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GNU is Not Unix

French Senator Proposes Requiring Open Source 234

Posted by Hemos
from the best-national-government-idea-in-a-long-time dept.
We've had a lot of submissions lately about a proposal within the French Government to require use of Open Source software wherever possible, as well making the government more electronically accessible. Thus far however, either we've had material in French, or unsubstantiated - but thanks to one of our French-speaking readers who has translated the Senator's comments (above link) into English, you can click below to read the Senator's comments. This has to be one of the best ideas a national government has had in a long time - my hat (beret?) is off to the French.Update: 10/28 11:10 by H :Thanks to Julien Roussea who's sent over a translation of the legal proposal to require Open Source. As well, read his open letter regarding the issue.

Translation of comments by French Senator Pierre Laffitte to postings on the French Senat e-forum to his proposed law for making government services electronically accessible and mandating the use of open source software (I hope I did better than BabelFish).

Message from Senator Pierre Laffitte - email: p.laffitte@senat.fr Sent : 28 Oct 1999 09:37:59

Subject: Comments on the state of the forum on 27 Oct 1999

The success of the forum opened by the Senat shows the interest in the proposed law. More than 400 messages are awaiting me when I get back from Stockholm & Tunis in six days.

Some of them are very potent and enthusiastic; in particular, I'm thinking of those from Jeff Thompson and Xavier Giannapoulos on the 26th October. Of course we wish that the European Countries and others will follow. I add that the approach matches the strategies of a number of global information technology Companies. It's by way of services adapted to the customers rather than by selling proprietary software that money should be made. IBM and SUN are of this opinion and MICROSOFT seems to me ready to follow this path.

I thank you in the name of my colleagues and myself for the many positive responses.

I note that few of the comments touch on the use of electronic messaging in government departments. At the moment the legal control services of regional government oppose their use between local groups, which explains Article 1.

Few comments concerning the billions of savings that would result from public services and companies using email for calls for offers (Article 2). Nobody has brought up the very strong incentive for modernisation that this example by public services would provoke.

Most of the messages focus on open source, hence these remarks above. (Articles (4 & 5)

The objective of this forum is to collect suggestions, these will all be analyzed and weighed, in particular by the sponsor in charge of proposing the law. It will be no doubt examined as extension of the the proposed law presented by Ms. E GUIGOU giving legal status to digital signatures.

As is customary in the Senat, this will be completed by auditions and everything will be examined with a sense of responsibility, rigorousness and analysis of the various consequences. This conforms the tradition of the role to the Senat at the heart of the French Parliament.

Sénateur Pierre LAFFITTE

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French Senator Proposes Requiring Open Source

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  • I've submitted this article [theregister.co.uk] a few day's ago when it first appeared in The Register [theregister.co.uk] on 24/10.

    The article has some interesting comments - my personal favourite is the possible impact this may have on companies dealing with the government. They might be forced to make more use of Open Source S/W and systems if they want to have their bids considered by the government.

    ...by the pricking of my thumbs,

  • Perhaps some French speaking geeks could get the text of the proposed law and translate that for us.

    From the translated message from the Senator, it's not at all clear as to what the Articles actually state.

    I'd be very much in favor of a law that required all software used by the Government to be provided as Open Source, wherever possible (whatever that means).

    This is not really that different from the current law in the US, if I understand it correctly, that any software written for the US Government (as a deliverable) has no copyright and is thus in the public domain. It would simply be moving from public domain to an Open Source license requirement. The two are very close, but an Open Source requirement would imply that the original source code must be supplied. A deliverable to the US Government could be executables that are in the public domain (could legally be reverse engineered).

    There was a discussion [technocrat.net] of these issues over on Technocrat [technocrat.net] awhile back, with Bruce Perens making the interesting suggestion that someone should look into getting software created by/for the US Government released with Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests. While it appears the software created by/for the US Government has no copyright (Public Domain), the US Government is not under any obligation to make releases, except possibly under FOIA requests, which is what Bruce suggested someone should look into.

    It appears that some people here seem to think that the French law will require that all Software be Open Source. I'd probably be opposed to such a mandate. This would unnecessarily displace workers suddenly who develop and release non-Open Source software. If Open Source is to succeed, I feel that it's better that it wins in the marketplace, not by mandate.

    The Government is a customer in the marketplace, and if it's determined that the Government (and thus the people) benefit from the advantages of Open Source, well, that's just a customer making a minimum requirement for purchased goods. Nothing wrong with that.


  • "Are you sure translating an official document from French to English isn't against the law? Expect French Foreign Legion troopers outside your door at any moment!

    You would think they would prefer an operating system that was designed in France, by Frenchmen, and whose native language is French, and can't be localized to other languages."

    False, look at: http://www.senat.fr/english/somm.html

    This is a part of the senat website translated in English (there also is German and Spanish).

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law

    Well, given your post you seem to be one of them ;)

  • I didn't look closely enough to realise you had made the orignal submission whan I made my posting. My mistake.

    No problem and no need to apologies.

    I hope I have correctly translated your sentiments.

    Yep, you undertood well what I thought.

    Cheers
  • by Anonymous Coward
    First of all, just point out that your post is stereotyped to the bones.

    It is very true that the French gov. relies on bureocracy more than most Euro govs. But that is, because very little govs. in this planet have got a better benefit system for society. Yes there's unemployment benefits, yes, social security is free, yes, housing benefits exist. Things that other countries cannot even dream of, are a common an unquestionable day-life thing in France. All this benefits come at a price, gov. must keep track of the people that really needs help, and therefore bureocracy was born.

    I personally love France. Not only the country, but the culture is fascinating. We should look up the french people as examples rather than making fun of them. Because their social system, even though bureocratic as hell. Results in more comfortable living standards. I'd really like to see a British or American lady living with a decent pension provided by the govs. they been paying taxes to, all their lifes. That's feedback! And that's what the French people obtains with their constant strikes, revolutions, protests, etc. Feedback from their gov. that actually takes care about what the people thinks.

    French people might not notice this, and complain as everybody else does, about their gov. But when you live in different countries for a while, and you try France, you can notice the difference. France is really awesome.

  • Sweeping decisions by governments usually scare me.

    1. France says "Hey this idea is great! Now lets make any private enterprise that does business with us be "Open Source compliant". Now your private enterpise can't choose the software it wants to use.

    2. France decides that there isn't enough open source to choose from. Now it is hiring programmers to attempt to create an "Excel" (yes I know there are open source spreadsheets but this is an example). How many Euros will that cost the French tax-payer?

    3. People like Bob Metcalfe have argued that Open Source is communism. While Metcalfe is totally out of his depth on this issue...France is taking the first step to making this a reality. It becomes socialist when the governments mandate how code is written and fascist when the governments conscript individuals to write code. France is dangerously close to the Socialst model.

    4. If this law is passed a software czar will have to be put in place to provide "guidance" for the law. This software czar will use his position to create policy about...well... software. Doesn't this scare anybody?

    I would caution anybody to say "Yeah, well the U.S. has those things!" That doesn't make it right.

    Be carefull what you wish for....

  • hi everyone. I'm the one that made the translation (but I'm more known on /. as Le douanier) but I didn't knew that I changed my name from RousseAU to RousseA ;) I'm translating the open letter in English so you can avoid the use of Babelfish. This will beavailable in the directory where I put the translation but wait 1/2 hour or 1 hour so I can translate it. Cheers
  • The minitel was a bad design, it was limited, unscalable, basically just a huge BBS, that was doomed very soon.

    Of course, the Minitel was 70's desgin.!!
    They were slow ? Well, 1200 donwload/75 upload is slow compared to a 56000, but back in 1982-1986, how many americans actually owned a computer with a modem ? And what kind of modem ? (I had a 2400 with my 8086 in 1986)

    The (freely available) Minitel was, and is still, generating a lot of money. The Internet is still an unsafe place for online transaction, and Amazon is still losing money...

    The French are buying plane or train tickets online since 1984.

    Around that date, every household discovered online chats - way before the IRC.

    Since its beginings, you could find a search engine (Minitel Guide des Services) and a national telephone directory on the Minitel.

    BTW what computer technologies did the French brought us that are used around the world?

    Er... the first microcomputer was invented in France by a Franco/Vietnamese guy, the French were just too dumb to see its potential.
    And this was just a few years before the Altair.

    The US brought the net, C, UNIX, mainframes, PCs, workstations, etc...

    In the 70's, not only the US but also the UK, France and Germany designed and tested Arpanet-like networks. Do you really think American scientists came to Europe and installed a network ? Have you heard of EARN (equivalent of BitNet) ? Do you actually know why the Internet is called

    InterNet (and not just ArpaNet) ?

    The Internet technologies are not created by US people, they are created by everybody. If I was following the previous poster's idea, I would say that the Web is British (Tim Berners Lee 'invented' the Web, after all, innit ?) or perhaps Swiss (he worked in french speaking Geneva), and that IRC is Finnish (well, it *is*).

    Probably the french were working on their "super cool" technologies on US mainframes.

    Wrong - play again !
    Until the mid-60's, the #2 computer company in the world was French - it was Bull (the #1 was IBM, but its dominance was not that obvious at the time).


    Just to let you know :

    1st man in space : russian.

    invention of car : joint German and French.

    Linux : finnish. and the World

    smartcards : French. They have ued smartcards for more than 15 years, and pay everything with them. American phone companies only started using them in the early 90's.

    Feeding cattle with mud from sewage : French. Sometimes, they can be very stupid, like everybody in general (and the americans in particular, except, being French, they do it with panache and culture, of course).

    Actually nuking another country : US. Twice

    Well way I'm off topic, but you get the idea.


  • >So why not talking about libre software or >libertad software if we use the spanish word Well, in English we could refer to "liberated software", but this has two problems. First, people would expect to see penguins burning their bras. Secondly, there is a mistrust in America of the word "liberty", which sounds vaguely radical. H. Beam Piper said that the English language was the result of Norman men-at-arms trying to date Saxon barmaids; one happy result of the bastardization of English is that there's always a succinct way to express yourself.
  • > The minitel was a bad design, it was limited, unscalable,
    > basically just a huge BBS, that was doomed very soon.

    Of course it was all this. But it was still an immense success, even though it was the first
    WIDESPREAD (and I mean it: they made it to get rid of the phone books. They GAVE IT
    AWAY FOR FREE
    to anyone who asked.)

    > BTW what computer technologies did the French brought us that are used around the world?
    > The US brought the net, C, UNIX, mainframes, PCs, workstations, etc...
    > Probably the french were working on their "super cool" technologies on US mainframes.

    Well... 30 years ago, you didn't have anything BUT mainframes. So, I guess you answered your own question... :) :) :)
    -- ----------------------------------------------
    Vive le logiciel... Libre!!!

  • by TShark (69724)
    Chapeau.
  • Not exactly, I think Hindhi and even Urdu (two languages from the Indian subcontinent and widely spoken in Ealing, UK) would come before english and spanish.
  • >> Perhaps some French speaking geeks could get the text of the
    >> proposed law and translate that for us.

    Demandez, et vous serez exaucé:

    > Article 1er
    > Les communications entre les services de l'État et les
    > collectivités ainsi que les communications entre collectivités
    > locales seront réalisées par voie électronique. Les conditions
    > du passage entre les procédures actuelles (circulaires, lettres,
    > convocations, etc.) et la messagerie électronique généralisée
    > seront précisées par voie de décret.

    The communications between the State Services and collectivities, as well as the communication between local collectivities [municipal, regional governments] will be done through electronic ways. The condition of changing over from the current procedure (circulars, letters, sub-poenas, etc.) and the generalized electronic messaging will be precised by way of decree.

    > Article 2
    > Afin d'assurer une large transparence et un accès rapide à
    > l'information par les entreprises, les appels d'offres publics
    > ainsi que les documents annexes feront l'objet d'une
    > communication électronique.

    > Les réponses de même seront fournies par voie électronique.

    To insure the widest transparency and quick access to the information by the [private] companies, public tenders as well as subsidiary documents will be communicated through electronic means.

    The answers as well will be provided though electronic ways.

    > Pendant une période transitoire, la communication électronique
    > pourra être doublée par une communication papier. Un décret
    > précisera la durée de la période transitoire ainsi que les coûts
    > de la communication papier réalisée sur demande.

    During a transitory period, electronic communications could be doubled by paper communications. A decree will define the duration of the transitory period, as well as the costs of paper communications done on demand.

    > Article 3
    > Les administrations de l'État, des collectivités locales et
    > des services administratifs, sous réserve des dispositions de
    > l'article 4 ne peuvent utiliser que des logiciels libres de
    > droits et dont le code source est disponible.

    > Un décret fixera les conditions de transition avec la situation actuelle.

    The State [various departments], local collectivities and administrative services administrations, under the reserves of article 4 can only use software that is copylefted and whose source code is available.

    > Article 4

    > Certains logiciels spécifiques peuvent être utilisés et
    > acquis par les administrations et services mentionnés à
    > l'article 3 après autorisation délivrée par un service compétent.
    > Un décret précisera la répartition géographique de ces services
    > et les conditions d'obtention de cette autorisation.

    Some specific softwares could be used and acquired by the administrations and services mentionned in article 4 after being authorized to do so by a competent service. A decree will precise the geographical dispertion of those services and the conditions to obtain that authorization.

    > Article 5

    > En vue de faciliter la mise en oeuvre rapide de la présente
    > loi, il sera institué un service de renseignements électroniques
    > auprès de chaque préfecture pour les services publics et les
    > collectivités locales, et des assemblées consulaires pour
    > les entreprises concernées.

    To facilitate the implementation of the present law, an electronic information service will be instituted at each préfecture[the representation of the central EXECUTIVE authority through out the territory of France] for all public services and local collectivities, as well as consular assemblies for the concerned companies.


    -- ----------------------------------------------
    Vive le logiciel... Libre!!!

  • You're mostly off-topic.
    You mostly missed the point I was making. So I'll chop it up into nice little MTV sized nuggets for you.
    Think a little further than the adoption of non proprietary software. Think about a future when the French government have invested some time & money in OSS stuff, and feed it back into the community. Except one of the basic tenets (and major strength) of OSS, that of peer review, is greatly hampered because the additions to the source are illegible to most other programmers, or at least a good deal harder to decode.
    So now we have something which is touted as "Open Source" yet intrinsically can not be exposed to the Open Source process of ongoing review by a very large peer group. So you get lower quality software (I'm not saying that the French government are going to write crap code, but everybody makes coding mistakes in non-trivial systems, even me :), but still with the high expectation that OSS carries. I'm sure you will agree this is a Bad Thing.
    Now, don't you think you are being myopic about this? Think a little further than immediate impact for once. I'd bet you are an MTV kid.

    I'm sure you're one of those who think that there should be only one desktop project, one Linux distribution, preferably in English.
    Nope, I'd like to say you couldn't be more incorrect, but the content of your post leads me to believe you can. Vive la differance, I say!!! Through diversity comes strength. And I'd love to see Linux with Japanese ideograms on the screen!

    Instead of complaining about Babelfish, learn a new language.
    I can maintain reasonable conversational and business French, can get by in Afrikaans, and could probably order a beer in most European languages, even after 8 pints. And that's not counting C, C++, x86 assembler, Perl, Java, Delphi, COBOL, SML...

    If you want to make derogatory remarks about peoples' postings, don't you think you'd have more credibility if you didn't post as an AC? To quote Dilbert "You're mighty brave in cyberspace, flameboy"
  • The senate is otherall a useless, deprecated institution. That's usually where retiring politician end their carriers. They have'nt got much power -- besides delaying the passing of a bill. For example, as the bloody conservatives they are, they delayed the PACS, a bill for a sort of 'gay marriage', so it adopting it took over a year instead of a few months. But the bill passed anyway.

    So what happens is that they're fighting to pretend to serve some purpose. The head of the chamber (what's his face gain?) is using his net presence to look branché (wired), and at least more branché than the other side of the parliament.

    Actually, they're rather succesful at that: they had their website way before other gov't institution.

    Then, all cynicism aside, the fact that they don't have much real power does'nt mean that this is useless. They can at least challenge the gov't to do something ...

  • One wonders why you picked my post to reply to when I am arguing against making fun of France, and there are posts that blatently make fun of it. One also wonders where you learned to spell "people".
  • And you are wrong.
  • Uh, they aren't making it law that everyone in the country has to use open source software, just making it a procurment guideline for government purchases of software products.
  • I'm the first to complain about how ignorant Euro governments, organizations, companies and the public are in general when it comes to Microsoft software (besides being plain /wrong/ in the case of public institutions to MANDATE the use of proprietary American file formats), but this is NOT the way it should be done.

    1. Requiring access to source code is OK. It doesn't need to be Open Source. That's what source code escrow is for.
    2. Proprietary software is OK, when
    a. The company providing it does not hold a [virtual] monopoly (eg: not only Microsoft would be out, but Mathematica, too). In this case, if the alternatives are not good enough, the state should provide a substantial amount of funding to help develop free alternatives (eg: REDUCE, Mockma, whatever).
    b. There is no dominant player, and the commercial alternative provides relevant benefits, and is not attemptting an `embrace an extend' (a.k.a. vendor lock-in) strategy [Extensions not denounced by a sizable proportion of the community as improperly designed should be OK].
    3. If a non-European player is not dominant as a whole, but only in relationship with its commercial competitors, and these include European companies, that dominant player is disqualified.
    [Note that this does not mean that an European vendor is finally chosen].
    4.`loss leaders' associated with conglomerates are disqualified.
  • by ajs (35943) <ajs@a[ ]com ['js.' in gap]> on Thursday October 28, 1999 @03:43AM (#1581727) Homepage Journal
    I could see an Open Source initiative for the US government, but we have some oddities that would require special casing. Here's my thought:
    1. A general policy (executive order, sense of congress?) which states that the use of Open Source software is acceptable in any situation where the resulting software is not to be constrained by national security. BSD and MIT/X style software would still be fine in those situations, but GPL would be right out, unless the FSF was willing to make a general exception in writing for government projects thus constrained. The key, here, is that right now, most government contractors "feel" (and sometimes are told) that the government will not accept projects based on Open Source.
    2. Require that for every contract bid over X number of dollars, an Executive Office of Open Source be asked to review the Open Source world for existing solutions. This is sort of like requiring that there be an Open Source bid, but without there having to be a company to bid it. This office could be VERY small, and need not be a beaurecratic albetros around the bidding process' neck. OTOH, has that ever stopped the executive branch?
    3. Perhaps an ARPA-style grant could go out to research all non-classified government source code and determine what pieces would best be cleaned up and contributed back into the general Open Source pool (note, this would be as public domain software, as that is what ALL US government-owned software is by default, unless classified).

    Thoughts?
  • France is one of the most fiercly nationalistic (mainly in a good way) countries in Europe, and frequently takes action against dilution of French culture by overseas influences. The expurgation of the language being a notable example.

    Open source offers a way to replace one `culturally imperialistic' product with one which can be modified and repackaged in France, and sold to profit French firms.

    After Korea, my money was on France to be next. After that though, I'm at a loss. Maybe India.
  • Do not delude your self thinkning that Democracy == Freedom. When the US was a republic we were much more free. Governement screws up almost anything they stick there smelly mitts in. Frankly nothing is going to turn me off faster then some big fat bloated government geting invoved and start saying "all software must be open source". Boy we will have problems then. The socialists are evrywhere and they want to force you into thier way of thinking. I am having trouble seeing your democracy argumnet...it does not seem like democracy...everyone is not voting for something and make that the standard...which would be horrible, no thanks no democratic software for me. I did not even like the idea when studying democratic software engineering teams.
  • Unluckilly, you're right.

    French people will soon eat British beef;

    British and French and German will also soon be forced to eat american Genetically Modified food (and American hormon beef, and bananas harvested by children)


  • Actually, you're wrong : I guess they do not disregard the foreign films, they only have to adapt them to the appaling cultural level of the local population.

    ex. : they don't know where Berlin is, so they move 'City Of Angels' to the US.

  • > Actually I seemed to remember English was the most spoken language, followed by Chinese,
    > then possibly Spanish

    Perhaps in the USA, but definitely ont in the world, where the english-speaking countries make a paltry 5% of the total world population.

    (300 million -versus- 6 billion)
    -- ----------------------------------------------
    Vive le logiciel... Libre!!!

  • The abysmal lack of public transportation in most of the USA forces the people to give it's hard-earned dollars to GM, FORD, EXXON, FIRESTONE & companies...
    -- ----------------------------------------------
    Vive le logiciel... Libre!!!
  • >We make the source to our product, Resin,
    >available to the user for the reasons above. But
    >you can't snag our code and sell it or >incorporate it in your product without our
    >permission.

    >My understanding of the slashdot ideology is that
    >we're just as evil as a closed source software >company because we're not giving away all our
    >rights for free. I've never understood that.

    I suspect that it's only the real fanatics who take that attitude - most will take the more reasonable view. Unlike the guy earlier, stating that source is a "consumers right".

    Getting the source is *not* an automatic right. You can encourage companies to make source available, you can refuse to use closed-source things, but getting hold of the source for something is not a requirement for releasing a piece of software.

    (Bets that this gets moderated down? )
  • Warning: this is totally offtopic. Please moderate accordingly.

    Erm...it's Open Source. I'm afraid that means that you'll have to encourage speakers of Hebrew and Arabic to contribute some time and effort.
    They do, but they often have trouble integrating their work back into mainstream distributions. There's for instance a separate Hebrew version of TeX, but it's, well, a separate version. It is bound to lag behind the "official" version forever.

    FYI Hebrew is written mostly right to left. That's why KDE work, although very welcome, is inadequate. It's mostly message translation stuff a la gettext(). I still cannot type Hebrew text properly.

    Now, it's relatively easy to add basic Hebrew support (it's slightly more complicated with Arabic) to single-font no-markup plain text widgets in each major toolkit (Qt 2.0 has it), and even have reasonable inter-toolkit consistency.

    But then there are KOffice and AbiWord and Gnome Workshop and Mozilla and... I don't think any progress is possible here unless some sort of coordinated effort happens Right Now(tm), which is unlikely.
    --

  • HOLY COW!!!! I would have never expected this from the french. My first guess would have been that they would have surrendored to the borg known as Microsoft with little resistance if any. Ive been to france and a I really liked it.. I like it more now
  • Ahhh...someone who has some understanding as to how government works. While I understand the concern over government involvement, I believe that the state agency I work for should be using as much open source technology, wherever needed and whenever possible. Recently, we migrated the web servers from Netscape to Apache - woohoo! - and it's amazing how much more stable and easier to maintain it is, not to mention cheaper since there are no exorbitant licensing issues to negotiate!

    We are also working towards incorporating XML to keep our data portable. Currently, we are running Solaris but I'd like to move to Linux in the future because open source software is cheaper and easier to maintain. We are continually understaffed in IT and can't afford to be supporting various flavors of 3rd party proprietary software. With open source software, I can go online and find answers to questions if needed as opposed to being forced into a (substandard) support contract with a software company. So, open source software really is the best way for government to go, from my perspective, and should be given preference just based upon cost, maintenance and resource issues.

    Just my 2 cents.

    tokengeekgrrl

    The pedigree of honey
    Does not concern the bee;
    A clover, any time, to him
    Is aristocracy.

  • as a french expat living in california I have to tell you that you have everything wrong. I did not have less paperwork to fill when I came here. (and this is an understatement). Regarding the capacity of a french government to take a decision, things are of course more involved than in your cliche description. Remember the first declaration of human rights comes from france and was adopted in one day. More recently great decisions have been taken like the 35 hours working week. Only when a decision irritates big lobbies does it take forever to pass. But what about fire weapons in the us ??? my guess is that you are just the kind of gone out of the US just once in my life without a clue moron that helps maintaining the reputation of your country so low outside your borders. Just too sad considering the fact that no nation has a monopoly on intelligence or stupidity.
  • It is hard to see how open source would be less acceptable in situations with security concerns. The GPL doesn't mandate releasing derived code to anyone unless you are distributing it outside your organization.

    First, in your later comments you confuse this use of "security" (as in "national security") with "security" as in how secure the code is.

    Second, absolutely, the Government should never use GPLed (or LGPLed) code where matters of national security will require that the code not be revealed (again, unless the FSF is willing to modify the GPL for this case). Why? Because, given your example, if the DoD wants to have that weapons system's code modified, they may choose to give it to a contracting firm to do (this is very standard practice). They cannot do this while meeting the terms of the GPL and the terms of the presumed security rating of this software. They would have to require that the contractor not distribute the source to third parties (say, newspapers), but the GPL requires that this be allowed, and says that if you cannot meet this condition, you may not distribute the source!

    Clearly, restricting source code to the point where it cannot be distributed at all was not the point, here. Of course BSD and MIT/X style licenses allow for this, as they have no clause which requires free redistribution, they only allow for it. Thus, your example nuke could be built with, say, the BSD C library printf code, and all that would be required is that the BSD copyright is maintained on the code (this, even, may be a problem, as govt. code is required to be public domain, but IANAL).
  • The abysmal lack of public transportation in most of the USA forces the people to give it's
    hard-earned dollars to GM, FORD, EXXON, FIRESTONE & companies..


    I don't even know how to begin explaining the difference. So I will just repeat myself.

    My problem is that the government is forcing people to give money to *one* *specific* *company*. That is far more insidious. For transportation, there are many choices. You can buy your car, your fuel, your tires from a variety of companies. You can even make your own bicycle and ride that around. And the government rarely requires that you travel. It's bad when the government does, but it's not one thousandth as bad as the government requiring that you give money to Microsoft.

    My concern is the same as if voting over the net were possible, but would only work with Windows. And that's even an entirely reasonable scenereo - you might have to run a Windows executable, or it might be web based and Windows-only for any of the dozens of reasons existing Windows-only websites exist.

  • the proposal is about using open source software in the administration Ok, from further information showing up, I'm starting to be convinced that the proposal is only for within the government, which, of course, is up to the government what it wants to do. Indeed, the requirement for the Government to use open source makes a lot of sense. However, I still get a slight impression that the government may impose a law on French companies as well to use Open Source which is NOT a Good Thing. If you had some clue to what the exterior world is you would know that you are as free in france as anywhere in the US Oh, I thought everyone was forced to live in jails and get whipped daily in France. Silly me.
  • by timothy (36799)
    Good to see this happening in some corner of the government, at least!

    tokengeekgrrl -- thanks for adding to the case for Free / free based on real-world costs in addition to philisophical wholesomness.

    :)

    timothy
  • I would have excpected Finland to force people to use Linux, the US to force people to use windows, and France to force people using BeOS, but this is so confusing... ;)
  • That's a great idea. Open source doesn't need an unfair advantage, just a level playing field. If the government required the software they used to have published file formats, APIs, and protocol specifications, everyone would have equal electronic access to our government.


    There should also be a requirement that companies supplying hardware to the government have to provide either published interface specs., or device drivers with source code.

  • by QuMa (19440) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @02:56AM (#1581752)
    I knew it. Someone replaced the french with really reasonable, nice people. Ok, who did it? C'mon, own up....
  • If this goes through, maybe it will encourage other countries to think about the feasibility of adopting a similar set of guidlines.
  • Well, if any public (read: government) service/agency uses some M$ software, then some of your taxes go to M$...

    I think it's just dangerous...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    we must not let this open source thing get over our heads. Developers must have the power to choose what to do with their software, requiring open-source sounds like communism in disguise to me.
  • Great idea - the French government gives a preference to OSS but guess what will happen?

    Microsoft et al will go whining to Uncle Sam who will give his bitch the WTO a slap and the next thing you know France will be ordered to open up their government procurement market to non-OSS software. Same thing happened with bananas (EU countries giving preference to ex-colonies) and beef (EU countries trying to ban hormone-treated meat.)

    This is happening within the US even - witness the government of Massachussetts being dragged up before the WTO for refusing to deal with companies that deal with Burma.

    This is important and not many people know about it - an unelected, supranational body, which holds all it's deliberations in absolute secrecy - is taking away YOUR country's sovereignty and it's right to pass legislation based on health and safety, human rights whatever.

    Nick

  • by Anonymous Coward
    All code comments must be written in French, though. Otherwise they will be outlawed.
  • C'est une suprix? Mais non! Les Francias sont la premier amis de GPL.

    It would be like them to support anything that is not essentially Amierican only, can be ported into French easily, and can be modified by anyone qualified to make a contribution. They are merely trying to save money, recruit outside help, and try to reestablish themselves as a technological giant.
    There would be choice because inviduals do not have to use Linux. People can run their computer on anything they want, just as long as it can communiacte with other computers or get the job done. Besides that Windows NT fiascoe with the Blue Screen of Death on US navy Ship proved that a more relaible program is needed for essential computer or networking services.
    We all know the French are resolutely independent and nationalistically prideful (just like Americans), so this is a big egalitarian step towards gloabalism for them.
  • The Register [theregister.co.uk] has an article on this in English [royal.gov.uk] languange at http://www.theregister.co.uk/991024 -000005.html [theregister.co.uk].
  • Where did you get this out of the original post, or do you have another source? One of my prior questions was to what extent are they proposing this...no need for condescension. :) A great deal of the Senator's speech looks like typical political babble to my eyes.
  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @03:52AM (#1581763)
    The French are great at coming up with ideas that at some level seem quite logical, yet at the end, when it is all well and done the result is chaos.

    The key phrase in the proposal is:

    The objective of this forum is to collect suggestions, these will all be analyzed and weighed, in particular by the sponsor in charge of proposing the law.

    This indicates that the idea is doomed from the start. Firstly all that is being proposed is collection and analysis of suggestions. Looks fine to an American, no? Let me tell you, with the French this could take centuries. The French have a tendency to analyze the shit out of everything before taking a move. Time in France is a very relative concept, and coupled with a fear of being wrong leads to analysis paralysis as a way of life.

    Not only is this trap obvious here, but the speaker is proposing that somebody else actually do the work! Well, I can tell you from my experience with the French that this is bloody unlikely! French organizations embody the very essence of siloing. Unless there is some damned good reason for this other fellow to do the work, it just is not going to happen, a) just because this other fellow suggested it, and b) NIH c) my boss didn't like it. d) even if my boss did like it he didn't think of it e) we are on strike this week f) it's August so everyone in in the Alps.

    If you ever plan to visit France it is very important to understand System D; that is how to weasel and worm out of French Bureaucrats the basic paperwork you need to live. And the French Buraucracy has been in place essentially unchanged since the time of Napolean! The very word Buraucracy was invented by the French to describe their system of goverment. It literaly mean tyranny of the desks!!!!

    As far as I can tell such a speach may in fact be a clever ploy by Microsoft to prevent Open Source from ever gaining a foothold in France!

    Of course the good news is that the Germans will take a look at the French and do exactly the opposite. My guess is by the end of next year all of Germany will be run on Open Source, and Microsoft will be more entrenched in France than ever!!!

  • I was not trying to be funny. Many software written for linux are not always translated into French whereas most commercial software (especially from M$) are. Even visual basic is translated into French! The French adminstration will simply not work with English menus, error messages and man pages.

  • In France, isn't it a fact, that a surprising percentage of the work force is in the public sector working for the government? If so, this requirement means that almost all business-to-business software bought in France would have to be open-source. How ridiculous. No we can sit back and watch and France falls further behind in the internet revolution. Silly french.
  • > In France, isn't it a fact, that a surprising percentage of the
    > work force is in the public sector working for the
    > government?

    This percentage is made artificially high by the fact it counts
    teachers in public schools, personnel of public hospital
    and other categories of people that are not counted as such
    in the US.

    All the same, the US artificially lowers the number of
    government employees by subcontracting government
    work to companies working almost exclusively for the
    government. Other countries would talk of "subsidies";
    the US prefers to say "research grants for defense".

    As for the overall impact of such a reform: I think that
    substancial exemptions would anyway be granted.
  • > France says "Hey this idea is great! Now lets make any
    > private enterprise that does business with us be "Open
    > Source compliant". Now your private enterpise can't
    > choose the software it wants to use.

    Can you read English?

    This proposal says that government agencies are supposed
    to use open-source software. It doesn't talk of private
    companies.

    If you had worked in an US government contractor,
    as I did, you would know that the US government
    imposes far more stringent constraints on contractors.
  • From Julien Roussea's translation:
    === Cut===
    Article 3

    State administrations, local collectivities and administratives services can , with the exceptions of the dispositions of the article #4, only use software free of rights and which source code is available .
    === Cut===

    It says "only use software free of rights and which source code is available".

    Now what does that exactly mean?

    If I understand it correctly, it doesn't have to be GPL'ed software -the software could be licensed under the QT-license or Sun's community license, or whatever license, as long as the source code is available and they are alloved to change the source code as the like.

    Not that it matters that much...it's a giant step in the right direction *if* it becomes a law.
  • What about ESPRIT projects whose documents must be in MS Word format? (when SGML, HTML, or XML is available) [I don't give other names]
    What about Euro organizations providing document templates in .doc format only?
    What about Euro organizations putting documents on the web only in .doc format?

    Why should we, computer professionals, subsidize the biotech industry? Clueless bureaucrats have done more than enough to keep the European software industry for flourishing. We don't need them to destroy what's there, or to give us even more motivation to move to the US (as if it was not enough with the more conservative character of the VC market, (or restrictions on the financial placements of insurance institutions, at least in .ch)).

  • > That Windoze has a French version means
    > little if the applications are English-only
    > -- and most commercial apps are.

    Wrong.

    All the "important" applications (that is,
    those relevant to most end-users, such as
    word processors and spreadsheets) have
    French versions. Otherwise, market forces
    would drive them into oblivion.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The minitel was a bad design, it was limited,
    unscalable, basically just a huge BBS, that was doomed very soon.

    BTW what computer technologies did the French brought us that are used around the world?

    The US brought the net, C, UNIX, mainframes, PCs, workstations, etc...

    Probably the french were working on their "super cool" technologies on US mainframes.
  • the bit about radio quotas is incorrect. The ratio is 60% of french-language music (not french music actually, so people like daft punk aren't in the quota) and the rest for other languages' musics.
  • Reading on in the discussion on http://www.senat.fr/Vforum/5/forum.html [senat.fr] , there is a useful posting from one Julien Rousseau just below the posting from Senator Lafitte. (Click here to see it [senat.fr])

    The salient points: (translated materials in italics, all else my comments)

    It seems to me there are some errors in the wording of the law... The first (..) is the use of the phrase libre en droit.

    Libre de droit is associated with the notion of public domain in French law - free software is not necessarily public domain.

    The second error is (...) in the principle of requiring the use of free software even though it isn't necessary. This complicates the law and its application. Furthermore, it is not guaranteed to resolve the problem. (...) I think most people would take a dim view of any requirement to use free software. (...) Even the most ardent defenders of free software recognise that free software can't do everything at the present time.

    In my experience there is no adequate free solution for SGML editing. There are decent commercial ones, but even those are few. There are certainly other domains in which this is true. As an SGML advocate, I have to agree with M Rousseau, and have second thoughts about this type of project.

    A solution has already been proposed by several people on the Senate forum: require the use of open data formats rather than mandating particular software.

    I am in full agreement here. I think with XML we're making some progress on this count, and a government mandate would certainly help.

    M Rousseau goes on to other matters as well. For those of you who are French-compatible, I'd advise you to take a good look at his posting.

    Another posting - an earlier one, before that of Senator Lafitte - by a user named Phillipe raises an interesting issue. (It's here [senat.fr])

    He rasies the point that if an institution is to be required to use free software, they will have to support the free software community, since the institution's requirements are not likely to be spontaneously met by the developers. This is not an insignificant consideration. If an institution is to use only free software, it must either become a software development shop or contract other individuals and companies to write or modify free software for its needs.

    This lends itself to two questions. One: is it cheaper to pay for the development of free software than to deal contractually with non-free vendors? And two: does the free software community want to find itself dependent on government subsidy?

    Another poster, Lucille Fievet, suggests here [senat.fr], that before this bill (Law 495) is passed

    We need to start thinking about law 495's little brother and create a French Public Interest License, which would permit:

    1- the recognition of (...) the first author (...) as artistic licenses do.

    2- the copying, recopying, sales (and) use for commercial purposes (of software under this license).

    3- the modification of free software, on the condition of sending the original owner or some sort of national repository a copy of the modified code.

    4- obviously, the publication of the source.

    5- (and) forbid reserving the right to convert the free program to a proprietary license.


    I disagree here. I do think a rigourous legal definition of what constitutes free software has to happen first, before any other free software related law is passed. That legal definition should allow GPL and Berkeley license software to be seen as free, as well as public domain offerings like the nsgmls package. It should be relatively liberal.

    I disagree however, with all the additional requirement the author of this posting asks for. The requirements of the GPL license seem sufficient to me.

    A national repository of free software doesn't sound like a bad idea to me. I have some questions as to how it would be run, but that is a different issue.

    Serge Oudet (posting at http://www.senat.fr/Vforum/cgi-bin/Vforum-1.6.cgi? action=lire&page=1&id=489&forum_num =5 [senat.fr]) also raises the issue of how free software can be certain to comply with French law regarding cryptology. For the French nationals out there, this is quite interesting.

    Personally, it does not concern me (je ne suis pas français - il y a d'autres pays francophones dans le monde), however, it suggests a second interesting notion:

    All cryptographic systems used by a government or mandated by one should be free software, available to all. This is the only protection against encryption systems with hidden key recovery schemes. Recently, it was revealed that a Swiss cryptography outfit was, in fact, secretly owned by the NSA and had been selling compromised equipment to Iran and other governments. Accessible source and public algorithms strike me as the only sure way to prevent this kind of thing. I feel it would be quite appropriate to mandate free software in this context.

    ______________________________________

    Ce n'est que mes deux sous ;^)
  • If Open Source is better for the software companies, legal requirements are not necessary.

    I'm not under the impression we're talking legal requirements, anyway. The subject matter is, if I understood correctly, that the french senator suggests a decision with respect to the french government software procurement. He wants the government, as a consumer, to decide to buy Open Source instead of Closed. That's all there is to it.

    No conspiracy to write legislation to twist the arms of software companies or any such thing.

  • Not to mention the stubborn adherence to strange units of measurements. Somehow I have trouble using a temperature scale based on the temperature of the average man's armpit...

    //rdj
  • Hi everone, i have finished to translate my open letter in English.

    You can find it at the following address:
    members.xoom.com/rousseauj/english/translations/Fr enchLaws/Law1999.495/index.html. [xoom.com]

    Tomorrow I will try to translate the document explaining why they did the law, but this is if i have the time and nobody do it before me (I you are doing it let me know) ;)

    Cheers

    Julien
  • I think all governments - in fact, all entities - should no longer deal with companies that refuse to place their source code in a trust that ensures that, should something happen to the authoring company (or even should the company opt not to support that product anymore), that the purchasers have the ability to hire other to develop/extend/whatnot the software that was purchased. To me, that's wise business. But no, I don't agree with seeing the French (or any government) requiring open-source software. That won't gain us much - in fact, knowning the government, it'll cost us a lot of taxes. How? Well, the government will decide it NEEDS a given piece of software, and, of course, the vendor, knowing that once the software is sold, it becomes free to all, will charge an incredible sum for it. And boom - there goes our taxes! The answer is in getting the correct terms for what you pay for - not trying to force rules on everyone.

  • It seems like i made an error with my html code. At least you will have no excuse to miss the link ;)
  • It seems that very few in the US are aware of the commitment of the French government to catch up with the development of the Internet. As some pointed out in this forum, France has been in advance for some technology developments. For example we have been using Smartcards for years, and the Minitel has provided to French people, secure online services and information since 1986. Unfortunately the Minitel was a dead-end and this technology could not be scaled and evolve, and it development may account for some of the delay in the development of Internet in France. Since 1997 the French government has launched a big program to promote the development of Internet. There is an internet site (in French, English, German and Spanish) which gathers all the information on the development of Internet led by the French government: http://www.internet.gouv.fr/english/sommaire.html (in English)

    The initiation of this program was made in August 1997, by the Prime Minister during a speech which is translated at the following address: http://www.premier-ministre.gouv.fr/GB/INFO/HOURT. HTM (in English) In January 1998, the prime minister announced a program (http://www.internet.gouv.fr/english/textesref/dpr esang.htm, in English) which may priorities are: 1. new information and communications technology tools in the education sector 2. an ambitious cultural policy for new networks, 3. information technology as a tool for modernizing public services, 4. information technology, an essential tool for companies, 5. meeting the challenges of industrial and technological innovation, 6. encouraging the emergence of effective regulation and a protective framework for new information networks. Now, all the government information and services that were already available on the Minitel, are accessible from the Internet. "The Internet must become a standard tool for the government." The bill discussed at the French Senate is missing a very important point: the necessity to have open document standards for all the information and documentation publish by the national and local administrations. Beside promoting open source software, it should also promote structured document standards such as SGML or XML.


  • The first micro was French. i don't remember his name and there also some rethoric about it because the man that did it in his garage didn't take a patent or something like that but nonetheless, the first known micro constructed was french, and a micro is quite an important thing.
  • Are you sure translating an official document from French to English isn't against the law? Expect French Foreign Legion troopers outside your door at any moment!

    You would think they would prefer an operating system that was designed in France, by Frenchmen, and whose native language is French, and can't be localized to other languages.

    I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said "Information wants to be free".
  • I think your information is several months (?) out-of-date. I don't remember the details, but: a) Crypto is legal in France if you get a "trusted third party" to hold a copy of the keys and release it to the government under certain conditions, like a court order (basically the "key escrow" laws we all know and love), and b) I remember a story on Slashdot several months ago about encryption being (possibly) made legal in France, with the key escrow laws being either reduced or eliminated. Again, I don't remember the sources, but a Slashdot search for "France" ought to find everything relevant.

    Seems to me France is acquiring clues much more rapidly than the U.S. these days...


    -----
    The real meaning of the GNU GPL:


  • "but the speaker is proposing that somebody else actually do the work! Well, I can tell you from my
    experience with the French that this is bloody unlikely!"

    I'm happy to contradict you.

    I'm French and have done what you described.

    Guess what? I also translated it in English (see the update).

    Time to rethink your stereotypes maybe??
  • This was a secret operation of the US government in collaboration with friendly aliens.
    They removed all the french and put them on some distance planet. then they put aliens that were genetically altered to look like humans in their place.
    because the aliens are much more evolved they have allready found out the benefits of open source software a couple of centuries ago.
    the starters of open source on earth have all been abducted by these aliens in childhood and the open source idea's have been hardwired into their brains.
    there are also rumors they are about to replace some people from irak, iran and russia.

    :-)
    ---
  • Heh, maybe I should keep up with Technocrat [technocrat.net]. They had this story [technocrat.net] on Monday which references this article [theregister.co.uk] from The Register [theregister.co.uk] that answers my questions.

    There's some interesting discussion over on Technocrat on this story.

  • a plug. Gere it goes.

    I feel sorry for my own country (which is called Israel for the time being). Such a proposal would never make it here.

    Why? Because no single Open Source(TM) project worth mentioning has adequate support for freakin' Hebrew, much less for Arabic.

    Most of Israeli geeks can live with English-only software; our government cannot. So it MUST use non-free software.

    (Moderation suggestion: -1; offtopic.)
    --

  • Of course we wish that the European Countries and others will follow.
    Yeah, like the French have such a good record for compliance of EU regulations... Beef included.
    I'm not going to a Pierre Victoire restaurant until either the EU or the British govt gets off their gravy trained arses & sorts out the beef. And gives free roast potatoes with that.
    Strikes me that when the UK had the BSE scare, the EU couldn't wait to nail us. Now the French have a similar issue, and what are the politicians doing ? Nothing, as usual. Except labelling us "Little Englanders" because our farmers rightly demand justice & regulation be applied uniformly.
    /Rant.
  • ... and they read as if someone had babelfished the topics over here. ;-)

    "Ok for open source, but the state must finance development effort"
    "closed source is not the problem: closed document formats are"
    "GPL fights the black-box problem, it has proven its value and, capacity to evolve. It is a political and citizen's imperative to support it."
    "A proposal for Open Source Licensing giving original authors royalties for the usage of open source code."
    "Open standards and doc formats are more important than open source"

    ---

  • Dunno about that, but the Kiwi (NZ) stuff is good ;-).
  • General background of the law

    It seems that very few in the US are aware of the commitment of the French government to catch up with the development of the Internet. As some pointed out in this forum, France has been in advance for some technology developments. For example we have been using Smartcards for years, and the Minitel has provided to French people, secure online services and information since 1986. Unfortunately the Minitel was a dead-end and this technology could not be scaled and evolve, and it development may account for some of the delay in the development of Internet in France.

    Since 1997 the French government has launched a big program to promote the development of Internet. There is an internet site (in French, English, German and Spanish) which gathers all the information on the development of Internet led by the French government: http://www.internet.gouv.fr/english/sommaire.html (in English). The initiation of this program was made in August 1997, by the Prime Minister during a speech which is translated at the following address: http://www.premier-ministre.gouv.fr/GB/INFO/HOURT. HTM (in English). In January 1998, the Prime Minister announced a program (http://www.internet.gouv.fr/english/textesref/dpr esang.htm, in English) which main priorities are:

    1. new information and communications technology tools in the education sector
    2. an ambitious cultural policy for new networks,
    3. information technology as a tool for modernizing public services,
    4. information technology, an essential tool for companies,
    5. meeting the challenges of industrial and technological innovation,
    6. encouraging the emergence of effective regulation and a protective framework for new information networks.

    Now, most of the extensive government information and services that were already available on the Minitel, are accessible from the Internet. "The Internet must become a standard tool for the government."

    Points missing: Opend document standards

    The bill discussed at the French Senate is missing a very important point: the necessity to have open document standards for all the information and documentation publish by the national and local administrations. Beside promoting open source software, it should also promote structured document standards such as SGML or XML.

  • General background of the law

    It seems that very few in the US are aware of the commitment of the French government to catch up with the development of the Internet. As some pointed out in this forum, France has been in advance for some technology developments. For example we have been using Smartcards for years, and the Minitel has provided to French people, secure online services and information since 1986. Unfortunately the Minitel was a dead-end and this technology could not be scaled and evolve, and it development may account for some of the delay in the development of Internet in France.

    Since 1997 the French government has launched a big program to promote the development of Internet. There is an internet site (in French, English, German and Spanish) which gathers all the information on the development of Internet led by the French government: http://www.internet.gouv.fr/engli sh/sommaire.html [internet.gouv.fr] (in English). The initiation of this program was made in August 1997, by the Prime Minister during a speech which is translated at the following address: http://www.premier-ministre.g ouv.fr/GB/INFO/HOURT.HTM [premier-ministre.gouv.fr] (in English). In January 1998, the Prime Minister announced a program ( http://www.internet. gouv.fr/english/textesref/dpresang.htm [internet.gouv.fr], in English) which main priorities are:

    1. new information and communications technology tools in the education sector
    2. an ambitious cultural policy for new networks,
    3. information technology as a tool for modernizing public services,
    4. information technology, an essential tool for companies,
    5. meeting the challenges of industrial and technological innovation,
    6. encouraging the emergence of effective regulation and a protective framework for new information networks.

    Now, most of the extensive government information and services that were already available on the Minitel, are accessible from the Internet. "The Internet must become a standard tool for the government."

    Points missing

    The bill discussed at the French Senate is missing a very important point: the necessity to have open document standards for all the information and documentation publish by the national and local administrations. Beside promoting open source software, it should also promote structured document standards such as SGML or XML.

    The second point which is missing is that the French government should not only promote the use of Open Software in the administration, but it should also promote the development of OSS. Development project should be funded by the government to develop software needed by the administration in an open source background.

    Alain Ducasse

  • First, in your later comments you confuse this use of "security" (as in "national security") with "security" as in how secure the code is.

    Well, this is at best a quibble. The security of a the code is a prerequisite for its suitability for national security; that is to say all software fit for national security is necessarily secure, wheras all secure software is not necessarily fit for national security (as you point out).

    It is not as clear to me as it apparently is to you that work for hire counts as distribution under GPL, although in most cases it would be in the spirit of GPL to give programmers unlimited rights to anything they create or modify.

    In any case, I don't think divulging source code is, in most cases, a security issue. If the CIA chooses to use KWords because they know it doesn't have any back doors in it, they don't have to leak their secret memos. Things like nuclear bomb simulation code are not things you pick up from walnut creek cd-rom, so since you have to develop them yourself you can use any license you want, so long as you don't redistribute any GPL'd libraries. However if you were using, say, glibc, you could distribute the source _without_ glibc, and require the vendors working on the software find their own copy.
  • I didn't look closely enough to realise you had made the orignal submission whan I made my posting. My mistake. I hope I have correctly translated your sentiments.

    I'll take a shot at translating the law (I used to get paid for this sort of work.)

    _______________________

    Article I

    Communications between national government offices and local governments will take place using electronic means. The conditions and requirements for the transitory period between current procedures (circulars, letters, physical meetings, etc.) and electronic messaging will be determined by future decrees on the subject.

    Article 2

    In order to insure transparency and rapid access to information by businesses, public offers for tender and their document annexes will be available by electronic means.

    Responses will also be accepted in electronic form.

    During the transition period, electronic communication will be accompanied by paper communication. A future decree will determine the length of the transitory period as well as any fees for paper communication when requested.

    Article 3

    State offices, local governments and administrative services, except for cases described in article 4, can use only software which is free of legal encumberment (libre de droit) and for which the source code is available.

    A future decree will determine the conditions under which the transition from the current situation will be made.

    Article 4

    Some software may be acquired and used by those offices and services described in article 3 with the authorisation of a service charged with this task. A future decree will determine the geographic repartition of such services as well as the conditions for obtaining such authorisations.

    Article 5

    In order to facilitate the implementation of this law, electronic information services will be instituted in each prefecture (local government centres) for the public and local governments, as well as consultaive services for businesses affected by this law.

    ____________________

    N.B. Feel free to use this translation. It does not however constitute a certified legal translation. I am not a certified translator in any jurisdiction at this time.
  • It seems to me that freedom would imply choices... "Requiring" something does not imply freedome.

    There is much wisdom in this, but a distinction has to be made between the public and private sectors.

    Requiring citizens to "choose" free software would, as you state, be an abhorrent abuse of power. However, requiring the government to use free software (or at least to give it proper consideration) is not the same thing.

    The government has -- and should have -- restrictions upon it which are greater than the restrictions on citizens and corporations. It is only lately (since World Wars I and II and the Great Depression) that the US Government has had so much power, and caused so much harm to its own people.

    It's time to reverse this trend.

  • NO !

    This is not why we want open source softwares in our administration. We want it for the same reasons you would. We don't want our government to pay commercial progs when they are not needed, when they don't do better then OS ones.

    We want gov to use standard formats to communicate, i don't want to use msword to read official documents.

    There is no difference between the way a gov use computers, and the way a big company use it. So no, it's not a nationalistic choice.
  • The first micro was French.

    Microprocessor, or computer built around a microprocessor? I seem to remember seeing something that indicated that the first commercial microprocessor-based computer was French; I also seem to remember the name "Philippe Kahn" (yes, that Philippe Kahn) associated with it.

  • I'm not surprised such a breakthrough event would happen in Europe. Although nothing is set in stone just yet, I think we can expect it to work out in one form or another.

    Why in Europe and not in the US? Because most of the large software companies (IBM and Microsoft, to name only two) are in America. The US, were it to suggest Open Source alternatives should be considered for Governmental use, would only be shooting down its own IT economy.

    The French, however, are slightly behind on IT and catching up at a frightening pace. You also have to understand that in a European eye, Open Source is something more European than American; remember how Linux is much more important in Europe than America.

    So, in Europe, I think Linux has stood the test. It's only natural that the payoffs we've been rambling about for so long are starting to come into the Government's eye. Yes, it's exactly right: Open Source initiatives will spare money for the Government, and everyone is a winner about that.

    I'm also tempted to say the French being such fervent believers in democracy (as opposed to capitalism), it's only natural they would jump the Open Source bandwagon first.

    Expect the rest of Europe to follow suit. And as European Governments pick up the OS trend, more developpers will get into it. And the products of the Open Source movement will just get better and better.

    Until... Until even the US have to recognise those loony Europeans are on to something.

    This is a major breakthrough, people, don't underestimate it. This may be the public breakthrough the Open Source movement has been waiting for. Vive la République! Vive la France!

    "Knowledge = Power = Energy = Mass"

  • I am finding the French immenently more sensable than Americans. Just the other day the American ambassador to France was on the Jim Lehrer News Hour and described how much of a foil France was to America. Where Americans mutinied over money, under a popular pretense of freedom, it was really the French that heeded the call of freedom and struck down their oppressors (albeit pretty bloodily). France, according to the ambassador, is much more concerned with freedoms, with personal rights, with the concept that a government exists not to enable people to become economically wealthy, but socially and culturally wealthy. The French see the gross gaps in income between classes in the US as unforgiveable, as they must have ages ago during the revolution.

    Man, if ever I could get my tongue around the French language, I might consider moving there.
  • It seems to me that freedom would imply choices... "Requiring" something does not imply freedome.
    Well, the government should be able to decide what kind of software it would use itself. It already does, by requiring it to conform to various standards. I hope you do not consider that anti-freedom.

    It should not, of course, demand that the public only use software that conform to specific standards, or are distributed under an open source license.

  • "France is one of the most fiercely nationalistic (mainly in a good way) countries in Europe"
    Yeah, explain that to the Algerian immigrants living in terror that the extreme right wing opposition party in France doesn't increase their second place in French Parliament next election.
    Bearing in mind their radio stations are forbidden by law to play more than about 10% total non-French music, how exactly do you see them adopting to Open Source? I mean, you download Le Widgette from some French government mirror. You have a problem. Would you rather see:
    void * ObtenezBudgetInternationalSeMonte (char * RetourValeur)
    {
    // Ce procédé recueille tous les budgets internationaux et se monte à eux par pays
    .
    .
    .
    }
    or
    void * GetInternationalBudgetTotals (char * ReturnValue)
    {
    //This procedure gathers all international budgets and totals them by country
    .
    .
    .
    }

    So now you'll be adding a trip to babelfish as part of your debugging. And even if there is a manual, good luck with babelfish. If you don't believe babelfish can make mistakes, type in "I love my growler", translate from English to French, copy the text & translate it back :).
    Now if the French government relaxes the language legislation for Open Source projects, then we're really onto a winner...

    frequently takes action against dilution of French culture by overseas influences...
    Yeah, by testing nukes in the Pacific...
  • Now only if the USA would live up to its "freedoms" and insist on freely available software and standards.
  • I was one of the multitude of people that submitted this, anyway, I think it's a good idea for here, too:
    • Governments are usually required to take from the least bidder - in this case, free and open source.
    • If a company that writes a proprietary product goes out of business, the government has to choose a new solution. With open source, they can continue to develop it themselves.
    • The government can choose and write the features they need instead of buying a more expensive package to get a few neccessary features in it.
    • The government can fix bugs themselves instead of waiting for a company to fix it (if it ever gets fixed).

    We already use a large amount of open-source here in the US for research, so why not require it? I think it would be benificial to all. The government has no reason to pay for what it can get for free.
    It's also a good way to encourage open-sourcing of products - "Look, even the government won't use proprietary software!". This is in the government (and the people)'s best interest. Good for the French. Now, let's start calling OUR senators...
  • I seem to remember seeing something that indicated that the first commercial microprocessor-based computer was French;

    Found it. This page from the Computer Museum Web site [tcm.org] says that "The Micral was the earliest commercial, non-kit personal computer based on a micro-processor, the Intel 8008."

    I also seem to remember the name "Philippe Kahn" (yes, that Philippe Kahn) associated with it.

    It also says "Thi Truong developed the computer and Philippe Kahn the software."

  • I was talking of the first microcomputer, but he wasn't producted "en masse", just done by a guy in his garage.

    Presumably that antedated the Micral, as the page I found on the Computer Museum site seems to imply that the Micral wasn't just a single machine made in a garage (although maybe the first Micral was built in said garage).

    (To bring in a reference to another Frenchman's work, was it an airtight garage? :-))

    For the first microprocessor i always thought this was Intel who did it. Is that right?

    I have the impression that the Intel 4004 was, in fact, the first single-chip microprocessor.

  • by alexhmit01 (104757) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @03:11AM (#1581871)
    It seems to me that freedom would imply choices... "Requiring" something does not imply freedome. You have a right to vote, but you don't have soldiers at your door rounding you up to the voting booths. In the free speach vain, you also have the right to shut up (something that I'm sure most /.ers don't know ).

    If free software is a better development model, than one would expect it to compete on its own merits, not expecting government requirements. We complain about Microsoft only providers (of which I am currently one of them, any talented Linux administrators in the Boston area looking for work? ), but this seems just as bad.

    On the otherhand, if the French government wants the ability to examine and repair code, then requiring vendors to supply it seems reasonable, and forces Microsoft and other proprietary vendors to yield their secrets or the market. Either way, this is an interesting position for a government official to take. What comes of it will be interesting to watch.

    Money these days comes from ad revenue and e-commerce (actually selling REAL stuff, Oh My God!), not proprietary software. With the exception of OSes, Databases, and Office Suites, there is no money anywhere, and it looks like Sun is making Office Suites a non-revenue application... we'll see how long before Linux brings OS prices down... Databases, I expect them to be the last to fall...

    Alex
  • Communism? No, its Democracy at its finest! Freely distributable software lets you make your own changes and make a difference if you wish. No central control of one Big Dinasour Company.

    I hear this communism thing as well as "security issues" from ignorant folks who just only know the Redmond Way. They are at work and at parties. Them and their warez. They only think they are free.
  • If he thinks Microsoft is going open source, maybe his definition of "open source" is different than ours.

    Microsoft have said that they are trying to move their business model towards 'software as a service', which is what ESR, Red Hat and others have been pushing for a while now. Of course, they will still try to retain the monopoly advantages of proprietary software, to stop others from eating their lunch.

  • The text of the bill itself is available here [senat.fr]. I will attempt to translate it, but my ignorance of legal jargon (English, and, to some extent, French also) will probably show: this is hardly better than Babelfish.

    Keep in mind that this is not really a bill. It is only a suggestion of a bill, made by a small parliamentary group (the RDSE group, which isn't even a political party as far as I know). Also note that the Senate [senat.fr] is the less powerful of the two house of parliament in France, and normally the more conservative one (curiously enough, the Senate's web site runs on Apache, whereas that of the other house of the French Parliament, the Assemblée Nationale [assemblee-nationale.fr], runs on Netscape Entreprise).

    As Senator Laffite points out, this draft is concomitant with another bill [senat.fr] proposed by French Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou which would make digital signatures legally binding, and both bills might be merged into one.

    Anyway, here's my translation:

    Article 1 Communication between state and local administrations, as well as between the local administrations shall be performed by electronic means. The conditions of the switch from the current means (circulars, letters, summons, etc.) and generalized electronic mail shall be specified by a decree.

    Article 2 So as to insure a good transparency and a more rapid access to information for business, public calls to bids and their ancillary documents will use electronic communication.

    Responses will likewise be sent by electronic means.

    During a transitional period, a paper communication may be added to the electronic communication. A decree shall specify the duration of this transitional period and the cost of the paper communication made on demand.

    Article 3 The state and local administration and the administrative services, except as stated under article 4, may only use software that is free of rights and whose source code is available.

    A decree shall specify the means of transition from the current situation.

    Article 4 Certain specific software programs may be used and obtained by administrations and services mentioned in article 3 after authorization by a competent service. A decree shall specify the geographical location of this service and the conditions for obtaining this authorization.

    Article 5 So as to hasten the application of this bill, a service of electronic information shall be created in each prefecture for public services and local administrations, and consular assemblies for the companies involved.

  • I think the first step a government should take is to require that government documents be saved and transmitted in a fully-documented data format. Open source the data formats before worrying about the code.

    Closed data formats put control over the government data in the hands of a private company, which is never a good thing.
  • I've been thinking about this topic for a while.

    Because there is a great deal of Free / free software in the world, every time a tax-funded agency / department / division / administration settles on a proprietary format or computer system, they are building in future costs as well as paying a premium for the software in the first place. And they use tax dollars to pay for both.

    Now don't get me wrong -- if they choose a free / Free software combination it doesn't remove the threat of future costs by any means. If an agency which has used MS Word and Outlook for 5 years switches to (say) Linux, AbiWord and open-source mail clients all of a sudden, there are training/re-training costs, there are incompletely amortized investments in current software, there are costs in wide-scale software upgrades, blah blah blah. If the closest Free / free stuff doesn't do *all* of the things it needs to independently, there may be additional proprietary software needed, even if it become a garnish instead of the main course.

    However, an honest cost analysis would show that with closed products those things have to happen every few years (at least) anyhow, as the Outside World moves to the next (slightly file-incompatitble) version of Word, or Outlook, or ...

    With free / Free software, generally built on low-level standards and thus inviting interoperability so long as the Outside World will exchangte documents that meet these low-level standards, the potential cost is much lower, particularly when it comes to applications which may have to mutate to best meet the needs of a given organization.

    (By "low-level standards" that I mean things like html and rtf ... not just ASCII text, but also not Word 2007. There's probably a better description than "low-level" ... )

    Another aspect of government stewardship of money when it comes to spending on any software is that the government, unlike a business, does not have a practical incentive (except in the case of National Security, natch) to keep the code it uses proprietary, and has every incentive morally to be able to upgrade it cheaply. Unfortunately, government bodies in general have little practical reason to spend their IT budget wisely; they're not in the business of competition except in a wildly indirect way.

    Finally (I know I keep saying it, but it's hard to avoid in this discussion!), since they're using tax dollars, they have an obligation to maximize the value of the money spent, because it belongs theoretically to the People it was taken from and is to be used for their benefit. When it comes to buying carpet for the government's buildings, that's hard to do one way or the other -- you benefit only if you walk on it. But with software, that's another matter. Anytime the government pays a million dollars to Microsoft for a turn-key solution instead of paying for an open-source project to do the same thing (Say, paying a team of programmers who write code, or combine existing and available source, to reach the same functionality), we all lose, except the favored company.

    Cheers,

    timothy


    p.s. Anyone who thinks government agencies buying MS (or any other vendor) exclusively is "captitalism" should look into the meaning of Mercantilism!)
  • Hi,

    I am a french speaking geek too (i'm french indeed, yep, the country of the minitel and the ones american average people do hate - kinda hype, i guess ...), so this translation might be useful to your understanding.

    Article 1er

    Les communications entre les services de l'État et les collectivités ainsi que les communications entre collectivités locales seront réalisées par voie électronique. Les conditions du passage entre les procédures actuelles (circulaires, lettres, convocations, etc.) et la messagerie électronique généralisée seront précisées par voie de décret.

    -- Translation :
    Communications between the State entities and the local representatives as well as between local representatives will be conducted through electronic media. Conditions of application 'esp. transition between the current state and the new state) of such a law will be discussed later, in a corresponding decree. [Note : this is typically french, indeed ;-)]

    Article 2

    Afin d'assurer une large transparence et un accès rapide à l'information par les entreprises, les appels d'offres publics ainsi que les documents annexes feront l'objet d'une communication électronique.

    Les réponses de même seront fournies par voie électronique.

    Pendant une période transitoire, la communication électronique pourra être doublée par une communication papier. Un décret précisera la durée de la période transitoire ainsi que les coûts de la communication papier réalisée sur demande.

    -----
    In order to assure transparence and quick access to information for the companies, the calls for public contracts and the surrounding documents will be held electronically.

    Answers will be as well.

    In a transisiton period, electronic communication and "paper-only" communication will be performed simultaneously. A decree will bring more light on the transition period duration and the costs of the paper communication, on demand.

    Article 3

    Les administrations de l'État, des collectivités locales et des services administratifs, sous réserve des dispositions de l'article 4 ne peuvent utiliser que des logiciels libres de droits et dont le code source est disponible.

    Un décret fixera les conditions de transition avec la situation actuelle.

    Local representatives and State services Administrations will have to use free licensed and Open source software, except in the cases described by Article 4.

    A decree will set the transition conditions blah blah blah [you might be upset with this :p]

    Article 4

    Certains logiciels spécifiques peuvent être utilisés et acquis par les administrations et services mentionnés à l'article 3 après autorisation délivrée par un service compétent. Un décret précisera la répartition géographique de ces services et les conditions d'obtention de cette autorisation.

    ------
    Some specific pieces of software can be used and acquired by the administrations and services cited in Article 3 after receiving an authorization from a competent department. A decree will set the geographical repartition of these departments and the conditions to fulfill in order to get the authorization.

    Article 5

    En vue de faciliter la mise en oeuvre rapide de la présente loi, il sera institué un service de renseignements électroniques auprès de chaque préfecture pour les services publics et les collectivités locales, et des assemblées consulaires pour les entreprises concernées.

    -----
    In order to ease ande accelerate the setting up of this law, an "electronic information helpdesk" will be available in each prefecture [France is divided into regions and departments, and the prefecture is the Department Hall] for the local representatives of the State, the State services, the consulate assemblies and the concerned corporations.

    -----

    That's all folks. Please excuse my poor english, i tried to give you the best i could. Some things are typically bound to our own democracy and administration system, which is in many ways quite different from the american one. I hope you could understand somthing, at least ...

    Cheers

    Michael


  • Recall, a few months back, that the French Government had a big hoopla about Linux in particular and Open Source in general; a lot of cash-strapped (but not smart-strapped) regional entities (local governments, universities, schools, gov. departments) have been putting-up internet presence, and it is natural that they'd do that with Linux. But that's not the point.

    Don't forget that, 20 years ago, the French spearheaded the personnal connectivity revolution with their Minitel terminals, which they supplied for free (as in beer). The ostensible reason was to substitute phone directories, but it sprouted-up a vast array of services, such as the famous "pink messaging", decades before raw.sex.com...

    In fact, the Minitel can be termed as the precursor of the widespread personnal "internet" that we are witnessing today, despite all it's flaws.

    But there is a deeper hidden reason, too. 30 years ago, France was one of the world leaders of software developpment (before it got eclipsed by the U.S.); perhaps they feel that Open Source, by spurring independent software developpment, will enable them to regain that status; let's not forget that the french culture puts an enormous emphasis on intellectual achievement, rather than accumulating wealth, like the anglo-saxons are so fond of (the movie "Ridicule" is a good example: one's standing in the king's court is dictated only by one's ability to generate witty answers on-the-fly. Even though the king has been dead for two centuries, the tradition endures). And computer programming is an extreme form of intellectual achievement, which (can) have practical applications as a side benefit...
    -- ----------------------------------------------
    Vive le logiciel... Libre!!!

  • by derk (56582) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @03:27AM (#1581906) Homepage

    "requiring open-source sounds like communism in disguise to me"



    That's the usual anti-Open Source nonsense again.
    Demanding Open Source is a consumer's right. This is not a demand to 'not make profit', it is a demand to open up the source. Folks can still make money on support, on bundled documentation, etc etc.
    Guess what? Governments pay far more for support contracts than they ever do for software pur sec, anyway!
    And if you don't want to sell under these conditions, well hey... There's other consumers around.

  • Hello moderators. I think it would be good to honor the fine work of Michael in the Comment that I'm responding to here by moderating it WAY UP as INFORMATIVE.

    After this is accomplished, feel free to moderate THIS Comment down as off-topic. Heh.

    Thank you for your time, moderators.

  • A general policy (executive order, sense of congress?) which states that the use of Open Source software is acceptable in any situation where the resulting software is not to be constrained by national security.

    It is hard to see how open source would be less acceptable in situations with security concerns. The GPL doesn't mandate releasing derived code to anyone unless you are distributing it outside your organization.

    Suppose that you have a program which controls targeting of nuclear weapons that is linked with a GPL'd library. The DOD could use it as secretively as they want, as long as they don't transfer it in binary form to a non-federal entity. I don't believe hiring contractors to work on it would really qualify as "publication" or "distribution" under GPL 2b (IANAL). If DOD decided to share the program with an ally, they would have to provide source code under section 3, but it's hard to imagine even an ally using software for this function w/o source code.

    However what isn't clear in this last scenario is whether this would cause everyone in the world to be automatically licensed to use the software under section 2. Nonetheless, section 3 does not mandate distributing source code to any party whom you have not distributed binaries.


    &lt understatement &gt I also think the track record shows that open software is no more prone to exploits than closed software &lt /understatement &gt, and solutions become available much faster and finer grained (a good thing if you want to avoid opening new holes as you close old ones). In cases of extreme importance, such as nuclear weapon targeting, the government could certainly throw a few hundred K$ and audit the source code very closely indeed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 28, 1999 @03:34AM (#1581932)
    Goverments (and large entities of any kind) have procurement guidelines. Obviously, if your product cannot meet the requirements you can't sell it to them. This is not a restriction of vendor freedom so long as the requirements are reasonable.

    So, the question seems to me to be whether Open Source is a reasonable procurement requirement. I think it makes a lot of sense for governments to use open source, especially if the vendors of the non-free software are in a foreign country that at some point may become hostile, or which may be engaged in industrial or political espionage.

    The flip side is whether specifying closed-source software is reasonable. It seems to me that you have three options with closed source. Either you grant one vendor an effective monopoly in certain areas of procurement, or you accept a potentially unmanageable mish-mash of software, or you insist that systems you acquire only use least common denominator protocols and interfaces (e.g. TCP/IP and Posix, but not DCOM or Win32). In the last case, it's hard to see why you would prefer a closed source solution.

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