Free Software Foundation Europe Leads Call For Taxpayer-Funded Software To Be Licensed For Free Re-use
from the public-money,-public-code dept
Free Software Foundation Europe has a new campaign — “Public money, public code” — which poses the following question:
Why is software created using taxpayers’ money not released as Free Software?
And goes on:
We want legislation requiring that publicly financed software developed for the public sector be made publicly available under a Free and Open Source Software licence. If it is public money, it should be public code as well.
It certainly seems pretty ridiculous that code written for public bodies, whether by external companies or contractors paid by the public purse, or produced internally, should not be released as free software. But aside from this being a question of fairness, the FSFE lists other reasons why it makes sense:
Similar applications don’t have to be programmed from scratch every time.
Efforts on major projects can share expertise and costs.
With transparent processes, others don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
An open letter on the site, supported by dozens of organizations and open for individual signatures, provides a few more:
Free and Open Source Software is a modern public good that allows everybody to freely use, study, share and improve applications we use on a daily basis.
Free and Open Source Software licences provide safeguards against being locked in to services from specific companies that use restrictive licences to hinder competition.
Free and Open Source Software ensures that the source code is accessible so that backdoors and security holes can be fixed without depending on one service provider.
Considered objectively, it’s hard to think of any good reasons why code that is paid for by the public should not be released publicly as a matter of course. The good news is that this “public money, public code” argument is precisely the approach that open access advocates have used with considerable success in the field of academic publishing, so there’s hope it might gain some traction in the world of software too.