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

[ Thanks to Jean-Yves
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

“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

“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this data is no longer maintained by its vendor.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

“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


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

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


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