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EU Will Not Divulge Microsoft Contracts 219

Posted by kdawson
from the move-along-no-public-interest-here dept.
Elektroschock writes "Marco Cappato, a Liberal member of the European Parliament, wanted to inspect the EU's contracts with Microsoft. His request was denied. '...the [divulging] of [this] information could jeopardize the protection of commercial interest of Microsoft.' Apparently the European Council sees no clear public interest in the release of such contractual material, and so 'the Secretariat general concludes that the protection of Microsoft's commercial interests, being one of the commercial partners of the European institutions, prevails on the [divulging] for the public interest.'"
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EU Will Not Divulge Microsoft Contracts

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  • Well WTF (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:10PM (#25725053)

    And here I thought the EU was supposed to represent Europeans, instead I find them protecting the commercial interest of Microsoft?

    I hope people closer to this information have the same feeling as I do. Something smells fishy, and I'd like to know how much money Microsoft paid to who.

  • Re:What Rights? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rbanffy (584143) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:11PM (#25725069) Homepage Journal

    Anything that involves public money and is not a matter of national (or continental, in this case) security should be open to scrutiny.

  • Re:What Rights? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:19PM (#25725197) Homepage

    However it is the right of governments to decide what they make public and not. And for my American friends remember that we have a different view on things like this, usually European governments are MORE open than the US.

    The idea that governments have rights is absurd. People have rights. The people have delegated certain tasks to government for their own convenience, and have accepted limits on some minimal subset of their rights so that society can best protect the rest. Note that "society" is not the same as "the government"; the government is just a mechanism used by society to accomplish certain specific things.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:28PM (#25725337) Homepage

    It's not in the public interest to know how much public money MSFT is getting and for what? It's a certainty MSFT doesn't want it getting out how much of a discount government agencies are getting, and what other inducements they're tossing in to sweeten the deal. If it gets out gov agencies are paying $50/seat for Windows, every other enterprise customer will want that deal. I'm not sure how keeping that secret is in the public interest...unless they're worried MS will raise the price if it gets out.

    If it were up to me...if the taxpayer buys it, the taxpayer owns it. And that would be true for software, or at least for the licenses. Imagine if the federal government could negotiate for government wide enterprise license deals. If the Navy closed a program, they could take the software licenses they don't need and transfer them to the Marines or another gov agency. I always thought it should be that way. What's MS going to do about it? Not sell to the government? Yeah, that would be smart, drive gov adoption of open source.

  • Re:What Rights? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by orielbean (936271) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:31PM (#25725387)
    Rights of governments? The people give rights to the government in order to serve the people, not the paternalistic other way around. Government exists to serve the people. Where do you think the money to pay MS comes from? It's like your dad taking money from your trust fund, giving it to you, then telling you that it is your allowance that you earned! The money is the public's money. We agree to let the government protect us from harm and so we allow state secrets to exist in order that our common enemies do not use that information to avoid detection. Everything else that does not fall into that narrow category should be exposed to sunlight and competition. This is a simple paternalistic monopoly protection scheme for MS.
  • More and more... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:47PM (#25725593) Journal
    Almost EVERYTHING governments do is not in the public interest.
  • by The_Other_Kelly (44440) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:48PM (#25725613) Journal

    This is why Ireland said NO to the Lisbon treaty.

    When you see the response of other EU nations,
    you can *feel* the arrogance. Not just to the citizens,
    but to smaller nations.

    The EU is losing touch with basic democratic principles,
    especially the concept of Accountability.

    They have forgotten that they are servants of the people,
    and need to be reminded.

  • Re:What Rights? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Blue Stone (582566) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:48PM (#25725617) Homepage Journal

    'Commercial sensitivity' trumps democratic accountability. That's not right, is it?

  • by CSHARP123 (904951) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:55PM (#25725715)
    I think everybody knows there are discounts involved in the licenses. At a govt client site for Share point server, we needed CALs for about 15K laptops and 45K desktops. The total cost without discount would have been approx. $2000000. with the discount it came to about approx $420,000. I think this is common with private enterprises too.
  • Re:What Rights? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by The Dancing Panda (1321121) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:56PM (#25725733)
    Not exactly, as it's horribly unfair to Microsoft. Think about it, if the contract was released, then all of Microsoft's competitors know just how much they need to undercut Microsoft's price to make the sale on a huge (HUGE) contract. You're putting Microsoft at a competitive disadvantage. This is why most (if not all) government contracts are sealed in this manner.

    Signed
    Someone who works for a government contractor
  • Re:What Rights? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Curate (783077) <craigbarkhouse@hotmail.com> on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:56PM (#25725739)
    Anything that involves public money and is not a matter of national (or continental, in this case) security should be open to scrutiny.

    Really? So the public should be able to view your tax returns?

  • by rossz (67331) <ogre@@@geekbiker...net> on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @05:01PM (#25725787) Homepage Journal

    Years ago when the idea of the EU was starting to form into something real, I commented to friends that it had the potential to make something great. I also said that given how governments loved control, it was pretty much guaranteed that they would fuck it up beyond belief. I nailed it (unfortunately).

  • Re:What Rights? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewkNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @05:04PM (#25725835)
    Couldn't have said it better myself. The mere fact that so many people have a reversed understanding of who works for who when it comes to government is scary.
  • Re:What Rights? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by forkazoo (138186) <(wrosecrans) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @05:16PM (#25725993) Homepage

    Not exactly, as it's horribly unfair to Microsoft. Think about it, if the contract was released, then all of Microsoft's competitors know just how much they need to undercut Microsoft's price to make the sale on a huge (HUGE) contract. You're putting Microsoft at a competitive disadvantage. This is why most (if not all) government contracts are sealed in this manner.

    Signed
    Someone who works for a government contractor

    Yes, good god. Just imagine if players in the market were permitted to know current market rates for specific services. It'd be chaos. It'd be terrible. It'd allow vendors to compete on price for government contracts, and result in government potentially picking a less expensive option for using taxpayer money. Heaven forbid. At least we all know that picking Microsoft is the best possible example for slashdotters of a company that should never be put at a competitive disadvantage!

  • by jonaskoelker (922170) <jonaskoelker@gnu ... org minus distro> on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @05:19PM (#25726037) Homepage

    What really fascinates me is that the people high up in the EU governance food chain think that the business interests of a US company is more important to the citizens of the European Union than information about what their money is being spent on.

  • Re:What Rights? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EdIII (1114411) * on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @05:34PM (#25726187)

    That's not the same thing. What he meant by "anything" was "any expenditures". The government should only have income from the taxation of it's citizens. We all "know" it's coming from us, so tax returns do not have to be disclosed to everyone.

    ALL expenditures not DIRECTLY related to national security MUST be open to scrutiny. To do otherwise invites corruption into the system.

  • Re:What Rights? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mabhatter654 (561290) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @06:07PM (#25726613)

    last I checked Microsoft is a near monopoly with upwards of 85% of the desktop market. (note they tried to keep Google from getting that amount in search with Yahoo) How is discussing contract terms that represent 85% of the market not competitive. Unless Microsoft is using large contracts sold cheaply to sway other people that can't choose, network effects.

    In houses or cars bidding is sealed during sales, but you legally have to post the sale value when you register the property. Then you can see what a similar property sold for at one time from just viewing the property.

    What people REALLY want is to see the terms of the deal. The overall cost can be figured out, but what did Microsoft sell? How many copies? what support? Upgrades? what is the license? When the state buys a bridge or automobile those are spelled out explicitly, and publicly bid on with no side deals allowed. That allows anybody to bid on even ground. In software's case we can't even know what the terms are. I'd be like granting a road contract but not disclosing terms of warranty or number of miles and materials to be used... and would never be allowed. But software gets away with having secret terms.

    Companies want a fair shot. Current software contracts are like specifying that I want Caterpillar brand equipment to build my road... not how much road or warranty or when it will be done. People want to see honest sealed-bid deals that specify business functions to cover (email, accounting, security) and how many users/machines to be licensed. Then stick to the winner of the bid!!! It's not fair that Microsoft gets to see another company win a contract like in Germany, then come in and make "donations" to cover part of the cost so they can remove items from the contract.

  • Re:EU is a farce (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @06:40PM (#25726999)
    Except that the EU constitution (Lisbon Treaty) was supposed to change that. Voting No was exactly the bad reaction for more democracy.

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