European Commision encourages open source

European Commission updates its open source policy

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The European Commission (EC) wants to make it easier for its software developers to submit patches and add new functionalities to open source projects. Contributing to open source communities will be made central to the EC’s new open source policy, expects Pierre Damas, Head of Sector at the Directorate General for IT (DIGIT). “We use a lot of open source components that we adapt and integrate, and it is time that we contribute back.”

Damas and his colleagues aim to remove barriers that hinder code contributions to open source software, he announced yesterday at a conference in Brussels. The Commission wants to clarify legal aspects, including intellectual property rights, copyright, and which author or authors to name when submitting code to the upstream repositories. “It is easier said than done,” Damas warned.

He anticipates that reinvigorating the policy will motivate many of the EC’s software developers and functionaries to promote the use of free and open source software at the EC. “Having a strategy helps them to advance the use of open source.” The policy can help nudge others to consider open source, Damas added. “When a little push is needed.”

On Wednesday, December 3, the Head of Sector gave a preview of the EC’s open source policy at a workshop on open standards for ICT procurement. The update of the EC’s policy is a work in progress, and will be finalized in the first months of 2015.

Priority

EC policy makers recognise that open source reduces their ICT costs, makes possible the modernisation of government services and will strengthen European ICT service providers, Damas said. “Our internal policy is changing, and open source use will be given promoted. When procuring software products, we will consider open source alongside proprietary alternatives, based on value for money. In defined areas, for example Information Systems development distributed externally, we will give open source priority.”

The EC is already using a lot of open source tools, he added, including for servers, for its web solutions and on the EC desktops. “We have over 10,000 Apache web servers, over 1800 hosts running Red Hat Linux and Drupal will be the core engine of the new Europa website. Our developers use a lot of open source tools and code libraries.”

Gently disruptive

DIGIT is not considering the restart of a Linux desktop pilot. A small-scale pilot already took place in 2005, with two hands full of EC volunteers at DG INFSO using Linux and OpenOffice, showing that a Linux desktop was feasible, Damas said. However, the exit costs—to move away from the proprietary system—were too high.

“Our future office environment however, will be gently disruptive. We will propose alternatives for direct messaging, groupware and other parts of the infrastructure.” When the time comes to renew the office solutions, the EC will not forego a negotiated procedure, but instead will publish a tender, using technical specification. “We are aware of the changing environment”, Damas said.

Gijs Hillenius writes original articles for the Joinup project of the European Commission. His articles are republished here with permission. Originally posted on the Joinup blog.

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3 Comments

Jordi Pujol

Would remind to the members of the EC that virtually all open software licenses granted to use of the programs in exchange for all the arrangements made should be sent to the original author.
It seems that previously were in breach of the license, as it is time to do so properly.

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dbastianello

Had to do a double take...

"When the time comes to renew the office solutions, the EC will not forego a negotiated procedure, but instead will publish a tender, using technical specification. “We are aware of the changing environment”, Damas said."

All I have to say is "It's about freaking time". There is no other industry in the world that vendors of products tell their paying clients how they should do things... Wow it's nice to get ride of some of the dead wood in high places and replace them with people who actually know what is going on. You know all IT projects should run this way... Have an idea, build requirments to support the execution of this idea, put that out for tender so that vendors meet your requirements and no the other way around. Maybe the days of spandex (fits all but all should not wear them) solutions are close to an end. Maybe the days of companies realizing that they will need a small dev team to tweak their business logic is at hand, W00T!

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Emanuele Aina

@Jordi Pujol:

> Would remind to the members of the EC that virtually all open software licenses granted to use of the programs in exchange for all the arrangements made should be sent to the original author.

Not really. One of the tests used to evaluate software to meet the Debian Free Software Guidelines (on which the Open Source Definition is based on) is the "The Desert Island test" (see wikipedia). *Requiring* people to send modifications to the original author of the software would definitely put said software in the non-free category.

What copyleft Open Source licenses require (ie. the GPL, LGPL, MPL but not BSD, MIT, Apache) is that you have to be ready to give the corresponding sources when you hand over a compiled binary to someone.

It means that if you distribute the software to someone you may be required to give the corresponding sources to the same someone, and not necessarily to the original author.

If you don't distribute the software (eg. you only use it internally) you're under no obligation to share the source code, even for the strongest copyleft licenses (ie. GPLv2 and GPLv3).

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