completely free in any sense of the word, so the people complaining want to be able to pick up someone elses code and use it for free(and in a lot of cases, use that free code to make money in their busines) without any restrictions.
        • Re:NOOOOO!!! (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          A major difference between the GPL and most 'closed-source' licences is that the latter usually do not provide access to the source code. This is an important difference because the GPL encourages users to use GPL code, thereby spreading the licence, where as 'closed-source' licences do not.

          I may not borrow code from, say, Adobe Acrobat, to use in a BSD-licensed application, but nor may I borrow code from, say, GNU Emacs. If I'm searching for code available on the web, it's unlikely I'll run across Acrobat code, but the GNU-Emacs code is all over the place.

          My primary complaint is not that the FSF and Adobe won't let me use their code in my work, it's that the FSF puts its code out in the open, inviting me to use it (and thereby accept the GPL, which is a licence reflecting a political philosophy with which I do not agree). It is the deception, you see, not the restriction that I most object to. I understand what borrowing or linking to GPL code means, but most developers (especially students and such) do not.

          Another major problem with the GPL is that it claims to take control if I merely link to code governed by it. I have never, ever, seen a 'closed-source' licence that requires the developer to accept it simply to link to code licensed under it. The closest I have seen are recent licences banning linking with GPL code, but this is a defensive measure against the GPL, and the developer is still free to use any licence that does not place demands on those who link to code under it (e.g. BSD, LGPL, 'closed-source').

          It would be interesting to scour through academic projects to find out how many are linking GPL code with code under conflicting licences (e.g. 'closed-source' ones), and thereby violating both licences. I suspect there are a lot of them.

          • Another major problem with the GPL is that it claims to take control if I merely link to code governed by it. I have never, ever, seen a 'closed-source' licence that requires the developer to accept it simply to link to code licensed under it.

            If that is true, then it is true only in an ad hoc manner. The GPL prohibits distribution of GPL'ed code linked to incompatibly licensed code; if one is found to be in such violation of the GPL, then distribution is enjoined (as it is a copyright infringement). This can be avoided, however, if the violator can change the license on the non-GPL'ed code to be compatible with the GPL---and this has happened a number of times historically (e.g. Apple's release of the GCC-derived ObjC compiler). It ends up appearing as though the GPL wrenched control of the non-GPL'ed code from the violator, but what actually happened is that the violator willingly released the code in that manner.

            The GPL doesn't take control of non-GPL'ed code linked to it, but a course of action with that apparent effect is often the most convenient form of restitution for a violator. It's a shrewd bit of trickery, that favors the cause of free software, but it is walked into knowingly by the violator---he/she always has the alternative of simply ceasing distribution altogether.
    • > This will DESTROY their IT infrastructure! Their economy will collapse! THE SKY IS FALLING!!!!

      You mean because their little third world web server just got Slashdotted?
    • I'll concur with the others commenting on your .sig.
      It voices a gut feeling I've had for a veeery long time.
      Those who favor a BSD style license are, in general, freeloaders whose avarice eclipses even that of the worst of Napster abusers.
      At least Napster users were only 'stealing' the PRODUCT. BSD supporters believe that it's OK to steal all of the effort behind the PRODUCT as well.
      (I pray that makes sense :)
      The reason the GPL is viral is that, over time, all of the cool stuff created by GPL authors will, by cross synergy, eclipse that created by old guard IP holders. Hence, the patent/copyright assult we're seeng currently.
      The landed gentry are afraid, my people.
      Let our resolve never, ever flag!
      • Those who favor a BSD style license are, in general, freeloaders whose avarice eclipses even that of the worst of Napster abusers.
        At least Napster users were only 'stealing' the PRODUCT. BSD supporters believe that it's OK to steal all of the effort behind the PRODUCT as well.
        (I pray that makes sense :)


        hrm.... i'm not sure this is a very clear picture... those who *DEVELOP* under the BSD license are certainly no freeloaders! As for those who advocate a BSD like license, but don't develop... well, I can't speak for all of them - the corporations who do this are certainly more suspect, but that doesn't automatically make them "guilty" of freeloading.

        Almost every OSS license has it's place, IMHO. I prefer L/GPL style, but there are many places where a BSD style license is definately a must-have.
  • It's always cool to see governments trying to enact these kinds of laws and watch the Microsoft backlash against them :)."


    Not Cool. Very uncool

    OTOH, Here's the summary of the big long letter:



    From reading the Bill it will be clear that once passed:
    -the law does not forbid the production of proprietary software
    -the law does not forbid the sale of proprietary software providing that the source code is included with the purchase
    -the law does not specifiy which concrete software to use
    -the law does not dictate the supplier from whom software will be bought
    -the law does not limit the terms under which a software product can be licensed, providing that the entire source code is included with the product.


    What the Bill does express clearly, is that, for software to be acceptable for the state it is not enough that it is technically capable of fulfilling a task, but that further the contractual conditions must satisfy a series of requirements reguarding the license, without which the State cannot guarantee the citizen adequate processing of his data, watching over its integrity, confidentiality, and accessibility throughout time, as these are very critical aspects for its normal functioning.

    He then goes on to describe the advantages of open sourced software. Everybody on Slashdot has heard these arguments, so there's not really much to read. The above quote, however, describes the law, so I figured you might look at that.
    • I don't see why this is uncool.

      Note: I don't know how accurate your summary is, because the letter was already slashdotted. Because you sound reasonable, I'm assuming you made a good faith effort at accurate summation.

      >-the law does not forbid the production of
      > proprietary software

      Fine. The law should not have anything to say about how you or a company chooses to produce software. We share our code by choice -- the instant the government says "Share your code or you're going to prison," that government has become a dictatorship. Suggesting that proprietary software should be outlawed is precisely the same as suggesting that *Open Source* software be outlawed.

      > -the law does not forbid the sale of proprietary
      > software providing that the source code is
      > included with the purchase

      This is another thing the law should not address. In fact, I'm actually rather surprised about the source code provision, which basically makes it impossible to sell proprietary programs, because some coder might well take the code, alter it, and release the alteration under the GPL. So, the law actually is producing conditions in which proprietary code is *effectively* banned even if it isn't explicitly banned.

      > -the law does not specifiy which concrete
      > software to use

      Nor should it. Imagine you're an IT admin working for the Peruvian government, and they send you a memo saying "As per law X, you must use Red Hat Linux, Apache, and MySQL." But the department you work for doesn't has no need for Apache or MySQL, so they wind up with some useless programs cluttering up their drives. The IT admin of each department should be free to choose the appropriate tools for their department's objectives.

      If you mean that the government should create a list of "kosher" software that's approved for use, fine; but that list should NOT be encoded in the law itself. Laws are hard to change, but licensing arrangements change all the time. So, you create a law saying "Software has to meet the following requirements . . ." and then later you make a list of software that meets those requirements. The list can be changed a heck of a lot more easily than the law.

      > -the law does not dictate the supplier from whom
      > software will be bought

      Man, this is getting repetitive. Do you really want management (or government, in this case) telling you the details of how to do your job? It sure sounds like it.

      > -the law does not limit the terms under which a
      > software product can be licensed, providing that
      > the entire source code is included with the
      > product.

      This sounds an awful lot like your first point. And again, forcing a company into a particular licensing scheme -- dictating their choice of license -- is not the action of a democratic government.

      I wholeheartedly approve of the Peruvian government's move to embrace open software -- the article I *was* able to get to on O'Reilly made it pretty clear that "free as in speech" is every bit as important to the creation of this law as "free as in beer." More power to them!
      • Ah! I posted too soon. b_pretender, I owe you an apology. It was not clear to me that your post was a quote from the letter. When I posted, I hadn't read the letter because the server was already down. However, somebody posted it in full in another message, so now I realize my mistake.

        Sorry!

        • You don't owe me an apology. I should have been more clear about where that came from. Upon further consideration, I realize that I am wrong in stating that the rest of the article is typical OSS drivel. The remainder of the letter approaches OSS from the side of a public institution and it is *very* intelligently written. The author does a good job of debunking some of the MS arguments and using other MS arguments against closed-source software.

          I was too worried about getting FIP (First Intelligent Post) to carefully read the remainder of the article. Upon second reading, I realized this and I owe the /. community an apology.

          Sorry /. community.

          • Well then, we both learned a valuable lesson: we ought to read the articles in full before opening our fool mouths!
            • You played the odds. This time the article was *very* worth reading. Mostly you're ahead to read and react to the comments and ignore the article.

              Only one quibble, which doesn't weaken his argument.
              "The guarantees ... in no way differ from those normal with free software."
              He's completely correct in that both are "AS-IS". They differ drastically in the recourse options open to the victims.
              There is a difference. Assume some "insolvable problem" comes up.
              With closed source you're SOL if the vendor won't or can't or isn't.
              With open source you can find and fix it. Probably send in the patches which the vendor might decide belong in the next release.

      • by autopr0n (534291)
        This is another thing the law should not address. In fact, I'm actually rather surprised about the source code provision, which basically makes it impossible to sell proprietary programs, because some coder might well take the code, alter it, and release the alteration under the GPL. So, the law actually is producing conditions in which proprietary code is *effectively* banned even if it isn't explicitly banned.

        What the hell are you talking about. You can download the source to lots of microsoft products, but that dosn't mean you can alter them and release them under the GPL anymore then you could release your favorite books under the Free Documentation License because you can "see the words"
    • by The Monster (227884) on Saturday May 04, 2002 @11:03PM (#3464320) Homepage
      Everybody on Slashdot has heard these arguments, so there's not really much to read.
      Yes, we have heard them. What is refreshing is seeing a government official from a South American country (which we Gringos have been conditioned to think automatically means it's a dictatorship) 'get it' far better than our own government officials [emphasis mine]:
      ...the state archives, handles, and transmits information
      which does not belong to it, but which is entrusted to it by citizens, who have no alternative under the rule of law
      I wish the typical US Congressmen understood this as well.
  • Mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 04, 2002 @06:29PM (#3463723)
    Sorry for this long post, but I get the feeling slashdot has better hosintg than gnu.org.pe.

    Lima, 8th of April, 2002.

    To: Señor
    JUAN ALBERTO GONZÁLEZ
    General Manager of Microsoft, Perú

    Dear Sir.

    First of all, I thank you for your letter of March 25 2002 in which you state the official position of Microsoft relative to Bill Number 1609, Free Software in Public Administration, which is indubitably inspired by the desire for Peru to find a suitable place in the global technological context. In the same spirit, and convinced that we will find the best solutions through an exchange of clear and open ideas, I will take this opportunity to reply to the commentaries included in your letter.

    While acknowledging that opinions such as yours constitute a significant contribution, it would have been even more worthwhile for me if, rather than formulating objections of a general nature (which we will analyse in detail later) you had gathered solid arguments for the advantages that proprietary software could bring to the Peruvian State, and to its citizens in general, since this would have allowed a more enlightening exchange in respect of each of our positions.

    With the aim of creating an orderly debate, we will assume that what you call "open source software" is what the Bill defines as "free software", since there exists software for which the source code is distributed together with the program, but which does not fall within the definition established by the Bill; and that what you call "commercial software" is what the Bill defines as "proprietary" or "unfree", given that there exists free software which is sold in the market for a price like any other good or service.

    It is also necessary to make it clear that the aim of the Bill we are discussing is not directly related to the amount of direct savings that can by made by using free software in state institutions. That is in any case a marginal aggregate value, but in no way is it the chief focus of the Bill. The basic principles which inspire the Bill are linked to the basic guarantees of a state of law, such as:

    Free access to public information by the citizen.

    Permanence of public data.

    Security of the State and citizens.

    To guarantee the free access of citizens to public information, it is indespensable that the encoding of data is not tied to a single provider. The use of standard and open formats gives a guarantee of this free access, if necessary through the creation of compatible free software.

    To guarantee the permanence of public data, it is necessary that the usability and maintenance of the software does not depend on the goodwill of the suppliers, or on the monopoly conditions imposed by them. For this reason the State needs systems the development of which can be guaranteed due to the availability of the source code.

    To guarantee national security or the security of the State, it is indispensable to be able to rely on systems without elements which allow control from a distance or the undesired transmission of information to third parties. Systems with source code freely accessible to the public are required to allow their inspection by the State itself, by the citizens, and by a large number of independent experts throughout the world. Our proposal brings further security, since the knowledge of the source code will eliminate the growing number of programs with *spy code*.

    In the same way, our proposal strengthens the security of the citizens, both in their role as legitimate owners of information managed by the state, and in their role as consumers. In this second case, by allowing the growth of a widespread availability of free software not containing *spy code* able to put at risk privacy and individual freedoms.

    In this sense, the Bill is limited to establishing the conditions under which the state bodies will obtain software in the future, that is, in a way compatible with these basic principles.

    From reading the Bill it will be clear that once passed:
    -the law does not forbid the production of proprietary software
    -the law does not forbid the sale of proprietary software
    -the law does not specifiy which concrete software to use
    -the law does not dictate the supplier from whom software will be bought
    -the law does not limit the terms under which a software product can be licensed.

    What the Bill does express clearly, is that, for software to be acceptable for the state it is not enough that it is technically capable of fulfilling a task, but that further the contractual conditions must satisfy a series of requirements reguarding the license, without which the State cannot guarantee the citizen adequate processing of his data, watching over its integrity, confidentiality, and accessibility throughout time, as these are very critical aspects for its normal functioning.

    We agree, Mr. Gonzalez, that information and communication technology have a significant impact on the quality of life of the citizens (whether it be positive or negative). We surely also agree that the basic values I have pointed out above are fundamental in a democratic state like Peru. So we are very interested to know of any other way of guaranteeing these principles, other than through the use of free software in the terms defined by the Bill.

    As for the observations you have made, we will now go on to analyse them in detail:

    Firstly, you point out that: "1. The bill makes it compulsory for all public bodies to use only free software, that is to say open source software, which breaches the principles of equality before the law, that of non-discrimination and the right of free private enterprise, freedom of industry and of contract, protected by the constitution."

    This understanding is in error. The Bill in no way affects the rights you list; it limites itself entirely to establishing conditions for the use of software on the part of state institutions, without in any way meddling in private sector transactions. It is a well established principle that the State does not enjoy the wide spectrum of contractual freedom of the private sector, as it is limited in its actions precisely by the requirement for transparency of public acts; and in this sense, the preservation of the greater common interest must prevail when legislating on the matter.

    The Bill protects equality under the law, since no natural or legal person is excluded from the right of offering these goods to the State under the conditions defined in the Bill and without more limitations than those established by the Law of State Contracts and Purchasing (T.U.O. por Decreto Supremo No. 012-2001-PCM).

    The Bill does not introduce any discrimination whatever, since it only establishes *how* the goods have to be provided (which is a state power) and not *who* has to provide them (which would effectively be discriminatory, if restrictions based on national origin, race religion, ideology, sexual preference etc. were imposed). On the contrary, the Bill is decidedly antidiscriminatory. This is so because by defining with no room for doubt the conditions for the provision of software, it prevents state bodies from using software which has a license including discriminatory conditions.

    It should be obvious from the preceding two paragraphs that the Bill does not harm free private enterprise, since the latter can always choose under what conditions it will produce software; some of these will be acceptable to the State, and others will not be since they contradict the guarantee of the basic principles listed above. This free initiative is of course compatible with the freedom of industry and freedom of contract (in the limited form in which the State can exercise the latter). Any private subject can produce software under the conditions which the State requires, or can refrain from doing so. Nobody is forced to adopt a model of production, but if they wish to provide software to the State, they must provide the mechanisms which guarantee the basic principles, and which are those described in the Bill.

    By way of an example: nothing in the text of the Bill would prevent your company offering the State bodies an office "suite", under the conditions defined in the Bill and setting the price that you consider satisfactory. If you did not, it would not be due to restrictions imposed by the law, but to business decisions relative to the method of commercializing your products, decisions with which the State is not involved.

    To continue; you note that:" 2. The bill, by making the use of open source software compulsory, would establish discriminatory and non competitive practices in the contracting and purchasing by public bodies..."

    This statement is just a reiteration of the previous one, and so the response can be found above. However, let us concern ourselves for a moment with your comment regarding "non-competitive ... practices."

    Of course, in defining any kind of purchase, the buyer sets conditions which relate to the proposed use of the good or service. From the start, this excludes certain manufacturers from the possibility of competing, but does not exclude them "a priori", but rather based on a series of principles determined by the autonomous will of the purchaser, and so the process takes place in conformance with the law. And in the Bill it is established that *no-one* is excluded from competing as far as he guarantees the fullfilment of the basic principles.

    Furthermore, the Bill *stimulates* competition, since it tends to generate a supply of software with better conditions of usability, and to better existing work, in a model of continuous improvement.

    On the other hand, the central aspect of competivity is the chance to provide better choices to the consumer. Now, it is impossible to ignore the fact that marketing does not play a neutral role when the product is offered on the market (since accepting the opposite would lead one to suppose that firms' expenses in marketing lack any sense), and that therefore a significant expense under this heading can influence the decisions of the purchaser. This influence of marketing is in large measure reduced by the bill that we are backing, since the choice within the framework proposed is based on the *technical merits* of the product and not on the effort put into commercialization by the producer; in this sense, competitvity is increased, since the smallest software producer can compete on equal terms with the most powerful corporations.

    It is necessary to stress that there is no position more anti-competitive than that of the big software producers, which frequently abuse their dominant position, since in innumerable cases they propose as a solution to problems raised by users: "update your software to the new version" (at the user's expense, naturally); furthermore, it is common to find arbitrary cessation of technical help for products, which, in the provider's judgement alone, are "old"; and so, to receive any kind of technical assistance, the user finds himself forced to migrate to new versions (with non-trivial costs, especially as changes in hardware platform are often involved). And as the whole infrastructure is based on proprietary data formats, the user stays "trapped" in the need to continue using products from the same supplier, or to make the huge effort to change to another environment (probably also proprietary).

    You add: "3. So, by compelling the State to favour a business model based entirely on open source, the bill would only discourage the local and international manufacturing companies, which are the ones which really undertake important expenditures, create a significant number of direct and indirect jobs, as well as contributing to the GNP, as opposed to a model of open source software which tends to have an ever weaker economic impact, since it mainly creates jobs in the service sector."

    I do not agree with your statement. Partly because of what you yourself point out in paragraph 6 of your letter, regarding the relative weight of services in the context of software use. This contradiction alone would invalidate your position. The service model, adopted by a large number of companies in the software industry, is much larger in economic terms, and with a tendency to increase, than the licensing of programs.

    On the other hand, the private sector of the economy has the widest possible freedom to choose the economic model which best suits its interests, even if this freedom of choice is often obscured subliminally by the disproportionate expenditure on marketing by the producers of proprietary software.

    In addition, a reading of your opinion would lead to the conclusion that the State market is crucial and essential for the proprietary software industry, to such a point that the choice made by the State in this bill would completely eliminate the market for these firms. If that is true, we can deduce that the State must be subsidising the proprietary software industry. In the unlikely event that this were true, the State would have the right to apply the subsidies in the area it considered of greatest social value; it is undeniable, in this improbable hypothesis, that if the State decided to subsidize software, it would have to do so choosing the free over the proprietary, considering its social effect and the rational use of taxpayers money.

    In respect of the jobs generated by proprietary software in countries like ours, these mainly concern technical tasks of little aggregate value; at the local level, the technicians who provide support for proprietary software produced by transnational companies do not have the possibility of fixing bugs, not necessarily for lack of technical capability or of talent, but because they do not have access to the source code to fix it. With free software one creates more technically qualified employment and a framework of free competence where success is only tied to the ability to offer good technical support and quality of service, one stimulates the market, and one increases the shared fund of knowledge, opening up alternatives to generate services of greater total value and a higher quality level, to the benefit of all involved: producers, service organizations, and consumers.

    It is a common phenomenon in developing countries that local software industries obtain the majority of their takings in the service sector, or in the creation of "ad hoc" software. Therefore, any negative impact that the application of the Bill might have in this sector will be more than compensated by a growth in demand for services (as long as these are carried out to high quality standards). If the transnational software companies decide not to compete under these new rules of the game, it is likely that they will undergo some decrease in takings in terms of payment for licences; however, considering that these firms continue to allege that much of the software used by the State has been illegally copied, one can see that the impact will not be very serious. Certainly, in any case their fortune will be determined by market laws, changes in which cannot be avoided; many firms traditionally associated with proprietary software have already set out on the road (supported by copious expense) of providing services associated with free software, which shows that the models are not mutually exclusive.

    With this bill the State is deciding that it needs to preserve certain fundamental values. And it is deciding this based on its sovereign power, without affecting any of the constitutional guarantees. If these values could be guaranteed without having to choose a particular economic model, the effects of the law would be even more beneficial. In any case, it should be clear that the State does not choose an economic model; if it happens that there only exists one economic model capable of providing software which provides the basic guarantee of these principles, this is because of historical circumstances, not because of an arbitrary choice of a given model.

    Your letter continues: "4. The bill imposes the use of open source software without considering the dangers that this can bring from the point of view of security, guarantee, and possible violation of the intellectual property rights of third parties."

    Alluding in an abstract way to "the dangers this can bring", without specifically mentioning a single one of these supposed dangers, shows at the least some lack of knowledge of the topic. So, allow me to enlighten you on these points.

    On security:

    National security has already been mentioned in general terms in the initial discussion of the basic principles of the bill. In more specific terms, relative to the security of the software itself, it is well known that all software (whether proprietary or free) contains errors or "bugs" (in programmers' slang). But it is also well-known that the bugs in free software are fewer, and are fixed much more quickly, than in proprietary software. It is not in vain that numerous public bodies reponsible for the IT security of state systems in developed countries require the use of free software for the same conditions of security and efficiency.

    What is impossible to prove is that proprietary software is more secure than free, without the public and open inspection of the scientific community and users in general. This demonstration is impossible because the model of proprietary software itself prevents this analysis, so that any guarantee of security is based only on promises of good intentions (biased, by any reckoning) made by the producer itself, or its contractors.

    It should be remembered that in many cases, the licensing conditions include Non-Disclosure clauses which prevent the user from publicly revealing security flaws found in the licensed proprietary product.

    In respect of the guarantee:

    As you know perfectly well, or could find out by reading the "End User License Agreement" of the products you license, in the great majority of cases the guarantees are limited to replacement of the storage medium in case of defects, but in no case is compensation given for direct or indirect damages, loss of profits, etc... If as a result of a security bug in one of your products, not fixed in time by yourselves, an attacker managed to compromise crucial State systems, what guarantees, reparations and compensation would your company make in accordance with your licencing conditions? The guarantees of proprietary software, inasmuch as programs are delivered ``AS IS'', that is, in the state in which they are, with no additional responsibility of the provider in respect of function, in no way differ from those normal with free software.

    On Intellectual Property:

    Questions of intellectual property fall outside the scope of this bill, since they are covered by specific other laws. The model of free software in no way implies ignorance of these laws, and in fact the great majority of free software is covered by copyright. In reality, the inclusion of this question in your observations shows your confusion in respect of the legal framework in which free software is developed. The inclusion of the intellectual property of others in works claimed as one's own is not a practice that has been noted in the free software community; whereas, unfortunately, it has been in the area of proprietry software. As an example, the condemnation by the Commercial Court of Nanterre, France, on 27th September 2001 of Microsoft Corp. to a penalty of 3 million francs in damages and interest, for violation of intellectual property (piracy, to use the unfortunate term that your firm commonly uses in its publicity).

    You go on to say that: "The bill uses the concept of open source software incorrectly, since it does not necessarily imply that the software is free or of zero cost, and so arrives at mistaken conclusions regarding State savings, with no cost-benefit analysis to validate its position."

    This observation is wrong; in principle, freedom and lack of cost are orthogonal concepts: there is software which is proprietary and charged for (for example, MS Office), software which is proprietary and free of charge (MS Internet Explorer), software which is free and charged for (RedHat, SuSE etc Gnu/Linux distributions), software which is free and not charged for (Apache, OpenOffice, Mozilla), and even software which can be licensed in a range of combinations (MySQL).

    Certainly free software is not necessarily free of charge. And the text of the bill does not state that it has to be so, as you will have noted after reading it. The definitions included in the Bill state clearly *what* should be considered free software, at no point referring to freedom from charges. Although the possibility of savings in payments for proprietary software licenses are mentioned, the foundations of the bill clearly refer to the fundamental guarantees to be preserved and to the stimulus to local technological development. Given that a democratic State must support these principles, it has no other choice than to use software with publicly available source code, and to exchange information only in standard formats.

    If the State does not use software with these characteristics, it will be weakening basic republican principles. Luckily, free software also implies lower total costs; however, even given the hypothesis (easily disproved) that it was more expensive than proprietary software, the simple existence of an effective free software tool for a particular IT function would oblige the State to use it; not by command of this Bill, but because of the basic principles we enumerated at the start, and which arise from the very essence of the lawful democratic State.

    You continue: "6. It is wrong to think that Open Source Software is free of charge. Research by the Gartner Group (an important investigator of the technological market recognized at world level) has shown that the cost of purchase of software (operating system and applications) is only 8% of the total cost which firms and institutions take on for a rational and truely beneficial use of the technology. The other 92% consists of: installation costs, enabling, support, maintenance, administration, and down-time."

    This argument repeats that already given in paragraph 5 and partly contradicts paragraph 3. For the sake of brevity we refer to the comments on those paragraphs. However, allow me to point out that your conclusion is logically false: even if according to Gartner Group the cost of software is on average only 8% of the total cost of use, this does not in any way deny the existence of software which is free of charge, that is, with a licensing cost of zero.

    In addition, in this paragraph you correctly point out that the service components and losses due to down-time make up the largest part of the total cost of software use, which, as you will note, contradicts your statement regarding the small value of services suggested in paragraph 3. Now the use of free software contributes significantly to reduce the remaining life-cycle costs. This reduction in the costs of installation, support etc. can be noted in several areas: in the first place, the competitive service model of free software, support and maintenance for which can be freely contracted out to a range of suppliers competing on the grounds of quality and low cost. This is true for installation, enabling, and support, and in large part for maintenance. In the second place, due to the reproductive characteristics of the model, maintenance carried out for an application is easily replicable, without incurring large costs (that is, without paying more than once for the same thing) since modifications, if one wishes, can be incorporated in the common fund of knowledge. Thirdly, the huge costs caused by non-functioning software ("blue screens of death", malicious code such as virus, worms, and trojans, exceptions, general protection faults and other well-known problems) are reduced considerably by using more stable software; and it is well-known that one of the most notable virtues of free software is its stability.

    ou further state that: "7. One of the arguments behind the bill is the supposed freedom from costs of open-source software, compared with the costs of commercial software, without taking into account the fact that there exist types of volume licensing which can be highly advantageous for the State, as has happened in other countries."

    I have already pointed out that what is in question is not the cost of the software but the principles of freedom of information, accessibility, and security. These arguments have been covered extensively in the preceding paragraphs to which I would refer you.

    On the other hand, there certainly exist types of volume licensing (although unfortunately proprietary software does not satisfy the basic principles). But as you correctly pointed out in the immediately precding paragraph of your letter, they only manage to reduce the impact of a component which makes up no more than 8% of the total.

    You continue: "8. In addition, the alternative adopted by the bill (i) is clearly more expensive, due to the high costs of software migration, and (ii) puts at risk compatibility and interoperability of the IT platforms within the State, and between the State and the private sector, given the hundreds of versions of open source software on the market."

    Let us analyze your stament in two parts. Your first argument, that migration implies high costs, is in reality an argument in favour of the Bill. Because the more time goes by, the more difficult migration to another technology will become; and at the same time, the security risks associated with proprietary software will continue to increase. In this way, the use of proprietary systems and formats will make the State ever more dependent on specific suppliers. Once a policy of using free software has been established (which certainly, does imply some cost) then on the contrary migration from one system to another becomes very simple, since all data is stored in open formats. On the other hand, migration to an open software context implies no more costs than migration between two different proprietary software contexts, which invalidates your argument completely.

    The second argument refers to "problems in interoperability of the IT platforms within the State, and between the State and the private sector" This statement implies a certain lack of knowledge of the way in which free software is built, which does not maximize the dependence of the user on a particular platform, as normally happens in the realm of proprietary software. Even when there are multiple free software distributions, and numerous programs which can be used for the same function, interoperability is guaranteed as much by the use of standard formats, as required by the bill, as by the possibility of creating interoperable software given the availability of the source code.

    You then say that: "9. The majority of open source code does not offer adequate levels of service nor the guarantee from recognized manufacturers of high productivity on the part of the users, which has led various public organizations to retract their decision to go with an open source software solution and to use commercial software in its place."

    This observation is without foundation. In respect of the guarantee, your argument was rebutted in the response to paragraph 4. In respect of support services, it is possible to use free software without them (just as also happens with proprietary software), but anyone who does need them can obtain support separately, whether from local firms or from international corporations, again just as in the case of proprietary software.

    On the other hand, it would contribute greatly to our analysis if you could inform us about free software projects *established* in public bodies which have already been abandoned in favour of proprietary software. We know of a good number of cases where the opposite has taken place, but not know of any where what you describe has taken place.

    You continue by observing that: "10. The bill demotivates the creativity of the peruvian software industry, which invoices 40 million US$/year, exports 4 million US$ (10th in ranking among non-traditional exports, more than handicrafts) and is a source of highly qualified employment. With a law that incentivates the use of open source, software programmers lose their intellectual property rights and their main source of payment."

    It is clear enough that nobody is forced to commercialize their code as free software. The only thing to take into account is that if it is not free software, it cannot be sold to the public sector. This is not in any case the main market for the national software industry. We covered some questions referring to the influence of the Bill on the generation of employment which would be both highly technically qualified and in better conditions for competition above, so it seems unnecessary to insist on this point.

    What follows in your statement is incorrect. On the one hand, no author of free software loses his intellectual property rights, unless he expressly wishes to place his work in the public domain. The free software movement has always been very respectful of intellectual property, and has generated widespread public recognition of authors. Names like those of Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, Guido van Rossum, Larry Wall, Miguel de Icaza, Andrew Tridgell, Theo de Raadt, Andrea Arcangeli, Bruce Perens, Darren Reed, Alan Cox, Eric Raymond, and many others, are recognized world-wide for their contributions to the development of software that is used today by millions of people throughout the world. On the other hand, to say that the rewards for authors rights make up the main source of payment of Peruvian programmers is in any case a guess, in particular since there is no proof to this effect, nor a demonstration of how the use of free software by the State would influence these payments.

    You go on to say that: "11. Open source software, since it can be distributed without charge, does not allow the generation of income for its developers through exports. In this way, the multiplier effect of the sale of software to other countries is weakened, and so in turn is the growth of the industry, while Government rules ought on the contrary to stimulate local industry."

    This statement shows once again complete ignorance of the mechanisms of and market for free software. It tries to claim that the market of sale of non- exclusive rights for use (sale of licences) is the only possible one for the software industry, when you yourself pointed out several paragraphs above that it is not even the most important one. The incentives that the bill offers for the growth of a supply of better qualified professionals, together with the increase in experience that working on a large scale with free software within the State will bring for Peruvian technicians, will place them in a highly competitive position to offer their services abroad.

    You then state that: "12. In the Forum, the use of open source software in education was discussed, without mentioning the complete collapse of this initiative in a country like Mexico, where precisely the State employees who founded the project now state that open source software did not make it possible to offer a learning experience to pupils in the schools, did not take into account the capability at a national level to give adequate support to the platform, and that the software did not and does not allow for the levels of platform integration that now exist in schools."

    In fact Mexico has gone into reverse with the Red Escolar (Schools Network) project. This is due precisely to the fact that the driving forces behind the mexican project used license costs as their main argument, instead of the other reasons specified in our project, which are far more essential. Because of this conceptual mistake, and as a result of the lack of effective support from the SEP (Secretary of State for Public Education), the assumption was made that to implant free software in schools it would be enough to drop their software budget and send them a CD ROM with Gnu/Linux instead. Of course this failed, and it couldn't have been otherwise, just as school laboratories fail when they use proprietary software and have no budget for implementation and maintenance. That's exactly why our bill is not limited to making the use of free software mandatory, but recognizes the need to create a viable migration plan, in which the State undertakes the technical transition in an orderly way in order to then enjoy the advantages of free software.

    You end with a rhetorical question: "13. If open source software satisfies all the requirements of State bodies, why do you need a law to adopt it? Shouldn't it be the market which decides freely which products give most benefits or value?"

    We agree that in the private sector of the economy, it must be the market that decides which products to use, and no state interference is permissible there. However, in the case of the public sector, the reasoning is not the same: as we have already established, the state archives, handles, and transmits information which does not belong to it, but which is entrusted to it by citizens, who have no alternative under the rule of law. As a counterpart to this legal requirement, the State must take extreme measures to safeguard the integrity, confidentiality, and accessibility of this information. The use of proprietary software raises serious doubts as to whehter these requirements can be fulfilled, lacks conclusive evidence in this respect, and so is not suitable for use in the public sector.

    The need for a law is based, firstly, on the realization of the fundamental principles listed above in the specific area of software; secondly, on the fact that the State is not an ideal homogoneous entity, but made up of multiple bodies with varying degrees of autonomy in decision making. Given that it is inappropriate to use proprietary software, the fact of establishing these rules in law will prevent the personal discretion of any state employee from putting at risk the information which belongs to citizens. And above all, because it constitutes an up-to-date reaffirmation in relation to the means of management and communication of information used today, it is based on the republican principle of openness to the public.

    In conformance with this universally accepted principle, the citizen has the right to know all information held by the State and not covered by well- founded declarations of secrecy based on law. Now, software deals with information and is itself information. Information in a special form, capable of being interpreted by a machine in order to execute actions, but crucial information all the same because the citizen has a legitimate right to know, for example, how his vote is computed or his taxes calculated. And for that he must have free access to the source code and be able to prove to his satisfaction the programs used for electoral computations or calculation of his taxes.

    I wish you the greatest respect, and would like to repeat that my office will always be open for you to expound your point of view to whatever level of detail you consider suitable.

    Cordially,

    DR. EDGAR DAVID VILLANUEVA NUÑEZ
    Congressman of the Republica of Perú.
  • spy code (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ceejayoz (567949)
    To guarantee national security or the security of the State, it is indispensable to be able to rely on systems without elements which allow control from a distance or the undesired transmission of information to third parties. Systems with source code freely accessible to the public are required to allow their inspection by the State itself, by the citizens, and by a large number of independent experts throughout the world. Our proposal brings further security, since the knowledge of the source code will eliminate the growing number of programs with *spy code*.

    So basically, they're concerned with closed-source programs being potential security problems, since they can't check the code for spyware...

    Is GNU.org.pe down for everyone else, btw?
    • Cached Copy (Score:2, Informative)

      by hendridm (302246)
      > Is GNU.org.pe down for everyone else, btw?

      I got to it earlier, but it's Slashdotted now. Google's got it cached [216.239.51.100] though. Phhhhast.
    • Re:spy code (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tony-A (29931)
      concerned with closed-source programs being potential security problems
      Among other things, but that should grab the most headlines.
      Even worse than being broken is being unrepairable. Closed source is fundamentally unrepairable by the victims.
  • Scoreboard! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jeffrey Baker (6191) on Saturday May 04, 2002 @06:33PM (#3463735)
    The author of this letter really goes for Microsoft's throat. Check out this paragraph:
    The inclusion of the intellectual property of others in works claimed as one's own is not a practice that has been noted in the free software community; whereas, unfortunately, it has been in the area of proprietry software. As an example, the condemnation by the Commercial Court of Nanterre, France, on 27th September 2001 of Microsoft Corp. to a penalty of 3 million francs in damages and interest, for violation of intellectual property (piracy, to use the unfortunate term that your firm commonly uses in its publicity).

    Yow! Where can I get an informed legislator like Dr. Edgar David Villanueva Nuñez to represent me?

    • Not to mention:

      Thirdly, the huge costs caused by non-functioning software ("blue screens of death", malicious code such as virus, worms, and trojans, exceptions, general protection faults and other well-known problems) are reduced considerably by using more stable software; and it is well-known that one of the most notable virtues of free software is its stability.


      You gottalovetha "blue screens of death" :-))

      Simon

    • In response to some other comments about what this judgment in Nanterre was about...

      Apparently Microsoft bought up this Canadian animiation company called SoftImage, who had previously worked out some licensing side-deal with these French programmers to use some of their code.

      One Microsoft had SoftImage, though, it seems they ignored the deal with the French licensees - apparently assuming they owned the licensed software too. Funny, too, because you'd think Microsoft could either code around it or just buy them off. Maybe it was an honest screw-up. (Then again...)

      I guess the French programmers sued, and the commercial court in Nanterre slammed SoftImage - then a wholly-owned Microsoft subsidiary - with about a half a mil (US$) in fines for piracy.

      As if the French needed another reason to hate Americans. Thanks, Bill. Next time I get flak for trying to order a Big Mac in some Paris bistro, it's all on you, man!
    • by sam_handelman (519767) <skh2003@colum[ ].edu ['bia' in gap]> on Saturday May 04, 2002 @07:44PM (#3463903) Homepage Journal
      Yow! Where can I get an informed legislator like Dr. Edgar David Villanueva Nuñez to represent me?

      Masked Man #1: Good morning, Congressman.
      Dr. Nunez: Eh? Donde estoy? Quien es?
      Masked Man #1: Oh, Dammit. Does anyone here speak spanish?
      Masked Man #2: Give him a moment for the sedative to wear off.
      Dr. Nunez: Americans. You are here from the CIA, no doubt? This is a coup, heh? You people are amateurs, you know? I've seen -
      Masked Man #1: No, no, mr. congressman. We're with the US special congressional appropriation mission, and we'd like to swear you in as soon as possible.
      Dr. Nunez: Swear me where?
      Masked Man #2: Into the US congress. We're terribly short of capable legislators, so we've been apropriateing people from y'know, other counties. Where is Peru, anyway?
      Masked Man #1: East Africa, I think. Next to Georgia.
      Dr. Nunez: You sound like CIA to me.
      Masked Man #2: No, no. We're sorry to rush you like this, usually we give the new members a few days to recover from the tranq. dart, but you're chairing the house armed services committee, and we need you to get on the job quick before they appropriate any more money for missile defense.
      Masked Man #1: The people of the state of arizona are lucky to have you, sir.
      • Re:Scoreboard! (Score:4, Informative)

        by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday May 05, 2002 @12:59AM (#3464566) Homepage Journal
        ROTFL!

        Just one comment, and only because others have made the same error:

        His family name is Villanueva, so you should call him Dr. Villanueva.

        Peruvians (like most [all?] spanish-speaking peoples) have two last names. The first is their father's family name, and the second is their mother's family name. In case that's not clear, if your father is a "Smith Adams" and your mother is a "Jones Rosenfeldt", then your name would be "Smith Jones". If you marry a woman who is a "Kleinfeldt Lee" then your children will be "Smith Kleinfeldt". Clear? I've always thought it was a very nice custom, much better than the prevalent one in western culture, which is that the mother's maiden name is pretty much just forgotten.

        The downside is that spanish speakers have to come up with something other than their mother's maiden name to use as a password for their credit card accounts.

    • Another good zinger:

      In addition, a reading of your opinion would lead to the conclusion that the State market is crucial and essential for the proprietary software industry, to such a point that the choice made by the State in this bill would completely eliminate the market for these firms. If that is true, we can deduce that the State must be subsidising the proprietary software industry. In the unlikely event that this were true, the State would have the right to apply the subsidies in the area it considered of greatest social value; it is undeniable, in this improbable hypothesis, that if the State decided to subsidize software, it would have to do so choosing the free over the proprietary, considering its social effect and the rational use of taxpayers money.

      This guy is sharp.
    • Re:Scoreboard! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 1010011010 (53039) on Saturday May 04, 2002 @10:14PM (#3464212) Homepage
      I like this part:


      In addition, a reading of your opinion would lead to the conclusion that the State market is crucial and essential for the proprietary software industry, to such a point that the choice made by the State in this bill would completely eliminate the market for these firms. If that is true, we can deduce that the State must be subsidising the proprietary software industry. In the unlikely event that this were true, the State would have the right to apply the subsidies in the area it considered of greatest social value; it is undeniable, in this improbable hypothesis, that if the State decided to subsidize software, it would have to do so choosing the free over the proprietary, considering its social effect and the rational use of taxpayers money.


      Insert knife; twist. :)
  • I started reading the translated letter and at first they kept talking about "the Bill." I thought perhaps due to some translation problems they were referring to Bill Gates. However, after reading more I realizer they were talking about the bill themselves.

    It almost sounded as if they were referring to him as some sort of unhuman thing.
  • by mesozoic (134277) on Saturday May 04, 2002 @06:44PM (#3463763)

    Free software is just the beginning of the next big evolution in computing technology. When you allow every single user of a system to improve the design of that system, you bring the network that much closer to the users. You allow so much more innovation and creativity with free software than with proprietary systems.

    By placing free software at the center of all public technology efforts, you ensure that no matter what, the general public will be able to improve on the systems that its own government uses. Decades from now, it is my hope that free software will have transformed into the dominant force in the computing industry. We would have a world where every single computer user, no matter what their skill level, is able to contribute to the development and improvement of computing in general.

    Imagine where all this could go in another few hundred years, once every person connected to the global computer network is able to improve on that network in every way possible. It could even be the next step in human civilization.

    But that's distant future stuff, more rant than reality. The fact remains that making public technologies completely free, and completely open, is what is in the public's best interests. This is the future of technology, and it's sad that Peru has acknowledged it sooner than the US has.

    • I disagree. I think that the future is a world where EULAs are no longer necessary, because the IP barons already own every human being body and soul. :)

      Regarding the reason that this bill is being pushed in Peru rather than in the U.S.: Follow the money. When an American governmental organization buys a software license, it's almost always money going to a tax-paying U.S. corporation, which provides jobs for U.S. workers, who themselves pay U.S. taxes. When a developing nation buys a software license. . . well, the exact same thing happens. For the developing world, buying a software license is like shoveling money into an incinerator.

      I think that Peru is right to promote free software, and it's obvious that some officials down there really understand the Linux Lovefest. But I think that if it passes, it won't be for wholly altruistic reasons. Which is just fine by me. Given the choice between wiring cash out of the country or using the money to support a system that can be serviced and improved locally, Peru should do the latter.
  • by ottffssent (18387) on Saturday May 04, 2002 @06:48PM (#3463776)
    The letter MS Peru wrote (If I get a chance, I'll post a translation later) regarding this bill uses all the tricks we've seen them use in the USA. The letter intentionally misunderstands provisions, disregards inconvenient legal precident when useful and adopts a hardline legalist (v. moralist) attitude when useful, and makes bombastic claims about the dire consequences of even considering OSS/Free Software.

    Hopefully Microsoft's rather weaker hold on the Peruvian government will allow them to get some reasonable guidelines in place so they don't get screwed like the US government.
  • Overview.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by univgeek (442857) on Saturday May 04, 2002 @06:55PM (#3463793)
    This legislator seems to be the smartest one on the block....

    The reasons he gives for the Peruvian govt. to go with Open Source rather than proprietary SW are to the point. He blasts each and every point made by the MS rep. The whole Bill is specifying the standards for purchase of SW by the govt. alone, and he uses that to cudgel MS completely.

    The main points for the use of OS are...
    Free access to public information by the citizen.
    Permanence of public data.
    Security of the State and citizens.

    He then goes on to say how MS does not provide these and how OS is a better alternative. He makes it sound like a crime for a govt. to NOT use OS/open standard protocols.

    The way he has used MS's points against itself and shown the contradiction between their various points was almost funny. It sounds like a school teached administering a sound whipping to a truant.

    You have gotta read this....
    Google cache [216.239.51.100]....

  • A great read (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oneeyedman (39461) on Saturday May 04, 2002 @06:57PM (#3463798) Homepage Journal
    I don't know when I've enjoyed reading a long, lawyerly letter so much. (I can't imagine that this was really written by a congressman, though it would be nice to think so.) An earlier poster commented that we have all heard these arguments before on Slashdot. Well, not necessarily. There is a big difference between advocates and insiders trading views they already share, and watching a masterful display of reasoned analysis about genuinely different viewpoints. The letter puts the official Microsoft position through the Bass-O-Matic by out-arguing it, not by shouting back or by storming off in a rhetorical huff.

    If Microsoft's public statements were held to this level of logic and clarity more often, we would have a very different software market. Advertising and other sorts of propaganda are so pervasive that I think we tend to forget what a real debate looks like. This Peruvian congressman reveals just how shallow Microsoft's self-interested arguments against free software really are. It makes them look both stupid and shrill.

    Good work!
    • Re:A great read (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cthugha (185672)
      You may also be interested in a kuro5hin article [kuro5hin.org] reproducing the Hansard record of a speech by Thomas Babbington Macaulay, member of the House of Commons, advocating against a bill to extend the period that copyright endures after an author's death. He makes a lot of the points we're trying to get our legislators to understand, in 1841. Every word of the speech is just pure class. I hope I'll be able to reach the standard of argument and reasoning exmplified by this speech and this letter one day, although I'm afraid it might not be possible :(.
    • Re:A great read (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Malcontent (40834)
      This letter should be required reading for every open source advocate. Put it in your own words and blast any MS astroturfer with it. This is serious ammunition folks make use of it.
  • Sure, Peru's budget is not of sufficient scale to directly impact Microsoft's business. But it's a step and it's not the only step. People (and governments) start reading EULAs and start asking themselves why a contract should give much more power to their supplier than to themselves. Given Microsoft's increasingly restrictive license policy, the dependency on proprietary file formats obviously becomes even more scary.

    In Germany, Microsoft's products (in particular the OS) are just being replaced in several government agencies, within the police etc. Every time it's some 10000 seats. Microsoft should be worried. Maybe they've overdone it and should start respecting their customers.

    • Maybe they've overdone it and should start respecting their customers.

      Or maybe they should use increasing Draconian IP laws in the US to bring the US market to its knees, then use the power of the US government to get trade sanctions in totally unrelated areas against countries that choose to use FS instead of MS, thereby extending their monopoly to the rest of the world.

      Which seems more likely?
  • Smart move on Peru's part -- if this law passes they seem to have given some real thought to the repercussions of it.

    Nice to see the Third World realizing they can take some initiative without asking "Uncle May I". Venezuela and Yugoslavia too -- their governments don't really like us much, but they're democratically elected, and Chavez in Venezuela has even come back from a possibly White House-backed (or at the very least consented) coup attempt. (He must be happy it's not 1985 -- if it was we'd already be down there with troops to "go after the Commies"...)

    /Brian
  • Everytime the letters refer to "the Bill," I thought, "yeah, buddy. I know all about The Bill. The Billmeister. Billinator." And then I thought, "oh no, not that Bill. The proposed law. Duh."

    Hard to keep straight.
  • Is imigration laws hard in Peru?
    • If you are a skilled programmer, willing to work for local wages, I don't think there is a single 3:d world nation that would kick you out, man.
      They are desperate to get out of the economic stranglehold they are in.
  • I haven't heard about this - anyone know what they did in France for violating IP laws?
    This didn't make big headlines in English, but here is one:

    http://www.unlimited.net.nz/unlimited/unlimited.ns f/ArchiveByDate/554265C2F5B45F57CC256B190069B05A?O penDocument [unlimited.net.nz]

  • by 7-Vodka (195504) on Saturday May 04, 2002 @07:40PM (#3463896) Journal
    Don't chop off the letter. Let everyone read it in full. I was amazed by it, maybe you will be too. That letter is a flaming example of lucid thinking and straight talking... and it's from a politician folks. I wish I could vote for THAT guy to represent ME here in the US. When was the last time you heard an american politician talk about this issue at all? Hell, I've never heard an american politician even manage to take an important and complicated issue such as this and state it so clearly a teenager could understand it. Let's see M$ try to wriggle out of this response (hint: you'll not see it).

    Now back to the U.S. What can we do to get OUR government to pass a bill like this? Any suggestions? I'm thinking about sending a letter to congressmen informing them of how free software is starting to be used in other countries and maybe even sending them letters like these as supporting evidence.

    • "What can we do to get OUR government to pass a bill like this?"

      We'll have to start by getting politicians at least half as intelligent as the one who wrote that letter. This guy makes our current congress critters look like drooling idiots.
    • The reason you don't see this thinking in the US is that our representatives in government believe it is their responsibility to make us prosperous. So they put their weight behind large corporations with the idea that a large, thriving corporation will produce jobs, etc. and in all ways make the citizenry better off. If doing this crushes the citizens' rights, well what's a few rights when we're talking about prosperity.


      This point of view is utterly wrong. Apparently in Peru they understand that the government's job is to protect the rights of its citizens so that the citizens are free to pursue prosperity on their own. Dr. Nunez argues eloquently for protecting Peruvian citizens by requiring disclosure of source code -- that way everyone can see if advantage is being taken, or if someone is being spied on, etc., and no one can be locked out of government simply because they don't have 400USD to buy Office (or whatever it costs) so they can read government documents that are only published in Word.


      Microsoft tries to pressure Peru by doing the "you have to choose us so that your citizens will be prosperous" charade, but fortunately Dr. Nunez already knows that's not the government's job.


      Here's an idea: print out this letter and fax it to your Congressfolk, and ask them whether they agree with it. If they do, then why are they not choosing OSS? If they don't, then why are they opposed to objectives like "security of the state" and "free access of citizens to State documents"?

    • What can we do to get OUR government to pass a bill like this? Any suggestions?

      I've just sent my Member of Parliament an email with a brief summary of Dr Villanueva's argument and the URL of the letter. I suspect this letter - from a legislator, arguing the points from a legislators point of view - will be more persuasive to our legislators than anything we could write.

  • by Vicegrip (82853) on Saturday May 04, 2002 @08:00PM (#3463944) Journal
    Your letter continues: "4. The bill imposes the use of open source software without considering the dangers that this can bring from the point of view of security, guarantee, and possible violation of the intellectual property rights of third parties."
    Alluding in an abstract way to "the dangers this can bring", without specifically mentioning a single one of these supposed dangers, shows at the least some lack of knowledge of the topic. So, allow me to enlighten you on these points.
    A very polite, but pointed and astute reply to obvious and unabashed FUD.
    The other very amusing comment is the one made in reply to the accusation that the law would hurt the economy by depriving markets to software companies.
    - first he essentially replies that the state should not be in the business of subsiding companies that can't adjust their business model to cope with the desires of the consumer.
    - then he makes the equally pertinent remark that: "...however, considering that these firms continue to allege that much of the software used by the State has been illegally copied, one can see that the impact will not be very serious."
    Ouch! It is very obvious to me that Microsoft is shooting itself in the foot with its strong-arm licensing tactics. Microsoft will eventually force many of its customers, who frankly have no incentive to comply to the exhorbitant licensing fees/restrictions Microsoft imposes, right into the arms of Open Source.
    In the long term however, I think the strongest argument he makes is that the State has every incentive to avoid locking itself down to particular proprietary software and formats since this drastically limits the options of the governement in the long term and is a poor choice for the spending of taxpayer money.
  • Dr Nunez's letter is an amazing document and should be required reading for legislators everywhere.

    An excellent point that he makes is that proprietary software is primarily from transnational (usually American) companies and provides no real skills transfer to a country like Peru.

    From his letter:

    In respect of the jobs generated by proprietary software in countries like ours, these mainly concern technical tasks of little aggregate value; at the local level, the technicians who provide support for proprietary software produced by transnational companies do not have the possibility of fixing bugs, not necessarily for lack of technical capability or of talent, but because they do not have access to the source code to fix it. With free software one creates more technically qualified employment and a framework of free competence where success is only tied to the ability to offer good technical support and quality of service, one stimulates the market, and one increases the shared fund of knowledge, opening up alternatives to generate services of greater total value and a higher quality level, to the benefit of all involved: producers, service organizations, and consumers.

    Most governments are still stuck in an industrial production mindset with industries such as automobiles, aircraft and steel designated as strategic. Software is definitely a strategic industry today and it might behoove more developing nations to designate software as strategic and apply some of the same levers they typically do with other strategic industries such as technology transfer requirements and locally sourced content requirements.

  • Dr. Nunez e-mail address is:
    evillanueva@congreso.gob.pe

    His peruvian congress page. [congreso.gob.pe] (In Spanish) Or Translated by google. [google.com]

    Is villanueva his family name? I have no idea how peruvian names work.

    Anyway somebody, preferably here in new york (I could ask my boss, but I'm in the bio department, so it would go nowhere) should invite the man to come up here and give a talk. Does anyone at the school of public policy read slashdot? Also, somebody should give him an honorary doctorates ('though he already has one), and a medal.

  • After some digging, it appears as though the congressman's email address is:

    evillanueva@congreso.gob.pe

    PLEASE keep any messages respectful and short--we don't want to take him away from lambasting microsoft after all...

  • Interesting comment (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRealFixer (552803) on Saturday May 04, 2002 @09:14PM (#3464120)
    From the letter:
    It should be obvious from the preceding two paragraphs that the Bill does not harm free private enterprise, since the latter can always choose under what conditions it will produce software; some of these will be acceptable to the State, and others will not be since they contradict the guarantee of the basic principles listed above.

    Interesting statement. Basically, they are saying that the government has the right to set restrictions as to what kinds of software they will buy and use, and Microsoft has the right to make software that meets their restrictions. It makes perfect sense, and is also quite fair.

    If I decide I am NOT going to buy a car that has power windows (no pun intended) becuase I consider that feature to be a security risk, a car company cannot force me to buy their car with power windows when there are other manufacturers who make cars within the restricions I've set. That's my right as a consumer. The burden is on the car manufacturer to create a product that I would buy, or else lose me as a customer. That's all a part of free trade and consumer choice.
  • I've got Mrs. Senator Disney (Feinstein)... I want this guy!
  • How he took MS's point about the purchase price of software being only 8% of the TCO, refuted the need for it to dictate the state's decisions, and then on top of that, used it to attack the points about Open Source being the "Death of the Industry".

    Nicely done..

  • Goddamn I say! I just read that letter and I think I'm getting a chubby! Can I send a campaign contribution to this guy? Does he have any siblings who live in the USA who can run for Congress? Goddamn!

    This was my favorite paragraph:

    In addition, a reading of your opinion would lead to the conclusion that the State market is crucial and essential for the proprietary software industry, to such a point that the choice made by the State in this bill would completely eliminate the market for these firms. If that is true, we can deduce that the State must be subsidising the proprietary software industry. In the unlikely event that this were true, the State would have the right to apply the subsidies in the area it considered of greatest social value; it is undeniable, in this improbable hypothesis, that if the State decided to subsidize software, it would have to do so choosing the free over the proprietary, considering its social effect and the rational use of taxpayers money.

    Subsidizing Microsoft's monopoly is a bad decision for the Government? It sure is! Government has better things to do with its money than pay $500 for a $0.50 CD-ROM? It sure does! *SMACK*

    And this was my favorite paragraph from Microsoft:

    13. If open source software satisfies all the requirements of State bodies, why do you need a law to adopt it? Shouldn't it be the market which decides freely which products give most benefits or value?

    That's like asking: Why do you need a Constitution? If the government doesn't do what's best for society, can't society just choose a new one? You mean the Government has a special role in society, different than a corporation buying software on the open market? Of course it does! *SMACK*

    Oh well, enjoy it while you can. I bet in a few weeks we'll read on Slashdot how Microsoft payed the government of Peru $5,000,000 to standardize on Microsoft products and outlaw Free Software.

  • by smagruder (207953) <stevem@webcommons.biz> on Saturday May 04, 2002 @10:10PM (#3464202) Homepage

    Gates: I'm the richest man on Earth, made all my money from the software business, and I'm asking you all to acquire or develop software in such a way as to make me, an *American*, even richer.

    Peru: Riiiiiiiiiiight.

  • If I remember correctly, Peru was one of the first countries in south america to go from socialist government controlled economy to an open free-market economy. The reason for the change was that the country that was on the virge of bankrupcy with 1600% per month inflation.

    In the following decade pretty much all of South America followed Peru's example because the sucess they had in stablizing the economy. Hopefully this will be a similar domino situation.

    • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @01:36AM (#3464649) Homepage
      You do not remember correctly - the stabilization you mention did occur, but it had more to do with monetary policy than macroeconomic changes. And Brazil's much less open economy is currently thriving far more than Argentina's or Peru's more open ones. Only Chile has the success story you allude to.

      (Sigh) I'm probably the only Peruvian in Slashdot, and while I'm happy that this is happening, it saddens me how little perspective about the place there is. Peru is a mess right now. It's suffering from over-centralization, the economy is not stable, unemployment is going through the rough. The infrastructure is a mess, the government is still reeling from the scandals of Fujimori's government. Toledo was trained as an economist, and that (in addition to his indian heritage) was one of the reasons he was elected ahead of the disastrous Alan Garcia, but he hasn't really translated his knowledge into policy at this point.

      Ultimately, what Peru lacks isn't an information economy, it's a manufacturing economy. Most of Peru's wealth (such as it is) comes from the export of raw resources - tin, copper, and fish, along with some bauxite. The goods from these resources are made and sold elsewhere. The standard of living is too low to keep those few people who get good educations: there are more Peruvians with advanced educations living in Miami, FL and Hartford, CT than in just about any city in Peru.

  • The constant pointing out of MS's own contradictions, as well as the mention of the fact that since MS claims there is a huge amount of piracy going on in the government of Peru ANYWAYS, it shouldn't make much difference to MS if they go with OS or not. :)

    God I love it!

    -Restil
  • How can we get this guy into the American congress? Maybe expand the H1B visa system to include politicians?
  • This isn't meant as a troll - but if, as I gather, a requirement for using software in the Peruvian government be that the sourcecode is publicly available, what databases will fulfill their needs? For that matter, air traffic control systems and military systems? Or do certain elements of the government get an exemption if they can show no 'free' software exists to fulfill a specific need?
    • Is expected to create an institution which should choice and suggest the recommended software for use in any case that gov. may have, as u say here databases.

      for specific software as air traffic control or millitary systems, not all of 'em are controlled totally by the gov. as an example the airport management on capital city actually is ruled by a German corp., so in this cases the law doesn't apply, the main target are educational institutions, public services owned by state and so others.

      But if they will be required the law tells what are the conditions for new developments.
  • Since the first initiative from Congressman Villanueva and with the support of the users community there had been a forum, you can check it here [gnu.org.pe], and activism activities like this [gnu.org.pe] (which was very funny btw ;) Now we have another initiative, this time another congressman have joined Mr. Villanueva and there's a new version of the law project (which is better than the first one) also there's another initiative from another congress man, which points on the same target.

    So things are going good by now, we'll keep u notified how it goes ;)
  • It has never made sense to me that I couldn't read my M$ Word 1.0 formatted files anymore on later versions if Word.

    They have in fact violated MY copyright by making MY information inaccessible to ME because I used THEIR product.
  • Classy (Score:2, Funny)

    by Jodrell (191685)
    From the MS letter:
    "10. The bill demotivates the creativity of the peruvian software industry, which invoices 40 million US$/year, exports 4 million US$ (10th in ranking among non-traditional exports, more than handicrafts) and is a source of highly qualified employment. With a law that incentivates the use of open source, software programmers lose their intellectual property rights and their main source of payment.
    "incentivates"? Is George W. Bush writing material for Microsoft now?
  • Throughout the 20th Century whenever a little Latin Country got uppity - and this fantastic letter by the Peruvian Congressman is definitely uppity - the US would send in the Marines or fund a dissident local general and presto, everyone was on board with the Plan again. Didn't always work (Cuba) but it worked most of the time (Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, etc).

    Now I wonder, how long till the modern marines go in? and what form will they take? Microsoft donations to Peruvian schools? Microsoft donations to right thinking politicians in Peru to counter the bill? Time will tell.

    Off topic - does the US government do the same as the bill suggests when it buys software for the military? It must, right? I mean, military men don't click thru EULAs everytime they get a new ICBM control system, do they? Does anyone know about this? It would be wonderful if the administrative side of the US government would imitate the Peruvian bill, but surely the military does. Or are all those military systems built "in-house", which I can't believe...

  • Obviously Microsoft is not gonna win the argument with this congressman. He's just making too much sense.

    However, Microsoft isn't stupid either and I bet they will ignore him (or call him a liar) and aim all their FUD on the 51% of the congress they need to block this bill. Chances are they will succeed.

    I hope I'm so wrong.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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