03.22.16

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The European Parliament Warmed up to Free/Open Source Software and the Media Missed the Story

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Patents, RAND at 2:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Article by a reader of ours, who prefers to remain anonymous

Summary: The European Union Parliament has recommended Free and Open Source Software for several goals

A January 2016 resolution by the European Union Parliament, “European Parliament resolution of 19 January 2016 on Towards a Digital Single Market Act (2015/2147(INI))“, has points relevant to the adoption and promotion of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Specifically, points #89, #110, and #125 mention FOSS by name. The first two mention it in the context of security and interoperability, respectively. The third, #125, calls for a general increase in its use. Here they are quoted below with emphasis in yellow added.

89. Considers that software providers should better promote the security advantages of open source software and security-related software upgrades to users; calls on the Commission to explore an EU-wide coordinated vulnerability disclosure programme, including the repair of known software vulnerabilities, as a remedy against the abuse of software vulnerabilities and security and personal data breaches;

110. Urges the Commission and the Council to increase the share of free and open source software and its reuse in and between public administrations as a solution to increase interoperability;

125. Calls on the Commission and Member States to renew their commitment to the EU 2020 strategy’s research and innovation targets as building blocks of a competitive Digital Single Market, economic growth and job creation, with a comprehensive approach to Open Science, Open innovation, Open data and knowledge transfer; considers that this should include a revised legal framework for text and data mining for scientific research purposes, the increased use of free and open source software, particularly in educational establishments and public administrations, and easier access for SMEs and start-ups to Horizon 2020 funding adapted to the short innovation cycles of the ICT sector; stresses in this respect the importance of all relevant initiatives, from public-private partnerships and innovation clusters to European technology and science parks, notably in less industrialised European regions, and accelerator programmes for start-ups and joint technology platforms, as well as the ability to license standard-essential patents effectively, within the restraints of EU competition law, under FRAND licensing terms, in order to preserve R&D and standardisation incentives and foster innovation;

It is interesting to note that #125 calls for the increased use of Free and Open Source Software to facilitate science, innovation, and knowledge transfer. The mention of “Open data and knowledge transfer” can be interpreted to mean Open Access, related to FOSS but in publishing. In regards to FOSS itself, a stumbling block is the explicit mention of FRAND-licensing for patents as included in standards, as it has traditionally been used as a means to block use of FOSS. But given the context of promoting FOSS elsewhere in the document and, especially in the same paragraph, that would include royalty-free licensing of standards as a pre-requisite for anything to be considered even remotely reasonable.

Another resolution is from this last autumn and is entitled, “Follow-up to the European Parliament resolution of 12 March 2014 on the electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens

Item #47 states even more specifically that open source must be a mandatory criterion in procurement.

47. Welcomes the steps taken so far to strengthen Parliament’s IT security, as outlined in the action plan on EP ICT Security prepared by DG ITEC; asks for these efforts to be continued and the recommendations made in the resolution fully and swiftly carried out; calls for fresh thinking and, if necessary, legislative change in the field of procurement to enhance the IT security of the EU institutions; calls for the systematic replacement of proprietary software by auditable and verifiable open-source software in all the EU institutions, for the introduction of a mandatory ‘open-source’ selection criterion in all future ICT procurement procedures, and for efficient availability of encryption tools;

Going back even further, to 2001, there is a resolution warning of actions needed to be taken to protect e-mail privacy.

European Parliament resolution on the existence of a global system for the interception of private and commercial communications (ECHELON interception system) (2001/2098(INI))

As the Snowden revelations have shown, these measures have proven to be sound and to work in regards to protecting the content of messages. Indeed, in that resolution, it is most clearly stated that only FOSS can fulfil security requirements at all.

29. Urges the Commission and Member States to devise appropriate measures to promote, develop and manufacture European encryption technology and software and above all to support projects aimed at developing user-friendly open-source encryption software;

30. Calls on the Commission and Member States to promote software projects whose source text is made public (open-source software), as this is the only way of guaranteeing that no backdoors are built into programmes;

31. Calls on the Commission to lay down a standard for the level of security of e-mail software packages, placing those packages whose source code has not been made public in the “least reliable” category;

32. Calls on the European institutions and the public administrations of the Member States systematically to encrypt e-mails, so that ultimately encryption becomes the norm;

33. Calls on the Community institutions and the public administrations of the Member States to provide training for their staff and make their staff familiar with new encryption technologies and techniques by means of the necessary practical training and courses;

In summary, the European Union Parliament has recommended Free and Open Source Software for several goals. These goals are privacy, security, innovation, and interoperability.

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