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Software Your Rights Online

Lobbyists Urge South Australia To Drop Open Source Bill 248

Posted by timothy
from the commonwealth-means-what-again dept.
Red Wolf writes "The Age reports that South Australia has caused eyebrows at the Initiative for Software Choice (ISC) to be raised in concern, with the organisation writing to Premier Mike Rann over a proposed Open Source software bill. The ISC, by its own definition, is a "global coalition of large and small companies committed to advancing the concept that multiple competing software markets should be allowed to develop and flourish unimpeded by government preference or mandate"."
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Lobbyists Urge South Australia To Drop Open Source Bill

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  • I wonder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HornyBastard (666805) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @04:12AM (#6220838)
    how many of the lobbyists work for microsoft.
  • So, basically if I'm understanding this right, and correct me if I'm wrong, the Initiative for Software Choice is lobbying to basically remove South Australia's choice to use Open Source Software from consideration and more or less force them into using closed source software. Kind of ironic. Groups with names that don't support their actual agenda like this should really be openly chastised by major media outlets for being hypocritical to the point of just being ridiculous, if not just made flat out illegal. Think of it as a truth-in-advertising kind of thing. A company/group/whatever's name is their best form of advertising, it forms the base of their brand recognition. So if their name is so out of whack from their goals, it's kind of like misleading advertising.
  • by henbane (663769) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @04:21AM (#6220870)
    Whilst I haven't done any background checking on the Initiative for Software Choice I think what they seem to be saying is that the best tool for any particular job should be picked. In a case of government contracts I don't see why this should be a problem. Just because they're favouring one side now and it happens to be yours doesn't make it a better system - if the current bill was advising to try proprietary software before open source you'd think it was ridiculous so why isn't the reverse true?
  • Re:Nonetheless... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geschild (43455) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @04:42AM (#6220923) Homepage

    To be honest, I agree that a "heated discussion" can help to form ones mind on a topic. I do think, however, that it may not be the best or even the fastest way to change someones mind.

    Please remember this comes from a person who is renowned for his hard-headedness.

    (fwiw, I agree with your arguments too, but that's my opinion. I also think there are other arguments in favour of government regulating in favour of OSS which is, again, my opinion.)

  • Few Things (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cluestick Enforcer (682056) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @04:47AM (#6220930)
    In the Bill itself, its seems to be addressing "Mr President". Im unsure of whom this bill is being proposed too, but if its a Parliament bill, wouldn't it be addressed to Mr Speaker or Mr Premier?

    Secondly, this ISC mob seem to be pro choice, as long as that choice is from a commercial product. From the article -

    "...look to the competitive software market to acquire the best solution for a given need."

    From their members [softwarechoice.org] page, i can see a few more noticeable companies, including Microsoft, yet I cannot identify any open-source companies. Not too much "choice" there, i think.
  • by Richard_Davies (250599) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @04:52AM (#6220947)
    I agree completely. I'd rather see a bill that states its desires in terms of needs (functionality, security, TCO, etc...) rather than solutions. If open source is judged to fit these criteria the best, it will win. I don't believe that open source needs or should have this sort of "positive discrimination". It should win or lose based on its merits. By the way, for those who are intersted, here's the bill [linuxsa.org.au].
  • by samj (115984) * <samj@samj.net> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @04:57AM (#6220955) Homepage
    It would appear to me that the ISC is grossly misrepresenting their membership base by stating that 'together the ISC and CompTIA have 110 corporate and individual members in Australia'. I would suggest that a vast majority of those are individuals 'looking for the tools to develop [their] career[s] [comptia.org]'. I would go so far as to say that without surveying their membership base, to say that members of the parent organisation are aligned with the values of its subsidiary is misleading, and if I were a CompTIA member I would be most unimpressed by this misrepresentation. If you happen to be a CompTIA member, perhaps you should make it clear that you do not necessarily agree with the ISC, and that these figures should therefore be taken with a grain of salt. In fact given this creative accounting, I would be wary of paying attention to anything this organisation has to say.

  • by geschild (43455) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:01AM (#6220965) Homepage

    Hook, line and sinker. Why do I always go at it again? Oh well, lets get on with it:

    I agree that the best solution should be sought for the problem, regardless of the origin. However, the specific benefits of open source are not engrained in the selection criteria for governement software selction procedures because these procedures have always been directed at propriety software. (Primary criteria like open data formats, access to the source code if the company goes bust. Secondary things like being able to tinker with it, audit the code during its lifetime, being able to choose another company to maintain it if they're cheaper. That sort of thing.)

    By putting into law that open source should be considered, you take away a disadvantage for open source (equal opportunity). You don't give it an unfair advantage.

    Because the article doesn't state the precise content of the law or an explanation of it, we can only guess whether it makes it impossible to select the best solution for the problem (oss or propriety).

    This is why I say: lets just leave this one alone unless we get more info. It's not worth the fight.


  • by intermodal (534361) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:04AM (#6220974) Homepage Journal
    wow...that was an extremely poor response and appears to have been entirely based on the fact that my comment was moderated higher than yours. But I feel I must respond.

    1) So a piece of software that does its job "well enough" is OK?

    Of course it is. Because if a piece of software does its job, I don't need to pay for one that does the same job.

    2) If taxes are miscalculated, then this is OK so long as it's a minority who suffer then? And the same of potentially life-threatening things such as air traffic control or medical systems?

    If taxes are miscalculated, that's the fault of the CPU, not the operating system. Same goes for air traffic control and medical systems. Besides...before being placed into such positions as flight control and medical applications (by the way, both are complete systems and thus not software products) they are quite thoroughly tested. That, my friend, is why we have such old systems in place right now and why they are so difficult to swap out for newer ones.

    So in response to your poorly-formed and uneducated retort, I must say nay. Paying more taxes does not equal better software, in fact I would be hesitant to say that more expensive software is better for most low-level tasks anymore.
  • by awol (98751) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:08AM (#6220985) Journal
    South Australia has a history of legal innovation. Indeed, beyond the issues of suffrage for which they are well known, the system of land registration known as Torrens Title has been exported widely. One of the most interesting aspects of this is the legal definition of open source that has been provided in the Act. I am sure that JMS would be disappointed with the phrase "open source" being the legally enshrined thing for which the government departments must make consideration. I too would prefer to find "Free Software" as the phrase, even "Software Libre", but the name concerns me little.

    My question to the reading populace is are we happy with the definition? It is always difficult to get such things right and ammendments can always be made to refine things, but is the definition as it stands even adequate? I think it is adequate, in fact I would go further and think that as a generic description it is actually very good.
  • by g4dget (579145) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:10AM (#6220995)
    if the current bill was advising to try proprietary software before open source you'd think it was ridiculous so why isn't the reverse true?

    Because we generally prefer our governments not to pay money for something they can get for free. Putting free and non-free stuff on equal footing invites corruption.

    Spending money should require special justification, while not spending money shouldn't. And in the case of, say, Microsoft licenses, we aren't talking a little money, we are talking a huge amount of money.
  • SA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jtsoong (307257) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:11AM (#6221000) Homepage
    I work in SA Government.

    And where we work, basically, unofficial policy, if it doesn't come with source, don't use it.
  • Australian Citizen? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by samj (115984) * <samj@samj.net> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:11AM (#6221002) Homepage
    Then why are you reading this and not writing a letter yourself sharing your views on the situation. I am sure that the views of Australian citizens will weigh in more than those of a potentially biased American based organisation backed by a company who will be directly adversely affected by the passing of this bill.

    It is obvious that there are plenty of reasons to use FOSS in a government environment. If there is not a FOSS product for a given task (high end databases, specialised reporting applications, etc.) then the best product may indeed be closed source. If two products are similar in features/price then FOSS should prevail. The government still gets software which meets their needs, often significantly cheaper (especially in the long run), and the taxpayer benefits at the expense of proprietary software vendor(s) who are often (but not necessarily always) charging a ridiculous amount of money for an inferior product.
  • Usage vs Development (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Bitman (95493) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:13AM (#6221007) Homepage
    I, speaking as a human, dont give a flying fuck what license a government agency is under for using software. If you disagree, you're a fucking moron.
    The problem is when they need software to be developed for them. Then it should be open-source- What the people pay for, the people should get.

    How does this work? Government agency B wants to use some software, so they buy it. Then they want something new developed for it, so they go to the software company that makes it, give them money, and say "make it."
    All code written on the dime of the government is released into the open. It doesnt matter if it doesnt work by itself, because not the whole program was created by the government. What the people pay for, the people should get- it's unfair to expect more.

    All other things I would mention are covered fully IN THE FUCKING ARTICLE.
  • by nizo (81281) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:14AM (#6221013) Homepage Journal
    Luckily the software that tallies the votes is closed source, so the outcome should be the way the ISC wants anyway.
  • Choice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2@eaRASPrthshod.co.uk minus berry> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:15AM (#6221016)
    An act of parliament that mandates public bodies {who pays their wages again?} to consider all the options before making a purchase is hardly a Bad Thing. The only convincing arguments against it are:
    1. The choice is so vast that more resources would be expended on the act of choosing than on the product chosen
    2. You are the present supplier of a product which is likely to be deemed inferior by the criteria applied for judgement.
    If (1), this says: the market is saturated, all software is much of a one-ness, there is nothing to choose between it and you may as well pick the one with the prettiest box. If (2), this says: software suppliers -- or the beneficiaries of, or apologists for, their corruption and selfishness -- are influencing governments.

    What does the empirical evidence suggest?
  • ISC is wrong! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Boltronics (180064) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:44AM (#6221081) Homepage
    The government has the right to say which type of software it wants to use. If it finds open source software to be more secure or practical for whatever reason, then so be it.

    It in no way limits competition. Any software vendor can still offer a solution to the government - they just have to conform to their requirements of making it open source.

    I'm an Australian, and I for one would like to see this bill passed.
  • Other footed shoe (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gilmoure (18428) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:48AM (#6221089) Journal
    When was the last time you heard "this" group go on about how a spec for MS Word should be opened up to include other software?
  • by mystran (545374) <mystran@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:34AM (#6221429) Homepage
    Unfortunately, if most of people choose Windows® in the Present, Open Source solutions will have less users, which means that the statistical probablities of those people having everything on Windows® and running into problems with GNU/Linux and other Open Source easily increases, which would mean that in the Future the choice is even easier.

    Whether there actually are such problems for a given domain of "things I want to do" is unfortunately irrelevant. These days it already takes me minutes to find a category of software that has no (acceptable) Open Source solutions.

    With my new Gentoo installation I haven't had a single problem (installation is somewhat tricky but after that it's like a dream).

    The reality is that it's not even a question of operating system. Most popular Open Source applications work just fine on Windows. After slowly changing the applications into Open Source the operating system question starts losing relevance.

    The question should not be whether to use closed or open software, instead, it should be Could some of the products we use could be replaced with Open Source alternatives ? More important than Open Source are Open Dataformats.

  • You should lobby too (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gregluck (668236) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:51AM (#6221543)
    You can lobby the premier directly through this web-based email form [sa.gov.au] I met with Richard Alston, the Federal Australian Minister for Technology a few years ago at an awards ceremony and spent a half hour with him explaining open source and the famous role some Australians play in it (e.g. Andrew Morton - kernel, Paul 'Rusty' Russell iptables, Andrew 'tridg' Tridgell - Samba, rsync ...) and found he was genuinely interested. He asked for some submissions which I sent to him. You are never sure of a result, however the Federal Government recently issued a pro open source policy, so at least I think I did no harm. So, you can probably help by offering your support, particularly any South Australians out there.
  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @08:45AM (#6221997)
    From the proposed law:
    Principle applying to the procurement of computer software 17A.
    (1) A public authority must, in making a decision about the procurement of computer software for its operations, have regard to the principle that, wherever practicable, a public authority should use open source software in preference to proprietary software.


    Personally, I think that is almost as bad as giving preference to a proprietary solution.

    Let each tool stand on its own merits.
  • by gobbo (567674) <[wrewrite] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @09:10AM (#6222204) Journal
    The whole point of affirmative action [should be] a way to compensate for embedded preferences that are so ingrained that they aren't obvious to people making decisions using them. From this point of view, people need encouragement to consider alternatives from the mainstream monopoly approach, and in the interests of fairness a shove in an alternative direction is needed.

    OK, yeah, such systems are often as boneheaded as the problem they purport to solve. But this is the way governments wield power, by fiat. So recommending a marginal product over mainstream products that have expensive representation of their interests is an equalizing move.

    I don't approve of nation-states in general, but I do understand why they resort to these options.

  • by JonK (82641) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @10:51AM (#6223193)
    I don't know about Hellman & Friedman, which sounds like a brand of mayonnaise, but Conrad Black (that's "Lord Black of Crossharbour" to you, mind) is a sometime Canuck turned British citizien - which he did so he could don ermine as the aforementioned Lord.

    AFAIk, he's got no ties to the software industry but he's renowned in the UK for being a raving Tory loon (think fiscally libertarian but socially incredibly moralistic - tax is bad, a woman's place is in the home, why don't these darkies know their place etc): he publishes the Daily and Sunday Telegraph and the Spectator (the latter edited by a Tory MP, which kind-of throws the whole impartiality debate into a fairly strong light). IIRC he's responsible for varous US and Ca newspapers through his network of holding companies, mostly called Hollinger something

  • by stanwirth (621074) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @04:05PM (#6226312)

    Time and time again, we've seen M$ offer special deals to large organisations that "decide" to use OSS by decree -- governments, universities, companies. (Could this be the motivation for issuing these decrees on the basis of price alone in the first place?)

    We've also seen M$ or their proxies (e.g. SCO) take steps to punish organisations that stick with their OSS decisions. The threat implicit in the "ISC"'s choice (and shame on them for appropriating the good name of the real ISC [isc.org]) is that the first hint of any problem with OSS, and they'll raise a ruckus in the media and try to discredit the public officials who did not choose " the best " software for the job, but made an "ideological" choice.

    The only argument that can stand up to this onslaught is that data formats need to be open, so that the owners of the data can maintain their ownership. This argument has been made brilliantly in other contributions to this discussion. We might add to that: the owners of the data need to be able to see the source code of the programmes and operating systems (particularly the network components) which manipulate and communicate those data in order to avoid theft, misuse and misappropriation of those data.

    Australia and New Zealand have exceptionally strong privacy laws -- and these laws are enforced. People, government bodies, and even large corporations with deep pockets take these laws very seriously, even though Echelon seems to be exempt ( NB: This is a different discussion.). One way that South Australia could help itself stick by its decision to use OSS in the face of these lobbyists would be to refer to its own privacy legislation as the prime driver for OSS, rather than price alone.

The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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