Key policies for a healthy IT market

[ Article transferred from my old wiki ]

​It has been quite a while now since I have been involved in IT policy issues. For the past ten years I was alternatively active with European Parliament, non-profit organisations and open source companies on various projects aimed at fostering digital innovation.

Despite the growing dependence on software in our everyday life though, it appears that related legal concerns still remain obscure for most of people. In other words, it was hard to explain all of this ten years ago, and I somehow feel that it has not changed much.

A sufficient reason for me to remind here the keys to a healthy IT market – on which our information infrastructure and thus, our daily communications now rely.

» No software patent

Patent law was created as a counterpart for the costs invested in developing “technical solutions to technical problems”. Besides the fact that the software industry costs are of a completely different range, there is nothing technical in a software – not more than in a music score or a mathematical reasoning. A software is a set of instructions and data aimed at being executed by a machine. Software patents are dangerous as they create ownership rights on trivial processes. Programmers shall not have to worry about infringing a patent while developing pieces of codes. This leads to hindering software innovation, already sufficiently protected by copyright, antitrust and contract laws. Practices consisting in delivering software patents shall be stopped.

» No DRM in copyright law

Whereas copyright law shall definitely apply to software, and I include here open source licenses, the decision to include DRM among the subject matters was a complete mistake. A DRM is a digital restriction measure aimed at restricting access to related content. It is not because someone decides to add one to a content that the latter satisfies the legal criterias such as originality or creativity of the work. Worse, it prevents users from exercising legal exceptions to copyright, such as for interoperability or research purposes – in addition to eventually violating their privacy. A complete reform of the copyright system must be undertaken.

Learn more about patent and copyright :
read post on Intellectual Property vs Innovation

» Free and open standards

Data needs to circulate freely within the information infrastructure so that users are not locked in with one single editor. This is what we call interoperability, which allows us to read a same document using different software. In that extent we need free and open standards so that various actors can access and implement the latters on royalty-free basis to develop their products. This supposes neither patent nor any copyright restriction whatsoever, and is thus in contradiction with any “fair, reasonable and non discriminatory” model (FRAND) that would impose the payment of royalties. Free and open digital standards shall be enforced in all standardization bodies.

» Non discriminatory procurement

In addition of being strictly forbidden by contracting rules, favoring a brand in public procurement leads to excluding innovative companies from the market and maintaining propriatory, non standardized software in administrative bodies. This, at the expense of governments themselves, who collaterally abdicate their control over IT budget and security. In spite of common sense, public administrations continue playing a major role in sustaining monopolies through discriminatory calls for tenders. Transparency in public affairs is not only an option anymore. State’s infringement to contracting rules must be condemned.

» A ban on tied sales

Tied sales happen when a customer is forced to buy another product together with the one he actually needs. This raises the cost for the latter, and discourages him for searching for an alternative of the imposed product, excluding companies who could potentially offers competitive solutions. The legislation shall allow the customer to buy the products separately and give a chance to innovative competitors.

» Net neutrality

Internet shall remain an area where freedom of speech and communication prevail. If ever certain persons use it for inappropriate behaviours, such behaviours shall be condemned in accordance with the law on case by case basis. The web as for itself shall stand free from any censorship whatsoever. Unfortunatelly, some service providers tend to favor certain editors an block access to other’s content based on commercial interests. Such practices are not acceptable and must be forbidden by the law once and for all.

Does this post look familiar to you ? Possible, since I used it for Ultimate Circle’s policy section.

If there was one word to associate with a healthy software industry, would be OPENNESS.

Openness is essential when it comes to talk about software. Why ? Because software, such as mathematics, such as sciences, shall not be locked – or else, we are the ones who will end up locked in. Our society needs to build up around software. Not to be built by it.

I will come back shortly enough with explanations on open data and open source.