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GNU is Not Unix

Free Software Law in Argentina 245

TrixX writes: "The following article is about a law that's being discussed at the Congress of Argentina." I've attached the summary of the law -- it'd essentially make it a law to migrate to free software. Pretty interesting proposal.

Free Software Law for Argentina

There's presently a law being discussed at the Congress in Argentina, that would make mandatory the use of and migration to Free Software when possible.

That law was originally proposed by a Congressmen, but he contacted people from the Free Software Community in Argentina (non-profit organizations, LUGs, etc.), and we have already suggested many changes that are making into the law. This has already a big push from a lot of people (including RMS), but we are interested about opinions and suggested changes for the law, coming from the Slashdot community

Sorry for not having an URL published, there's one but we have very little bandwidth

This is a translation of the law being discussed. It's already in discussion at the congress, and moving on

Note: all uses of the "free" word are for spanish "libre", i.e, free as in free speech, not free beer.

Policy for Free Software use for the Federal State

Article 1: The National Public Administration, Decentralized Organizations and corporations where the State is a majoritary shareholder will only use for their IT systems and equipments free programs (software).

Article 2: "free program (software)", will be understood as software with a license of use that guarantees the user, without an extra fee, the following rights:

  1. Non-restricted use of the program for any purpose
  2. Exhaustive inspection of the internal program operation.
  3. Use of the internal working, and of arbitrary segments of the program, to adaptate them to user needs
  4. Production and distribution of copies of the program
  5. Modification of the program, and free distribution of the modifications and the resulting new program, under these same conditions.

Article 3: The source program of any free program must be the primary resource used by the programmer for modifying and inspecting it. Therefore, no program categorized as free can contain any restriction difficulting its access, or intermediate stages as output from a non-free pre-processor or compiler.

Article 4: Licenses for free programs used by the National Public Administration, Decentralized Organizations, and corporations where the State is a majoritary shareholder, will have, in all cases, to allow explicitly modification and derived works, as well as non-restricted distribution of these works with the same license as the original program.

Article 5: The Executive Power will set in a term of 180 days, the conditions, timelines, and ways to implement the transition from present systems to free programs as defined in Articles 1 to 4; and will move future licitations and contracting of computer programs (software) in that direction.

Artice 6: From the date established by the Executive Power on, Public National Organizations mentioned in article 1 of this law, will not be allowed to use programs that store data in non-public format, or with licenses which:

  1. Imply any form of discrimination to people or groups.
  2. Don't fulfill of the preceding Article 2.
  3. Are specific or exclusive for only one product.

Article 7: Once finished the transition term, with a duration regulated by the National Executive Power as expressed in Article 5, there will be exclusively contracting and use of free computer programs.

Article 8: The Public State Universities, the Provincial and the City Governments, and the Autonomous Government of the city of Buenos Aires are invited to adhere this initiative

Article 9: Communicate this to the National Executive Power"

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Free Software Law in Argentina

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Please try to think before you post. Can you imagine the damage that would cause to the software industry?

    The money "saved" by going open source would be lost in the subsequent economic slump.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Dear TrixX: being a Linux user for several years now, your posting in slashdot really got my attention, from the perspective that our government won't have to depend on monopolies such as Microsoft, and from the fact that many persons with experience will have the opportunity to get a job in this area if this law is approved. One of these persons is me. I already have a job, but I couldn't find a job in network administration or programming in Linux yet, and that is always my desire.

    Now, I have one question. Is there a study in which open/free licenses are correct for the definition of 'free software' that the law mentions?

    Regards,

    Pablo Baena

    pbaena@uol(punto)com.ar

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:36AM (#259143)
    Have you reviewed some of the outlandish laws still on the books in the USA? We're not better than them on that regard, unless having more bogus laws makes us better...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 28, 2001 @11:55AM (#259144)
    This law project was mentioned already in Barrapunto [barrapunto.com], the spanish Slashdot. The comments was interesting (however, they are all in Spanish).
  • Perhaps if the government didn't have to pay so much in software licensing fees they could afford to pay their employees more.

    The fact of the matter is that it takes equivalent effort to secure both Linux and Windows (actually, that isn't quite true Linux is easier to secure...). The same government employees that are currently setting up insecure Windows boxes would almost certainly set up Linux so that it was insecure as well.

    Linux would at least be less expensive.

  • By tradition this is a pro-M$ and anti-Un*x country, mostly because in the 80's we had a prohibition to import anything

    I wasn't aware that Microsoft was headquartered in Argentina (I've always heard of them as being ``in Redmond, Washington''), so I'm a bit confused about the mechanism by which Windows is deemed native and Unix is deemed foreign.

    Linux, in particular, has Argentinian contributors (Quiz question: is there a country from which nobody has contributed to the Linux kernel?) so would by any normal classification system be regarded as less importado than Windows.

    Microsoft must have slipped one past the Argentine populace ``tal como mantequilla en un chango pelon [ultimateveggie.com]'' (-: BTW, since I guess you speak fluent Argentine, commentary on the language abuse in the above link would be welcome :-)

  • ...but I guess they'll try to fix it. (-:

    Seriously, this is not a law, it is an internal gummint regulation. The Argentinian gummint departments simply abide by it. If the director of a department refuses to comply, he promptly stops being the director, and the next director complies.

  • There's nothing preventing Microsoft from opening their software and continuing to not be paid for it by Argentinians. (-:

    While this government regulation is selling some freedom (per se) it is maintaining at least a broad range of choices as a consequence. And in this case the tradeoff seems to be a good one. The best program for the job should win out, but that presumes the absence of salesmen and back-room deals (leaving aside proprietary lock-in effects), which in the case of a normal South American country would be an extremely stupid presumption to make.
  • the CIA [...] won't even _touch_ GPL'd software, because they have to modify everything

    I hate to come across all Jesuit about this, but it seems from your statements that the CIA don't understand the GPL: the modified source only has to be distributed as much as the modified binary. You could comply by shipping your GPL-software-containg grey box with a source CD inside it (taped/clamped inside the cover).
    can't make anything known publicly about what exact modifications they have made

    This is either perfectly normal paranoia (``every being in the universe has that'') or very bad software design. If your software becomes insecure when the source for it becomes available, you have no business doing security in the first place.

    If the device the CIA are working with shouldn't exist, or if they're exceeding their mandate in dealing with something, then what they are already involved in is far more problematic to them than a mere software licence. To put this into perspective: if you are ignoring laws about dealing with drugs, murdering people, prohibited weapons etc then you're not going to give two pinches of gecko poo about a mere software licence, are you?

    And I might suggest to any enemies of the CIA that it may be safer to rely on a black-box analysis of a dodgy CIA program than on the source.
  • Open-sourced and free software follow the process of evolution

    I very much agree. Unlike biological evolution, Open Source clearly admits an intelligent design mechanism and directed feedback.

    Biological evolution postulates mutation as an information-generating mechanism, against all common sense, mathematical principles and every shard of experimental evidence. This is so absurd a practice that bizarre ideas like entelechy [xrefer.com] are offered as alternatives.

    Mutation is about as useful for providing or improving biological design as a high-powered rifle is for providing or improving Lego layouts.

    To make the US gummint purchasing system work for software, all you need add is Free (libre) Software. They may get shafted once, but only once, in each segment of the market.

  • One of the biggest ideals of free software is CHOICE.

    Boy, would Richard Stallman bounce you hard for that one! Choice is the poor, crippled cousin of freedom. What the Argentinian gummint is doing is curtailing the freedom of suppliers a little (not completely: nothing stoppping them from Opening their products and soldiering on) in order to protect their own freedom. Which is a very good idea.

    If they mandated this for their citizens as well, that would not be so crash hot. It would be better to mandate open interfaces (file formats, APIs etc) and penalise corporations who fail to comply with their own APIs.
  • "Teachers, especially those with large bustlines, face a serious peoblem in Cordoba, Argentina. A woman simply cannot be hired to teach if her chest is big. Why? Because lawmakers in Cordoba finally came to realize that a large, shapely chest is just "too much of a distraction for teenage boys in a classroom."

    Anyone who had Ms. Skruukrud for Biology class in my high school would realize immediately the validty of this statement. :)
    ---
  • And the use of RedHat on a large scale is clearly not an option [internetweek.com]

    No comment [internetweek.com]...


    --

  • Because the only persons affected by this law are employees of the state.

    While i for one would be irritated were my employer to demand i use a certain operating system or set of software to do my job, i do believe an employer has the right to dictate what equipment the employees use at work.

    The law probably ought to contain some kind of back door-- like, something where a person at a state university can appeal this law and be given an exception based on usage of free software being unreasonable given a lack of free software alternatives to a closed source program they need to use-- but still there are all kinds of reasons why this is a good idea. I for one would be alarmed by the idea of the government gaining a dependence on a private software company; if you can't get out your welfare checks without this tracking software created by a company in another country, and that other country suddenly becomes diplomatically hostile to you, and you suddenly discover a horrible bug that absolutely has to be fixed that instant for the system to continue functioning, and you can't get the source.. well, that's bad. But if you have the source you (the government) can fix and continue to maintain things yourself.


    I wish english had a pronoun for the abstract third person. Yes, i know i could use "one". That doesn't count.

  • There's a matter of scale here, though. If a government thinks that some particular software should be written, should be available, it can afford to subsidize a project to create it. If the previously best product were sold at $x, then if the government buys y copies per year, a projection says that all cost of the project will be recovered in z years. Say it spends the same amount it would have spent on the software, instead on development. If it spends the cost of a Server with a T1 connection to the internet and a good administrator then the rest of the yearly expense can be used to support the project. If it takes 3 years to complete the project, the project will pay for itself in three years more. And three years is probably excessive. Most software is much simpler than that, and isn't starting from scratch.

    For that matter, they could break it into small pieces, and subsidize university advanced degree programs to build the pieces (well, you would need a good project leader team). Just consider how fast Linux started moving in the last couple of years, largely because of a lot of prior work, but also because people were paid to work on it.

    OTOH, a sharp cut-off may be unrealistic. But it may not! This would hardly be implemented before next year, and by then Linux systems should be useable for nearly any purpose. It's already pretty good. The main hang-up seems to be word processing, though I suppose if I used the fancier features of a spreadsheet I might notice some problems there...but it might just be difference. Guile and Python as scripting languages are DIFFERENT from basic, but I would hardly say they were inferior.


    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • How many copies of Microsoft Word are now circulating in Argentine government offices? How many of those copies were made with Microsoft's permission? If Microsoft found out these numbers and then demanded that the Argentine government pay for all its copies, how much would the government be forced to pay? (Remember that the standard Microsoft license says that all disputes must be resolved in a US court -- specifically, a Washington State court -- and if the Argentine government has any assets -- e.g., bank accounts -- in the US, then it is vulnerable to a US court judgement.)

    And most importantly: How can you convince some mid-level bureaucrat to pay for every copy of Microsoft Word that his or her department uses, when it's so much easier to run off another copy (or share the CD, or find some way to defeat Microsoft's copy protection) than to pay for the extra copy?
    --

  • The money would just be re-directed into a slush fund for the cia or to the DEA to fight the war.
  • I would argue that in order to have a free government, then one must be able to examine everything the government does. This includes software. Note that the law does not state the programs must be free beer, but only free speech.

    Examining everything that the government does doesn't mean that you need the source code to all of the software that they use.

    For example, examining all of the documents that the government produces, including internal ones, doesn't require that you also be able to examine the word processor that they used to produce it. Examining all of the audio that is produced by the government doesn't mean that you have to be able to take apart the microphone used to record it. The important part is the ability to examine all of the content.

    Therefore, the desire for a free government does not lead to the conclusion that all software used by the government be free (speech).

    -Sean

  • But when the state uses propietary software, it cannot guarantee that the aplication "leaks" the data somewhere else. So, it's a matter of National Security also, not only of publicly available data.

    Interesting. I can buy that argument. In fact, my employer uses what it calls Stand-Alone, Single-User machines for times when it wants to make sure information doesn't get anwhere it's not supposed to. These machines are not hooked up to any network, do not have multiple users enabled, and can only be operated from console inside a locked vault-type room. The only way you can get data to it is to bring it in on things like CDROM. Yes, it's as extreme as it sounds.

    nobody in aRgentina can prove there is not...an NSA backdoor

    True. That goes back to my argument that everything that the government produces should be released in some kind of "open" fashion. If it's software, then it should be released as open source. However, I don't think that would stop the government from asking (or paying, or threatening, or whatever) Microsoft to put in this kind of back door. That's specifically going outside of what the government produces and pulling strings to get something put into a piece of commercial software.

    Of course the government should be prevented from doing this sort of thing. I'm not sure it has anything to do with the governmental production of software, though.

    -Sean

  • What about issues of national security? Do you really want NSA cryptographic published? What about military software for radar imaging? Isn't there some areas where you expect a government has the responsibility as well as a right to develop without publishing?

    That's Security through Obscurity [securityfocus.com]. However, the prevailing thought is that any system which depends on its workings being hidden is not necessarily a truly secure one, while a truly secure system can stand up to having its internals shown. (Note that I said its internals, obviously not the data it actually operates on.)
    --

  • Read the article. This covers govermental use only.
  • All documents distributet from or to other government agencies should be in open formats. That will leave ASCII, HTML and PDF formats as the only viable options. As you know, making PDF from postscript is extremly simple.

    Okay... now what if you want to be able to cut & paste that document, edit it, or something else?

    Well, that means PDF/PostScript are out of the running.

    So we're left with ASCII and HTML. Cool. Why don't you throw LaTex in there while you're at it, or SGML?

    Simon
  • Total freedom means you don't _have to_ do anything, however the GPL inhibits freedom and unrestricted use by saying that users of the software _must_ make modifications they make available back to the "community".

    This is, of course, untrue. The only requirement is that if you do decide to give your modified binaries to anyone then you must also provide them with a copy of the source code if they request it. You are not required to make your modifications available to others, just that if you do then source must be available as well as binaries.
  • What if some country passed a law that all government institutions must migrate to NON-FREE software?? You slashdot drones would be bitching for a week. But requiring a switch to free software is a good thing??

    And if they pass a law saying that spam is illegal people will cheer whereas if they pass a law saying that spam is compulsory people will complain. It's terrible, people will change their response for no other reason than that you changed the stimulus. No consistency at all.

  • And nothing in this proposed legislation restricts trade. It sets a minimum standard, that software should be open sourced, but there is no reason to suppose that companies inside Argentina have a competitive advantage over companies outside Argentina in providing open sourced sofwtare. At present I would think the USA leads the field in this area.
  • by rking ( 32070 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @11:10AM (#259189)
    The way I see it, there is nothing wrong with a company choosing to charge money for the software that they spend huge amounts of time and money creating.

    Which is in no way inconsistent with the proposed legislation. If the government is arranging for software to be supplied to them then under this law they would have to require that the software be provided to them open source. That doesn't mean that the company providing it couldn't charge them.

    In at least some cases I imagine suppliers would charge more to provide software on these terms. I'm not sure why you'd think otherwise, imagine what you'd do if you were being asked to provide software to the Argentinian government in this situation; presumably you'd either charge the same as usual or else charge more than you otherwise would if you felt that by opening the source you were compromising potential sales to other customers.

    People talk a lot about freedom on Slashdot. I'm surprised how positive a reaction this is getting on Slashdot, as something that takes freedom away from people and forces them to agree with the Open Source advocating majority on Slashdot.

    This is one branch of government telling another branch of government what the policy should be on software purchases. Whether it's appropriate for them to do so is a matter for constitutional lawyers in Argentina, it's got nothing to do with limiting freedom.
  • by rking ( 32070 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @02:16PM (#259190)
    There is no provision of what would happen if the law was broken

    There must be a standard approach in Argentina to enforcing regulations on government officials. I would imagine that an interested party would obtain a court order requiring the government to comply in whatever area they were challenging. If the respponsible minister didn't then comply presumably they'd be held in contempt of court. It really depends on what your normal local practice is though. I imagine that political embarrassement at being caught breaking the law would discourage violation, plus pressure from the legislature. Both of those depend on the local political climate though.

    There is no provision for exceptions, and that would be necessary (some things can't be done with propietary software)

    It's probably easier to begin with to require that free software alternatives are included in the options being considered whenever a choice os software is being made. It weakens the provisions an awful lot and allows for departments to continue as they are if they really want to though. Maybe in addition it could be required that reasons have to be given for any decisions to use proprietary software rather than free software. It is weaker that way, and easier to subvert, but probably more practical.
  • This isn't forcing private citizens or corporations to use open-source software - just the government.

    Read the law. It applies to the government only, and why shouldn't a free society be allowed to monitor each and everything that their government does? That's what this law is stating. The citizens have a right to see what their government is doing with software.

    This is a *good* thing.
  • by miracle69 ( 34841 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:13AM (#259192)
    This law is very well written - with good intent behind it.

    This law basically states that if the government or government owned institutions are to use software, it must be examinable by the people of that country. What a wonderful idea - one that most Americans are familiar with.

    We are allowed to observe almost all areas of government, comment upon it, and change it as needed. I'm glad that at least some governments realize that this should apply to software as well.

    I wonder if there is a similar push here in the U.S., or should we start a grass roots campaign?
  • by miracle69 ( 34841 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:16AM (#259193)
    I would argue that in order to have a free government, then one must be able to examine everything the government does. This includes software. Note that the law does not state the programs must be free beer, but only free speech.

  • by miracle69 ( 34841 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @12:32PM (#259194)
    What an extremely naive view of things. The handling of data by the government is much much more complex than how a microphone works, and besides, if you purchase a microphone, it is legal to take the damn thing apart and figure out how it works. You analogy, though horrid, actually works against your case.

    If a corporation/company/spy agency places a "bug"[1] in a microphone, the microphone is working beyond its described task - it's duplicating the information presented to the device in a subtle manner and transmitting it elsewhere. However, the owner of the microphone has the right to examine his microphone and remove any "bugs", if found. The same goes for software.

    Making matters worse, the government's primary job is to manage information about identity and ownership. The government knows that you and you alone have claim to item X because it knows that you exist, you are whom you claim you are, and that you've legally obtained item X. This information exists to protect your rights when someone else lays a fraudulent claim on either your identity or your property.

    Now, realizing that this is perhaps the ultimate function of government, do you want your identity and property information being sent to any corporation whose software is used to manage this data?

    The only sensible answer is "No"

    [1] Used here as an electronic transmission device
  • Expect a US-backed coup any day now.
  • I agree, that this will be the consequence eventually.

    The very important selling point in my opinion is document safety. If everything is in open formats you will be able to read and edit these documents in 20-40 years.

    I think that long term document safety could be a very convincing argument for Open Source solutions. That will easily be accepted by most people and a good price makes it even better.

    //Pingo

  • by Pingo ( 41908 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:49AM (#259197)
    This is a great step but I believe that it's even more important to 'outlaw' proprietary document formats.

    All documents distributet from or to other government agencies should be in open formats. That will leave ASCII, HTML and PDF formats as the only viable options. As you know, making PDF from postscript is extremly simple.

    No more distribution of Microsoft doc/ppt/xls/.. files will do the trick.

    //Pingo

  • Point taken, but there are still good reasons for governments not to take on proprietary software - in particular, issues of national security. It is in the interest of everyone that the government's systems be entirely secure. While open-source software is certainly not bulletproof, its operations are observable. It may seem paranoid to say so, but there's no reason Microsoft couldn't rig Windows NT to send information back to Redmond. Would it? Probably not, but the possibility exists. (Argentina may be more concerned about this than us, as Microsoft is a foreign company; thus being dependent on foreign software could be construed as a security risk.) I would thus argue that it is not necessarily in the best interests of the public for the "best" product, meaning the one of highest observable quality, to be used by the government, if it may compromise security. One might argue otherwise, but it seems like a solid rationale for this sort of legislation.
  • As states/governments/congresses around the world realize that they can do all their computing without paying Microsoft tax - money that flow out of the country.

    Think about it: most of the countries in the world produce their own weapons: they don't want to depend on others. The same starts to come true about software, as it's importance in running the government/military is understood.

    See previous /. articles about similar initiatives in France and Germany.
  • This is perfect! If the government of Argentina finds it needs a piece of free software that doesn't exist yet, it will have to hire a few programmers to work on it full-time. Once that's done, it will not only benefit them (others will now add new features and other benefits that cost the government nothing) but the rest of the free software community as well (getting more software).

    I think the fewer exceptions, the better, in the long run.
    ------

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @12:16PM (#259207) Journal
    Now we have the force of the state we no longer have to make strong opinions for Free Software! Yah! Now we can all just answer the question "Why should I use Free Software?" with "Because it's the law!" (well those of us in Argentina, anyway)

    You either didn't read the law or you misunderstood it.

    The law doesn't say ANYTHING about whether the citizens and/or non-government-owned corporations of Argentina will use closed or "free" software.

    This is just how the government of Argentina decides that the government of Argentina will use free software.

    The government and the corporations it controls WILL use free software, with details, timetables, and exceptions fleshed out by the exectutive branch.

    The government RECOMMENDS to its semi-autonomous units (such as universities) that they use free software.

    The government places no requirements on the rest of the country at all.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @11:04AM (#259208) Journal
    When I first saw the title I thought that the law may have covered all software used in a country, not just for the government. Luckily, it was just the government changing, leaving the consumer the right to choose.

    I totally agree. Run the government's IT operations on open and free software, recommend it to the autonomous government-related functions, and let the private sector - individual and corporate - make its own choices (and continue to abide by existing contracts).

    Although I fully support Linux and the free software movement, I disagree with this law for one major reason: the best product cannot always be used. If a commercial product does the job better, it will end up costing more to use the "free" software.

    But here I disagree strongly.

    You're measuring only the immediate cost. There are additional long-term costs. Costs like:

    lack of support,

    future higher costs ("the first rev is free"),

    lack of interoperability with other departments' or citizens' applicaions,

    secondary monopolies (i.e. the citizens have to buy the expensive product or agree to a company's license to perform interactions, some mandatory, with their government's databases and functions),

    use of such secondary monopolies to create further monopolies, expanding the lockin
    I could go on.

    The point is it might be a cheaper and more efficient solution to one immediate problem. But closing in the data with a proprietary application costs much more than any immediate monitary savings.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @12:43PM (#259209) Journal
    We ... are interested in interesting opinions about how the law might be improved, so [a local geek who will be testifying] can propose them.

    This law as written is beautiful. It's a simple, to the point, expression of the will of the legislature that the government convert to open software wherever possible, as rapidly as is convenient.

    In my opinion, any changes are more likely to break it than improve it. I'd be inclined to leave it just as it is for now.

    ================

    A rule of thumb for any system design - government law or software - is to see what would happen if a deliberate attempt to misconstrue or circumvent its intent were made by the operator or outside parties. (The only operational difference between malice and mistake is that malice usually exercises the bugs and crashes the system a little sooner - so you look for system flaws as if you were looking for a way someone could deliberately break things, without implying that malice is actually present even if the system does crash later.)

    The only potential hole I see is that the timetable is left open. So if both a division head and the chief executive were opposed, or if the chief executive didn't push subordinates who dragged their feet, the timetable could slip out indefinitely.

    But it's appropriate to leave the timetable to the executive, rather than to try to micro-manage from the legislature. Execution is the executive's job. And I'd bet the chief executive is also in favor of this, or at least willing to go along with the will of the legislature. So I'd leave it as it is for now and revisit it in a few years to see how the conversion is coming.

    If you're really concerned that something might fall through the cracks you might have the executive branch report every few years on the progress of the conversion, including a list of what hasn't been converted and why. After five or ten years if there's anything unconverted that the legislature hasn't been convinced SHOULDN'T be converted, then it might want to make changes to the law to give them a push.

    (And I'd leave military systems up to the executive branch. Which I expect will insist on having source code for everything they commission, and on reverse-engineering any turnkey weapons systems they got from their allies. B-) )
  • by orco ( 62816 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @12:07PM (#259210)

    (hope my english won't give this a 0 score ;)
    This is true. Since a couple of years Argentina and other latam countries (ie Bolivia) are being pressured to legalize all their software.

    But I'm really confused:
    1. 1st of all, as an argentinian, ex .gov IT and linux user (LRU #120947) I'm gladly impressed and, of course, I dream some day I'd be able to call my country GNUar :)
    2. But,
    3. By tradition this is a pro-M$ and anti-Un*x country, mostly because in the 80's we had a prohibition to import anything
    4. IT/IS level of knowledge at the universities is (IMHO) bad. Most students only master Winblows and VB.
    5. IT/IS salaries are too low to get people interested in studying how to run Linux properly ($700 a month for a linux admin with a year of experience - at least at Mendoza). Most of them have 2 jobs

    In the meantime, I can see 3 advantages: huge gov. savings and legalization, GNU everywhere and a lot of people will have to study GNU tools...

    and 2 big troubles: this kind of imposition can generate huge resistances on people used to M$ tools and also big pressures from monopol... tut-tut-tut

  • The FTAA and NAFTA do not make it illegal to make laws that interfere with with the profits of corporations illegal.
    The Free Trade agreements are just aimed at allowing trade, with fair government interference. Accounting for taxes, subsidies, loans, regulations in a fair and consistent way.

    Specifically the UPS/Canada Post- Puralator is an arguement of illegal subsidies (from Canada Post to Puralator) not that UPS wants more money.
  • Ignoring the relative merits and demerits of this law...

    180 days to completely switch systems?! Are they crazy? Large companies often have roll-out periods that long just moving to a different version of the same software! But for a national government to completely change the majority of software they use (unless the Argentine government is already very free software based, which I doubt - but someone correct me if I'm wrong!), including the OS, and all of the interoperations between all this software, and train all of the civil servants on the new systems in that length of time is wishful thinking.

    [TMB]
  • Does this law require government agencies to release all software they use as free software to the general public, or does it only require that the government has the ability to distribute software it uses? Does it require the government to release all changes they make to existing free software programs?
  • Folks, I am posting on behalf of the ISTF [istf.org] Public Software Workgroup. Our project aims in part in a modest way to provide a space for access and free software activists from around the world to network so that knowledge and experience in influencing government policies are leveraged. Our site (under construction) is at:

    http://www.gnacademy.org/psip/ [gnacademy.org]

    We are looking to network with people from around the world who would provide us with information on free software adoption strategies. We are particularly interested in reports, paper and case studies documenting such efforts.

    Your help will be appreciated

    Regards
    S. (Sam) Kritikos

  • Oops that last line should have read "which is as it should be". Sorry!
  • by adubey ( 82183 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @12:28PM (#259221)
    IamLarryboy,

    Your post "Good Law But illegal under FTAA" is probably referring to Chapter 11 of the FTAA. I suggest you reread Chapter 11 and the details of the case you mention.

    Chapter 11 allows companies to sue governments if governments enacts legislation that decrease corporate profits DUE TO TRADE BARRIERS. The last part is capitalized because I think that's the key point you're missing.

    You can restrict commerce to all hell, but as long as foreign goods or services are restricted as much as local ones, Chapter 11 is useless.

    I'm not as familiar with the Canada Post case as with another common complaint (the Ethyl Corp one - which most anti-free traders get wrong as well), but my understanding is that it didn't have as much to do with Canada Post being a Crown (ie, government owned) company as much as Canada Post owning and subsidizing Purilator Courrier, a large Fed-Ex-like company.

    If the proposed legislation had a statue where an Argentine company could sell non-free software, but Microsoft couldn't, then FTAA would have something to say about it. As it is, Argentine companies are treated on the same grounds as foreign companies, so a company like Microsoft (or Corel in Canada or Connectiva in Brazil) have no recourse through FTAA (as they should).

  • by fanatic ( 86657 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @01:59PM (#259223)
    The money "saved" by going open source would be lost in the subsequent economic slump.

    Please try to think before you post. Even if the slump you posit happened, it would be temporary. The savings from license fees would continue every year forever.

    And there is no reason why a slump has to occur. Just because the software is libre doesn't mean it must be gratis. Someone could still get paid to write the specialized stuff that isn't already out there.

    --
  • It'd make a lot of sense. It'd be an ideal venue to address the areas where the movement is weak, too -- you could require a department to prove that it would cost less over some number of years to license a commercial application rather than hire a developer to implement the same functionality in free code, which could then be released back to the community, accelerating the process.

    Imagine the horror with which Microsoft would react to something like this...

  • by donutello ( 88309 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @11:30AM (#259227) Homepage
    Very insightful. Congratulations on discovering what socialist countries suffered through for the last 50 years.

    In India, for example, the government decided that in order to encourage local industry, etc. they would ban or at least make it very expensive by imposing duties, the importing of foreign goods. Great idea, in principle - except if you lived there during the time. Indian cars sucked. There was no incentive to improve, of course, because there was no competition. Until the early 90s, most cars sold in India were essentially the same as a 1950's Fiat. Small, boxy, made-of-cast-iron tank-like pieces of crap that had no air-conditioning or even fans in them! This is just an example - it was common to expect to wait in line for more than an hour to deposit a check - there were no ATMs etc. Banks were nationalized and had no reason to improve.

    There's a lesson there that the wise will learn. Others are condemned to have it happen to them.
  • Isn't this just forcing people to use a particular kind of software? Like Microsoft did (only with "free software" replacing the word "Windows")?

    They're not saying they don't want Windows. If MS opens the source to windows, there's no problem anymore...
  • by Zaphod B ( 94313 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:32AM (#259229) Journal
    They are not legislating that software must not cost money. The actual law (as was stated in the summary) uses the Spanish word libre, which refers to free in the sense of unfettered, not free in the sense of without cost (that would be the word gratis or sin cargo).

    What the summary of the law does say is that there should be no restrictions on the use of the software, and no cost should be borne by the user for uses of the software for which normally a software company would charge money.

    As for the respondents who say the law is legislating a specific software, since when is all Open Source software the same? The beauty of Open Source is the ability to change it to meet your needs.

    That said, I have to say that I don't agree with a law legislating Open Source software. We should not be forcing people to disclose their sources, they should willingly give it up. Whether that will ever happen, I don't know.

    Zaphod B


    Zaphod B
  • Open-sourced and free software follow the process of evolution (whether you like it or not, Jesse Jackson!). One person gets it, changes it to be more useful to them, and instantly its more useful to 10's, 100's, or 1000's more. The US government, on the other hand, is so damned systematic, they will follow these rules in obtaining software:

    Software that functions to their needs

    The lowest bidder
    ... and, from experience, if you create software that the government needs and no one else has, you charge any price you want, and they will pay it- no questions asked, thanks to the "system". So, to make a long story short, what logic is there in NOT charging the government for software?


    ========== .sig
    Intelligence should not be rewarded; ignorance should be punished

  • a local geek was invited to give advice.

    who?

    Please, comments wanted.

    What will happend when there is no free solution, and there is no budget to develope one; on a small agency with low budget for ex. (of course there is also the problem with the big companyes paying money to the politicians to say 'there is no free solution')

    What about the BSD and LGPL-like licences? They can be free and non-free at the same time. Will *BSD be discarded? Mozilla?

    --

  • by BradleyUffner ( 103496 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @01:55PM (#259237) Homepage
    I'm not. The goverment should be using the software that is best for the job that needs to be done. If that happens to be free software then so be it, if it's windows then that's fine too. If they require a piece of software that has no free alternative then they wil have to have that software designed, which will cost money. In short what I'm saying is, "Use the best tool for the job".
    =\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\= \=\=\=\
  • by imr ( 106517 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:38AM (#259238)
    The country was so broke the fmi had to give it billions of $ in order to stay afloat.
    At the same moment m$ asked the government to pay for all its licenses and proposed a "deal".
    perfect timing.
    But this law may be a consequence of this m$ strategic move. People over there are very sensitive about freedom.
    They know its value.
  • by marx ( 113442 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:58AM (#259243)

    They are not forcing a specific product, but some specific rules in the marketplace. The US (or US companies) did this with processors a few years ago, i.e. they forced their suppliers to license the technology to competitors, to prevent having a single source (that's why AMD had access to Intel technology). This is a similar action, only they take it a bit further.

    I don't see the problem some people are having with regulations in the marketplace. If a market economy can be compared with evolution, then regulation is just adding some conditions which prevents locally optimal, but globally catastrophic species from taking over. You have to remember that the marketplace selects for companies which are short-term beneficial to the investors, and this is rarely the long-term optimum for consumers or society.

  • So under the GPL I'd be able to hide my changes only if I never distributed the software. Doesn't sound very "free" to me.

  • by x-empt ( 127761 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:07AM (#259252) Homepage
    if the United States government were to switch totally to open source software under the GPL. How many billions of dollars would be saved annually?

    I wish the US Govt would jump on board and create a law like this. Just imagine, they would actually give tax cuts ... instead of asking to increase taxes!
  • by x-empt ( 127761 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:23AM (#259253) Homepage
    In order to maintain an open and free government, the people must be able to understand all governmental processes (including limitations with their computers). It is not safe for any government to run software which it does not know how it operates... being able to review the source code and compile it yourself ensures security.

    Also, since the government pays for all software with tax money, why shouldn't the people have access to that software? If I pay for the government to use software on its computers... I want access to that software I paid for.

    Society has it embedded into its mind that "Corporations are always good, they always have the best interests of the market in mind" when that is not true. They instead have the best interests of their wallet in mind. Software companies do take bribes to modify software to suit certain people's needs... I would not doubt that the NSA has never paid MS for certain code changes to Windows that make spying easier.

  • Laws that require the use of Free Software are about as inspiring as laws that require the use of Windows 2000. IMHO, this doesn't seem to be an appropriate use of government.

    Choose the best software for the task, and may the best software win in the marketplace.

  • This covers govermental use only.

    So? It doesn't matter whether the law applies to the public or private sector. If Free Software is better than the alternatives, then the government of Argentina should acquire it whether or not a law exists telling it to do so.

  • To my mind the critical thing is to make a link between these policies and the Computer Science Departments so that:

    • The schools that are doing theoretical work are encouraged to apply their work to open source software (sort of how Berkley created so much software for Unix which then became BSD).
    • Schools that are focused on teaching system administrators - turn out open source administrators etc.
    • Local companies could be contracted to do localization for software that needed it.
    In this way the local computer infrastructure would be developed/supported. I see the reference to France and Germany but I have the impression that the Linux/Schools connection is occuring more strongly in China although it is not so clear in this 1999 /. story [slashdot.org]about Linux possibly becoming the official OS in China and this /. story [slashdot.org] about Linux in the University is not official.

    I would be interested in a follow up on the China situation (or Africa for that matter).

  • Note though that in theory Microsoft (for example) could well charge for their Free software. The law doesn't say it should be monetarily free, just that there has to be full (and free) access to its source code (I assume everyone and their dog should know the difference between free and Free by now)

    This may be a moot point in practice, but if software companies were pushed like this, it might once again become normal practice (like it was, to some extent, before late 70s?)

  • by Bad_CRC ( 137146 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @11:01AM (#259258)
    It's good that it's only a government policy, and I'd agree everybody wins with free software in general, but shouldn't the best program for the job always win out? Shouldn't matter if it's free or not.

    Seems the reverse would be obviously bad, requiring microsoft software... I'd be scared of hypocracy if I thought laws like this were good, even if they seem in favor of something I support.

    I've always thought free software would win in the end because it was superior, not because people were forced to use it... the other guy is the one who needs that tactic.

    ________

  • by jcapell ( 144056 ) <john@capell.net> on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:16AM (#259259)
    Executives of Microsoft, IBM and Unisys are protesting a recent Argentine Supreme Court decision ruling that antiquated copyright laws don't cover computer software. Software makers point out that royalties aren't paid on about 70% of the software sold in Argentina, resulting in roughly $165 million in revenue losses annually. A recent study by Price Waterhouse & Co. indicates the biggest abusers are Argentine federal and local government agencies and small private businesses. "There's no culture in Argentina of assigning value to software," says a Unisys unit president. (Wall Street Journal 6 Feb 98).
  • "Featherbeds were long ago outlawed in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Why? Because such an indulgence induces and encourages lascivious feelings."

    "Public servants in Argentina had better be on the ball and smile - It's illegal to be surly."

    "An Argentina ordinance demands that disk jockeys play as many tango records as all other types of music combined."

    "Teachers, especially those with large bustlines, face a serious peoblem in Cordoba, Argentina. A woman simply cannot be hired to teach if her chest is big. Why? Because lawmakers in Cordoba finally came to realize that a large, shapely chest is just "too much of a distraction for teenage boys in a classroom."


  • by kennyj449 ( 151268 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @09:30PM (#259261)
    No, not exactly. The US government would be the only organization affected by such a law (you DID read the summary, right?) and they are by far not the only paying user of computer software - and have not been for decades. Duh.

    How often do we hear Microsoft complain about all hte money they lost when the US Army upgraded to Macintosh for their systems? Never. In fact, they're doing just fine.

    OTOH, free software is known for being very reliable, and much of the proprietary stuff is known for being problematic and unstable (Windows in particular - as NASA was just reminded). How much money is lost trying to work around the bugs in proprietary solutions that often take months for the authors to find and hammer out, where OSS bugs can usually be fixed in days with equal or less effort? Quite a bit - just getting M$ to answer a phone call for help requires you to send presidents Grant and Lincoln over on a one-way ticket.

    Before I get flamed for that paragraph, I only used M$ as an example - they're not the only one, not by a long shot. They just happen to be the most prominent, and the easiest target. :D

    There would be no "economic slump." A slump would requre mass abandonment of a wide variety of software titles, on a scale that goes far beyond the number of licenses that the US Govt. actually owns. Therefore, their doing so would cause only minimal damage to the software industry, and the amount of tax spending removed by this would mean that, at least under the GWB administration, all of the top 1% of the country would save enough money to buy a new car every two years after tax cuts. Since taxes are a continuous drain on the economy in any shape or form, the reduction in taxes (if there is one, with GWB in office you can never expect logic to prevail) that this could cause would if anything improve the economy more than harm it. Don't forget, the savings would be passed on to software developers as well - they still might lose some money, but the blow would be softened (not that it'd be hard in the first place.)
  • Somewhat. But there is good logic behind it.

    /Brian
  • by connorbd ( 151811 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:22AM (#259263) Homepage
    I had a curious discussion on the benefits of free software with the business manager at a prep school where my father works security. "My job is to minimize risk" is basically what he said, which was an interesting comment in light of the fact that he believes strongly in outsourcing business functions (small organization). I couldn't quite explain the benefits of having complete control over what software is used in the organization, at least not to his satisfaction.

    Minimizing risk... I don't know about a prep school, but if you're a government there is a strong incentive to run systems with no back doors. It is very much a Bad Thing to tie yourself to a system that cannot be placed completely under your control; from that standpoint the Argentinian government is doing precisely what should be done. (In any case, "may the best software win in the marketplace" is a libertarian delusion. If it actually held true we'd all be using Amigas.)

    /Brian
  • It seems to me that if you're FORCED to use free software, it would somehow feel a little less free. Isn't freedom of choice important as well?

    --
  • by TheFrood ( 163934 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:26AM (#259265) Homepage Journal
    Calling this a "law" is technically accurate, but misleading. To the layperson, the word "law" implies a regulation that affects private citizens, which this isn't. Really, it's just an internal government policy decision, stating that the government will use free software whenever possible (assuming it gets passed, of course). It doesn't regulate what individuals and private companies can do.

    TheFrood

  • Where did he say Argentina was better/worse than the US?

    Stupid laws are funny. Humor, ya know? Ha ha ha? Laughing and smiling and things. Yeah.

    My favorite "dumb law" comes from home: In central GA, a woman wearing a short skirt can be held responsible for any auto accident caused because the drivers were looking at her legs instead of the road.

    D

  • by SubtleNuance ( 184325 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @06:49AM (#259285) Journal
    Can you imagine the damage that would cause to the software industry

    Exactly why you wont see this law in the gloriously corrupt and bankrupt USA. The Plutocrats in Washington would never pass a law like this - because they are taking kickbacks from the SW industry to prevent their representation of the best interests of the people.

    Fuck the SW 'industry' - this is about citizens.

  • by cthugha ( 185672 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @07:42PM (#259286)
    One of the biggest ideals of free software is CHOICE...This certainly shouldn't be considered a win for free software because it doesn't respect the values thereof. All it is is force-feeding.

    Troll, but I'll bite. If this law was about consumers, then you'd have a point. It isn't, it's about government institutions and public (state-owned or controlled) enterprises. So it's more about openness and accountability in government. I don't know about you, but I'd like to be able to fully audit the systems that calculate my taxes, store my records, etc.

    Do you really want the situation where the make-up of a large proportion of the machinery of state is known only to the private parties that created them? Perhaps more importantly, do you want those systems to be under the control of restrictive license agreements that allow software companies to basically do what they please with the computers that run our public institutions?

    I don't. I shudder to think of what the future will be like if that continues to be the case.

  • Please, engage brain before putting keyboard in gear. The obvious answer is that government would let contracts for technical support just as they do now. In other words, the revenue stream would shift from software sales to software support.

    The really good part about such a shift would be that multiple companies -- including small companies -- would be able to provide support. Small companies are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to software contracts because the barrier to entry is quite high. Support, on the other hand, can be awarded to many, many companies without harming the Government's ability to use them. Cf the translation contracts let by the USPTO.

    Indeed, I see the creation of speciality companies that are formed just to meet the needs of the General Accounting Office, the legislative offices, the independent agencies, and even the entitlement agencies.

    Because one requirement would be that workers be US Citizens, the H-1B problem is diminished because now there would be a place for all us older technical people who are US citizens to find worthwhile work. No more bashing companies like "a certain chipmaker" for passing over us older techie types.

    It also provides a better channel for grant money to create software with specific function. If the US Government needed a Word clone, it could provide the money to fund the development -- no more waiting for Sun or Corel or anyone else to pony up the money with little hope of any return.

    Gee, the more I think about the idea the more I like it. Too bad the SIIA and other software lobbies have a lock on our Congresscritters...

  • by TrixX ( 187353 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:38AM (#259307) Homepage Journal

    As said in a previous reply, the law covers just government use.

    A law is needed because presently, state resources are trapped inside propietary applications and data formats. It's a must to get out of that trap, but there's a lot of effort involved. A law would make possible the enforcing of such a policy.

    Software used by the state manipulates information about citizens (tax records, for example). That manipulation should be public, the same way that the national budget is public, the laws are public, etc.

  • by TrixX ( 187353 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @11:30AM (#259308) Homepage Journal
    News flash: Free software isn't always free.

    Yes it is. it is libre (free speech). Several times is not gratis (free beer). But that's not a news flash, RMS, keeps saying that since '83.

  • by TrixX ( 187353 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @01:45PM (#259309) Homepage Journal

    Read the article, you're ignoring one extra layer of indirection.

    The law gives 180 days to decide how long the transition will take (and that decision could be "a century", for example). That period is also to decide how it will be done (the plan).

  • by TrixX ( 187353 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @04:59PM (#259310) Homepage Journal

    The open formats is a point. We agree on that.

    But besides that, the state handles citizen records, and that records are not public information. But when the state uses propietary software, it cannot guarantee that the aplication "leaks" the data somewhere else. So, it's a matter of National Security also, not only of publicly available data.

    There are still rumors that Windows NT has an NSA backdoor. How can a non-US state trust in that (it doesn't matter if the backdoor isn't there. The point is, nobody in aRgentina can prove there is not)

  • by TrixX ( 187353 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:43AM (#259311) Homepage Journal

    There seems to be a confusion about this.

    The law states that software used by the state must be Free Software

    That means, it doesn't disallow a propietary, profit-based software industry. It just limits the range of applications that the National Administrartion can use. This would benefit the state (perhaps a reduction of software costs, but more probably, improve quality and security, and avoid technological dependence)

  • This is the original Spanish, if somebody is interested.

    Artículo 1: La Administración Pública Nacional, los Organismos Descentralizados y las Empresas donde el Estado Nacional posea mayoría accionaria emplearán en sus sistemas y equipamientos de informática, exclusivamente programas (software) libres.

    Artículo 2: Entiéndese por programa (software) libre aquel cuya licencia de uso garantice al usuario, sin costo adicional, las siguientes facultades:

    1. uso irrestricto del programa para cualquier propósito
    2. inspección exhaustiva de los mecanismos de funcionamiento del programa
    3. uso de los mecanismos internos y de porciones arbitrarias del programa para adaptarlos a las necesidades del usuario
    4. confección y distribución de copias del programa
    5. modificación del programa, y distribución libre tanto de las alteraciones como del nuevo programa resultante, bajo estas mismas condiciones.

    Artículo 3.- El programa fuente de cualquier programa libre debe constituir el recurso primario empleado por el programador para modificar e inspeccionar el mismo. Por lo tanto ningún programa que se categorice como libre puede contener cualquier restricción que dificulte su acceso, como tampoco debe poseer etapas intermedias tales como salidas de un pre-procesador o traductor propietario o no libre.

    Artículo 4.- Las licencias de los programas libres que sean utilizados por la Administración Pública Nacional, los Organismos Descentralizados y las Empresas donde el Estado Nacional posea mayoría accionaria deberán, en todos los casos, permitir en forma expresa, modificaciones y trabajos aplicados, así como la distribución irrestricta de estas aplicaciones en los mismos términos que la licencia del programa original.

    Artículo 5.- El Poder Ejecutivo reglamentará en un plazo de ciento ochenta días, las condiciones, tiempos y formas en que se efectuará la transición de los actuales sistemas instalados hacia los programas libres que se caracterizan en los artículos 1 a 4, y orientará en tal sentido las licitaciones y contrataciones futuras de programas de computación (software) realizadas a cualquier título.

    Artículo 6.- A partir de la fecha límite del plazo de transición que establezca el Poder Ejecutivo, los Organismos Públicos Nacionales indicados en el artículo 1 de esta ley, no podrán emplear programas que almacenen sus datos en formatos no públicos, o cuyas licencias:

    1. Impliquen cualquier forma de discriminación a personas o grupos,
    2. No cumplan con los requisitos del artículo 2 precedente,
    3. Sean específicas o exclusivas para un producto determinado.

    Artículo 7.- Una vez finalizada la fase de transición, cuya duración será reglamentada por el Poder Ejecutivo Nacional, de acuerdo a lo previsto en el artículo 5 precedente, solamente podrá ser efectuada la contratación y utilización de programas de computación libres.

    Artículo 8.- Invítase a las Universidades Públicas Nacionales, a los Gobiernos Provinciales, y Municipales y al Gobierno Autónomo de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires a adherir a esta iniciativa .

    Artículo 9.- Comuníquese al Poder Ejecutivo Nacional.

  • The translation is accurate. It doesn't conflict with the BSD definition, please, read well.

    The article says that the license must grant the right (not obligation) to redistribute modifications under the same license of the original program.

    So, a BSD license grants me the right (i.e if I want; that's a right for) to redistribute modifications under a BSD license. Therefore, is allowed by the law.

  • by TrixX ( 187353 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:14AM (#259314) Homepage Journal

    There's a meeting next week with the congress commission discussing this law and a a local geek was invited to give advice. We (we=people that has promoted this law and is trying to move it forward) are interested in interesting opinions about how the law might be improved, so he can propose them.

    Please, comments wanted. Let's hack a bug-free law together!

    Thanks,

    Daniel (TrixX)

  • by TrixX ( 187353 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:32AM (#259315) Homepage Journal

    The financial savings are not the biggest benefit. I realize that there will be a huge pice to pay in training and development, that could be similar to the cost of propietary licenses.

    But there are strong arguments for government use fo free software, like "National Security" (because the ability to guarantee no backdoors), "Technological independence" (remember that this is a 3rd world country, and propietary software involves depending on a foreign corporation), and "Control of information" (Citizens may be harmed when their public records are stored ("kidnapped") into propietary file formats)

  • by Cerlyn ( 202990 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @04:04PM (#259318)

    The reason countries such as Argentina and India love free software is because it's cheap. Compared to many western countries, items in general are cheap. In many countries, one can either pay $500 for a copy of MS Office or hire someone at a decent salary for a year.

    I knew someone from India who made more as an intern in the US than his father did as an Engineer in his native country. His father could take his family eating out every night if desired, yet his son lived in a [legitamite] shared home with eight others, barely making it along.

    On one hand, you have companies that love foreign countries such as China for their labor. Remember the stories about a certain famous shoe manufactuer that makes their shoes abroad for $20 but sells them in the United States for $150? Companies love those types of deals. But other companies then try to sell their products in the local markets at US rates. For some reason, people making the equivalent of US $20 per month are not happy paying $500 for a computer, $500 for each program needed, etc. You've got to wonder why there are problems...

  • by LuckyLuke58 ( 207964 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @04:22PM (#259321)

    "may the best software win"

    I'm not trying to be nasty, but you are very naive if you really do believe that the "best software" usually wins in the marketplace. There are very many other complicated factors involved in business, as well a wide variety of business techniques and strategies - most of which do not involve selection of the best product. I recommend learning a bit about how the software industry functions (and other industries too), and perhaps take an economics course. The reality is quite far from the oversimplified picture painted by the advocators of pure, unregulated capitalism. Just to name a few techniques (off the top of my head) you have oligopolies, cartels, exlusivity deals, shelf space purchasing, bribes, guerilla marketing (including fake grass roots campaigns, spin, FUD), and of course plain and simple marketing (whose advertising budget is bigger?) - all of these things have a significant influence on mainstream acceptance of a product, yet not one of these things have anything to with the quality of a product.

    I don't completely agree with governments passing such laws either, but at least my reasons aren't based on an oversimplified naive view of how the marketplace works in the real world.

  • by wadetemp ( 217315 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:38AM (#259325)
    You said it...

    It is not safe for any government to run software which it does not know how it operates

    That's why they let big iron companies like IBM help them do it.

    It's a joke to think that a park ranger or a 10 pt. veteran that was pushed into a computer management job because of government budget slashing is going to look at the source code. We'd have RedHat base installs running on crucial servers, without patching, leaking sensitve data to the world.

    As for people having access to the software, what do you expect? That they let you stop by the office to use Word? You payed for governmental vehicles too, do you expect you should be able to drive them?

    Corporations may not always be good, but they get the job done better than a stripped to the bone government who can't pay IT people a decent wage can!

  • by praedor ( 218403 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @10:16AM (#259326) Homepage

    No, no, no. It should not in any way be OK for federal, state, local governments to use computer software which, at the very least, produces documents that are only viewable or usable by those who have, let's say, Windoze on them.

    Anything that any public service entity produces, from informational documents to forms, which is presented in an "e-format" should be in a format that ANYONE can view and use regardless of OS or CPU. The government's job is NOT to serve the best interests of M$, but to serve the best interest of the citizens to which they are beholden. Open standards (REAL, not "de facto" standards) that ANYONE with a standards-compliant browser, wordprocessor, or what-have-you, should be able to painlessly view or use these documents.

    The best way to ensure this IS to use opensource at best, or, if you MUST use closed source sh*t like windoze, then anything presented to for public consumption should be REQUIRED to be in open format. HTML(true, HTML, not HTML with M$-specific extensions), XML (TRUE XML), java (TRUE java, not C# or M$Java).

  • by KarmaBlackballed ( 222917 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @04:11PM (#259328) Homepage Journal
    Why should my government use my tax dollars to buy software when there are viable open-source alternatives? Seems like the Argentine government has a great policy in the making. And it will encourage technology growth in IT that is not dependent on foreign corporations. (Seems like a good plan for any non-US government for that reason alone.)


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~ the real world is much simpler ~~
  • by Proud Geek ( 260376 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @11:12AM (#259339) Homepage Journal
    What would really be useful would be to use the best software tool for the job, considering issues like efficiency, ease of use, cost, maintainability, etc.. Obviously, it will sometimes be free software, and other times not be.

    But I guess that would be too much work for a government. That would put too much responsibility in the hands of people with a chance of knowing what they are doing. Better to adopt a policy of all free software, or all Microsoft, or all Ada, and remove all freedom of choice. That way no one is able to make a good decision, err, I meant, no one is able to screw up.

    I do have a question, though. Suppose (say for interoperability, because of evil closed document formats) the only possible word processor is MS Word. Now, Linux is a viable alternative to MS Windows, and hence mandated. Does the choice of MS Word mean they have to run MS Windows (pretend that there is no way to run Word from Linux), or will they run Linux and give up Word?

    I've seen this situation before. A company standardizes on WordPerfect, but the secretaries have Word as well so they can deal with outside documents. They just change word processors based on what they're working on (actually, they only use Word, because they like it better, but don't tell anyone, that's their secret). I'm not sure how it would work if they had to reboot to switch word processors. Anyway, for a company this works great. They might lose business if they couldn't send or receive Word documents. For governments this isn't a concern; they can just serve their citizens less efficiently. It's not like the citizens have another choice.

  • by Quebst ( 263980 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @01:05PM (#259341) Homepage
    Your points are valid, but really do not follow from my statements. A government(as well as a large company) should operate with open standards. For example, a government web site should comply with the well accepted standards of HTML. It should not require a certain browser or such to access it. However, if that web site runs on NT, BSD, or Linux it won't affect the site's availibility to the people.(except when NT keeps crashing of course)

    The main point is that the government should not be different than other organizations in the fact that the best products should be used. I'm not in the Argentinan government, and I do not what specific software needs need to be addressed. If some application, for instance voice recognition software, is needed, it would be counterproductive to make it illegal to run a windows machine. Government should be more open, not less.

    Again, on a professional level I'd run the open software, but I'd prefer to have that choice than have some high up political figure tell me to. Politics and rationality just don't mix.
  • by Quebst ( 263980 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:12AM (#259342) Homepage
    When I first saw the title I thought that the law may have covered all software used in a country, not just for the government. Luckily, it was just the government changing, leaving the consumer the right to choose. Although I fully support Linux and the free software movement, I disagree with this law for one major reason: the best product cannot always be used. If a commercial product does the job better, it will end up costing more to use the "free" software. In the end I believe that free software will be used by a majority of people, but not because of some law, but because free software will be a better product. Capitalism will sort out the winners from the losers.
  • You're right! The economy is still reeling from the collapse of the toilet seat industry when the Air Force stopped buying those $600 seats back in the '80s.
  • by Delor ( 302500 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @08:08PM (#259346)
    While I like the idea of free software and open source, I think this argument is heading off at a tangent. Its not the client that matters, Its the file format. If you have an open file format that can be read by any client, and can be supported by future versions, open or closed, then you have a lot more value. You are not dependant on any one company. You have no problems with version inconsistancy, and any time you dont like the current client, you can make or acuire another. Without haveing to convert your records and archives. The second point about open file formats is in archiving. The whole digital darkage argument is based on closed file formats that go out of fashion and thus doom the data held in them to death. If the whole of argentinias data is in open formats that stand the needs of time, they will have a much more reliable historical record than contries that depend on data in closed formats. So my argument is that argentinas govenment should standardise and open the file formats first and worry about the software to handle it second. Everyone knows how fast software changes... open software has alot of benefits. But open storage formats and especialy open exchange formats will be the most valuable gifts that anyone can give to future generations. Think XML, or any of the other open exchange formats. If they are not good enough then make them so... Delor
  • ..software with a license of use that guarantees the user, without an extra fee, the following rights: ...
    5. Modification of the program, and free distribution of the modifications and the resulting new program, under these same conditions.


    That's a sticky phrasing; perhaps it's partly the translation. Does this mean that the user has the right to free redistribution, or that the license must guarantee free redistribution?

    It it's the latter, this law would seem to prohibit BSD-style licenses, which allow users to redistribute the software with proprietary modifications. I'd say that would cross the line into ideological crusading inappropriate for a government...though I doubt that's what they intended.

    Is the original Spanish available, and can somebody understand it well enough to clarify?
  • by mgarraha ( 409436 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @01:54PM (#259352)

    System migration is not a step to be taken lightly, and it's hard to get it right. Although abundantly aware of its problems, FAA is still running code that may be older than you are, and they've already aborted deployment of two modernized air traffic control systems.

    Like many corporations, government agencies are addicted to software custom-built in-house. In some cases they already own the source code. If they need something changed, they just give their IT contractors a task order.

    Even compared to most corporations, government agencies seem to have a lot of inertia. Even if such a law could get through Congress despite M$ lobbying, many agencies would apply for exemptions, adding a paperwork burden to the technical burden.

    I used to work as a contractor at a government agency. Our government boss was pretty enlightened and let us use Linux on our desktop machines. However, we didn't even use Apache for the public web server because of various migration difficulties.

  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @01:05PM (#259359)
    "Any law that interfears with the profits of a corperation is deamed illegal."

    No, any law that unfairly favors a local corporation over a foreign one is deemed illegal. UPS is suing becuase it appears to them that Purolator (a Canadian corproation) is getting preferential treatment, in the form of being able to use Canada Post's facilities at a bargain, while UPS can't.

    If UPS really felt it could get away with going after any government arm that interferes with its business, there's a far more juicier target here in the US. The US Postal Service [usps.com] is a part of the government (privatize all you want, anything with its own law-enforcement arm [usps.com] is a government body), handles damned near half of the world's card and letter volume [usps.com], can get a letter from Pureto Rico to Guam in under a week for only $0.34 USD, and has been offering next-day Express Mail and 2-3 day Priority Mail services for several decades now. Don't you think that UPS would like just a little bit of that action?

    UPS isn't suing the USPS because it charges the same price to everybody, period. They're after Canada Post because it doesn't seem to be the same way.

    The Argentine law applies evenly to all corporations, international or local. That's why the FTAA won't affect it.

  • by lmd ( 413644 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @10:49AM (#259361) Homepage Journal
    What happens when the law is broken?

  • by Observer2001 ( 447571 ) on Saturday April 28, 2001 @12:02PM (#259369)
    "In order to maintain an open and free government, the people must be able to understand all governmental processes" Like the way the people of the US understand the 2,000 pages of the IRS code plus the 12,000 pages of regulations? Or, like the way the people of the US understand the 110,000+ pages of Medicare regulations? Just wondering ...

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