FSFE Newsletter – October 2014

Written by   on  

Italian Court supports unbundling of software and hardware

When buying a laptop, it can be difficult to avoid paying for a Microsoft Windows licence since many laptops come bundled with one. This “Windows Tax” has artificially increased hardware prices for Free Software users who do not want to use Microsoft's operating system. We as Free Software users want to support the development of Free Software instead of non-free software like Microsoft Windows.

Since 2008 we maintain a wiki page with advice for consumers who want to avoid funding the development of non-free software, and for over a decade we talked with politicians and consumer protection organisations about this topic. Nonetheless, there is only slow progress on the subject, and it will take years to change this situation in Europe. For such long term goals, reaching intermediate goals is important. Last month we had such a victory.

Italy's High Court ruled that a laptop buyer was entitled to receive a refund for the price of the Microsoft Windows licence he was forced to purchase with his computer. The judges sharply criticised the practice of selling PCs only together with a non-free operating system as “a commercial policy of forced distribution”. The court considered this practice as “monopolistic in tendency”. It also highlighted that the practice of bundling means that end users are forced to use additional non-free applications due to compatibility and interoperability issues, whether they want these programs or not.

Now the Italian authorities have to turn this ruling into a real win for consumers, by ensuring that computer buyers can choose their device with any operating system they want, or none. Afterwards we hope that we can convince other countries in Europe to follow the example set by Italy, or that we find a European-wide solution to the problem.

European public administrations using Free Software

Often there is a tendency in the media and also from us to concentrate on the bad news about Free Software usage in the public administration. In this edition, we will concentrate on good examples from last month instead. So there is good news concerning Free Software office suites: Austria's Bundesrechenzentrum, the federal government-owned computing centre, praises the wide range of application uses of Apache OpenOffice. They appreciate that the “solution can be adapted to the data centre's needs, integrated in its specialist applications and also allows documents to be created and submitted automatically and semi-automatically. OpenOffice is the standard office suite at the computing centre since 2008, installed on 12000 PCs across the organisation.” Furthermore, the public administrations of the Italian cities Todi and Terni are switching to LibreOffice. They follow the example of the Italian province of Perugia, using LibreOffice on all of its 1200 PCs and the Perugia Local Health Authority, which installed the office suite on 600 PCs.

The French public administration is using a Free Software office suite on 500,000 desktops. Although they said switching to Free Software was hard, they were able to handle the problems. The project's success is partly due to two contracts the ministries have with ICT service providers. The contracts entail support for 260 Free Software applications, and the support team ensures that patches made for the ministries are contributed back to the software projects.

The Greens in Saxony/Germany urge the federal state government to do a feasibility study on migrating to Free Software. “The political group, free software users themselves since December 2011, say that lower IT costs and advantages in IT security should drive public administrations” to use Free Software. They argue that the dependency on proprietary software “gives large corporations access to and influence on official internal workflows, as well as sensitive communication and data of the state's citizens.”

Something completely different

Get active: Give feedback about the User Data Manifesto

Version 2 of the User Data Manifesto has been released. The aim of this manifesto is to define the fundamental rights for users on their own data in the Internet age: to control access to their data (and metadata), to know how and where the data is stored and to be free to choose a platform. Some projects are already working towards supporting the manifesto to give their users these rights! At the moment, version 2 is published as a draft on a wiki allowing public comments.

We ask all Free Software supporters to give feedback on the manifesto, so it can be further improved upon, and we can decide whether we want to support it as FSFE. Please give feedback yourself, discuss the manifesto on our discussion lists, and ask other Free Software organisations for feedback and if they would support it in this form, too.

Thanks to all the volunteers, Fellows and corporate donors who enable our work,
Matthias Kirschner - FSFE