Hamburg, April 30th, 2002
Recommendationof the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSF Europe)
and supporting parties
Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the rules for the participation of undertakings, research centres and universities and for the dissemination of research results for the implementation of the European Community framework programme 2002--2006
ReasoningSupporting PartiesMore Supporting Parties
Free Software is a concept that has fundamentally changed the way some parts of the IT sector are working towards a more stable, lasting and sustainable approach with higher dynamics and increased efficiency. It is obvious that the first region to adopt and support this principle on a larger scale can profit enormously and get a head-start in the information age.
This document explains some of the reasons why Free Software should be included in the considerations on the 6th European Community framework programme 2002-2006 and gives input on how this could be done.
Free Software -- sometimes also referred to as ``Libre software'' or ``Open Source Software'' -- is best defined by the following four freedoms:
- 1. freedom: The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
- 2. freedom: The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- 3. freedom: The freedom to redistribute copies.
- 4. freedom: The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
For reasons that can be found online1, this document will use Free Software as the preferred term.
The ability of any region, country or person to participate in the information age will be largely determined by access to and control over key technologies and networks.
As a result of the proprietary software model, we are currently in a situation where almost the whole European information technologies industry is dependent on an oligopoly of U.S. software companies. Viewed from the European perspective, such a situation is highly unstable and unfavorable.
Not coincidentally, the only true exception to this, the internet, is largely run on Free Software.
Recognising the usefulness and importance of Free Software for the future of Europe, the Information Society Technologies (IST) research programme of the European Commission has shown increasting interest in Free Software over the past years. An example of this was the ``2001 action line Free Software development: towards critical mass'' within the 5th European European Community framework programme. Consequently, Free Software is also found in the ``Work Programme 2002'' of the IST.
Free Software provides an alternative model for information technology with significant advantages for numerous objectives and areas specified in the Proposal for the 6th European Commission framework programme.
Even if these are sometimes hard to quantify, it is clear that Europe could greatly benefit from increased employment of Free Software in terms of
- Greater independence
- Increased sustainability
- Freedom from foreign mono- and oligopolies
- Alternative hard- and software possibilities
- Strengthened domestic market and local industries
- Better cooperation between research and economy
- Encouraged transdisciplinary research
- Better protection of civil rights
Free Software is clearly a model of the future and Europe already has an increasingly vibrant Free Software scene unrivaled anywhere in the world. This gives Europe a very unique chance to capitalise on the benefits of Free Software and get a head-start into the knowledge economy.
For a more detailed and explanatory reasoning, please see section Reasoning.
We2 recommend that for all activities within the 6th European Commission framework programme, Free Software becomes the preferred and recommended choice.
We suggest that the programme and projects should monitor and report on the share of the funding used for results released under a Free Software or Free Documentation license. In certain areas like the IST programme or fundamental research, the objective must be set that this share is at least 50% of the budget used to produce software or disseminable documentation.
As other ways of increasing the European edge, we furthermore recommend:
In some areas -- ``eEurope'' or fundamental scientific research being two examples -- it would be advisable to enforce the advantages offered by Free Software by explicitly and exclusively calling for projects that will release their results under a Free Software and/or Free Documentation license.
Preference in evaluation
As a general criterion it would be in the interest of Europe that projects making their results available under a Free Software (and -- possibly -- Free Documentation) license3 should receive a positive score in the evaluation process, giving them an advantage over comparable projects not offering this increased European value.
Additional positive scores in the evaluation process should be granted to projects employing ``Copylefted'' Free Software4 and projects taking steps to ensure the enduring availability and legal maintainability of the Free Software created through copyright assignments5 to appropriate institutions.
The preference and recommendation for Free Software should be added in the guidelines for evaluators, the policy documents and the documents explaining the rules of participation for project applications.
Although Free Software is per se available to any organisation, person or company, the European Commission should seek to inform and encourage local companies about and to Free Software, building up the expertise fundamentally necessary for the information age.