"Written Declaration" on Open Source in the EU


I've written before how worthwhile it is contacting your MEPs about open source and related matters. Well, here's another opportunity. Some enlightened MEPs have crafted “Written Declaration 0046/2008” urging the European Union to step up its support of free software.

I've just emailed my representatives in the European Partliament using the fine WriteToThem.com, and urge you to do the same. Here's what I've sent; feel free to be inspired by it, but please don't cut and paste – the WriteToThem.com site will give you a rude message if you do....

I am writing to ask you to support Written Declaration 0046/2008, pursuant to Rule 116 of the Rules of Procedure, submitted by Jean Louis Cottigny, Pierre Pribetich, Michel Rocard, Bronisław Geremek and Daniel Cohn-Bendit.

This declaration:

“Calls on the European Union to take the necessary measures to help finance public research on open source software;

Calls for Parliament to switch its whole computer network to this type of software;

Instructs its President to forward this declaration, together with the names of the signatories, to the parliaments of the Member States, the Council and the Commission, so that they may join forces on this measure.”

As you know, open source is reshaping the entire computing landscape; well-known programs such as GNU/Linux, Firefox and OpenOffice.org are now widely adopted. Unlike proprietary programs, which originate almost exclusively from the US, open source software is produced around the world, with a particularly strong contribution from Europe. In this sense, open source can be thought of as Europe's indigenous software industry. Fostering it supports Europe's many fine programmers, and will stimulate employment across the European Union as well as reducing the outflow of monies.

Open source is freely available, which means that national and local governments are able to save money at a time when budgets are under increasing pressure. Moreover, members of the public can not only download such software, but are encouraged to copy it and share it with family, friends and colleagues – again, in contrast to the situation with proprietary software, which regards such generosity as copyright infringement.

This is particularly important for children and students, since it removes - at least in part - proprietary software's discrimination against those in lower-income groups who cannot afford the often considerable end-user costs of high-profit products such as Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office.

I apologise for the short deadline – the existence of this declaration has only come to my attention now. Nonetheless, I would urge you to support it, since it has the potential to bring benefits to millions across Europe at all levels.

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