In my last post, I wrote about my Freedom of Information request to find out how Microsoft had been lobbying against true open standards that mandated RF licensing. In fact, I made another at the same time, asking a similar question about the Business Software Alliance's contacts with the Cabinet Office. There turned out to be only two meetings, and one email, so clearly the BSA played less of a role than Microsoft in this area.
The BSA did, however, repeat Microsoft's inaccurate claim that RF-based open standards would "cause there to be whole classes of product which would not be available to be procured if this was the case." As I explained in my previous post, this is not so, since there are two clear exceptions to the original RF open standards policy that would allow FRAND-based standards to be adopted.
In fact this very point was made at the meeting between the BSA and Cabinet Office on 23 September:
[Cabinet Office name redacted] asked for specific examples of what technologies could not be procured if an RF only position was adopted, noting that the policy note (PPN) was advisory not mandatory. [BSA name redacted] stated that within hardware, GSM and and wi-fi were examples.
In other words, the only examples the BSA could come up with hardware ones, and even they would be admissible for the reasons that I mentioned before. The Cabinet Office representative then went on to emphasise this fact:
[Cabinet Office name redacted] did not believe that this was a problem for the UK public sector as it was not looking to procure technology in a way that caused the preference of RF over FRAND to be a problem for intellectual property right holders. [Cabinet Office name redacted] stated that the basic problem that UKG is trying to solve by this PPN is interoperability at the software level.
These comments indicate that the Cabinet Office is not trying to impose RF standards in areas like hardware where they don't exist. It is not being dogmatic, but purely pragmatic in seeking to use RF open standards where appropriate to open up competition as much as possible. Where they cannot be used, then other solutions will be adopted.
BSA's earlier briefing note to the Cabinet Office, also passed to me under my FOI request, consists of much the same stuff, but does include an intriguing suggestion for generating new money for the government – presumably as an alternative to saving money by moving to RF open standards:
Generating revenues for the Treasury. Aside from traditional copyright protection methods, the UK government should explore the possibility of incorporating package and service-based software licences in regular corporate VAT compliance checks. By creating new VAT audits for business software, enterprises will be compelled to use lawful services and software packages while, at the same time, contributing to government budgets.
I'm sure most readers of Computerworld UK would just jump at the chance to generate revenues for the UK treasury by having tax inspectors check out all their software licences....