Weblog:   The Growing Politicization of Open Source
Subject:   Governments can make their own purchasing decisions too
Date:   2002-08-16 10:19:47
From:   timoreilly
Response to: Governments can make their own purchasing decisions too

I have no problem with individual agencies, or even the CTO or CIO of a state, mandating open source. I have a problem with *legislators* mandating such a thing. It may even be reasonable for legislators to mandate certain principles -- for example, access to source code -- without specifying particular licenses. But even then, I'd agree with my correspondent that this is a slippery slope, and inconsistent with our principles. After all, what's the difference between legislation mandating open source, and legislation outlawing P2P file sharing? In one case, we say that it's good, and the other that it's bad. There's a pragmatic answer that says you achieve good ends by fair means or foul, but I've always been a fan of T.S. Eliot's observation. And I also agree with my correspondent's observation that this is likely a bad thing to do for pragmatic reasons as well, since proprietary software companies are likely to lobby more consistently and successfully than open source advocates, if it comes down to the money game that modern American politics so often seems to consist of.

I do think that it's good to have this debate. What should the role of government be in regulating the software industry? We're hearing it from all sides, and at the very least, we can hope that the debate will be informed and thoughtful, and not just a matter of who is loudest or has the most money to put towards the issue.

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