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French MPs propose open standards, access to source code & the right to develop compatible software

Apr 24, 2000, 17:31 (11 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jean-Yves Ledeaut)

[ Thanks to Jean-Yves Ledeaut for sending us this announcement: ]

"Paris, 4/21/2000 - Jean-Yves Le Déaut, Christian Paul & Pierre Cohen, 3 socialist French MPs belonging to the governmental majority, are proposing a law in order to "increase liberties and consumer protection, and improve economic competition in the information society". This law requires the use of open standards as well as software which source code is accessible in all public administrations and organisations. Moreover, this law guarantees the possibility for anyone to freely develop, publish and use compatible software, even in the case a patent or a trademark was filed for some communication standard."

"This law is based on 5 historical, juridical or constitutional principles: free access to public information, retrievability of public data, national security, consumer security and interoperability."

"The principle of free access to public information requires that whenever digital data is exchanged with citizens or between public administrations, the way this data is encoded and exchanged should not depend on the technology of a single vendor but rather use public encoding techniques and protocols, also known as open communication standards. Therefore, Article 1 states that "whenever exchanging digital information, public administrations, organisations and agencies are required to use open communication standards, based on public rules and processes to exchange digital data."

"The principle of retrievability of public data requires that digital data created and archived by public administrations should be retrievable in its original form at any point in time, even after 10 or 20 years, even if the software which was used to create this data is no longer maintained by its vendor. The only way to guarantee this is to use software which source code is available. Moreover, considering the recent advances of the Echelon digital intelligence system, access to the source code is also required for national security in order to ensure that software used by public administrations and organisations do not include security holes. Therefore, Article 2 states that "public administrations, organisations and agencies are required to use software which source code they can access."

"In order to raise the level of competition in the information society, this law guarantees the right to develop compatible software. This law protects commercial publishers of proprietary software and developer communities of free software against anticompetitive strategies by enforcing in a practical matter the interoperability principle introduced in the European software directive of 1991. Therefore, Article 3 states that "any individual or moral person has the right to develop, publish and use an original software which is compatible whith the communication standards of another software."

"More competition means more choice for the consumer, thus more security. And, as it has been proven lately, more competition from free software means more open standards and higher privacy because free software can be freely adapted, redistributed and modified to fit each customer's needs. As a consequence, this law tends to increase liberties and consumer protection in the information society."

"This law can be implemented immediately because most software publishers are ready to adopt open communication standards such as those defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Most publishers of proprietary software, including Microsoft, have also publicly stated that they are ready to grant the French administration access to the source code of their products."

"This law reminds that, in a market economy, States can play a significant role on the economy and preserve the public interest."


Constitution française -

Directive de 1991 sur le logiciel -

Application de l'Article 19 du code des marchés industriels -

Code de la propriété intellectuelle - Article L122-6-1 -

About Jean-Yves Le Déaut, PhD

Jean-Yves Le Déaut, 55, is a socialist member of parliament elected in the Meurthe-et-Moselle prefecture (Lorraine). He is the chairman and co-chairman of the Office of Technology Assessment. He is author of reports on nuclear energy, waste, geneticaly modified organism, AIDS and research policy. As a professor of University, he is national delegate for technologies at the French Socialist Party.

About Christian Paul

Chistian Paul, 40, has been a socialist member of parliament elected in the Nièvre prefecture (Bourgogne) from 1997. He is in charge of the research group on new information and communication technologies at the national parliament and organised the first French Days on Internet. He is national secretary for agriculture and rural development at the French Socialist Party.

About Pierre Cohen

Pierre Cohen , 40, has been a socialist member of parliament elected in the Haute Garonne prefecture (Midi Pyrénées) from 1997. He is responsible for research for the social group at the national parliament and, together with Jean-Yves Le Déaut, wrote a report on the French Research Policy which was provided in 1999 to the French Prime Minister.

Press Contact

Jean-Yves Le Déaut
Phone: 01 40 63 88 10
Email: jy@ledeaut.org