Linux Access in State and Local Government, Part I
Oregon became the first state government to see a bill progress to a legislative committee. Rep. Phil Barnhart submitted HB 2892 on March 5, 2003, which required the state government to consider using open-source software when acquiring new software.
The Oregon hearing gave open-source proponents in other states an opportunity to grasp the opposition's strategy. Their strategy began with attempts to convince a state committee that an open-source bill provides preferential legislation. They assert that such legislation tilts the playing field.
This theme persisted in both Oregon and Texas. Each opponent asserted the playing field was level and open-source legislation would introduce unfairness into the procurement process. They asserted “no law exists to prevent the state from acquiring open-source software now” and no law is needed to enable them to do so.
In the Oregon hearing the proponents testified first, followed by the opposition. In Texas, the proponents and opposition rotated. The Oregon sponsors, led by Ken Barber, did not have the opportunity to rebut the opposition. The Oregon sponsors felt they were at a disadvantage not knowing how the opposition would testify.
In Oregon, three industry groups and the state's Department of Information Services testified against the bill. The industry groups included the Business Software Alliance, Initiative for Software Choice and American Electronics Association (AeA), a powerful high-tech lobbyist group that testified for only one of its members. In Texas, the same people came to play, as did the Association for Competitive Technology and Intel.
One might ask, “Who are these lobbyists?”, so let's take a closer look. The first four suggest they represent software companies. The last opposition party manufactures chips and software for Linux.
Better known as the BSA, this firm is the most formidable opponent of open-source software of which I know. BSA employs many former members of Preston, Gates & Ellis (PG&E), a practice specializing in intellectual property law. Many registered lobbyists in Washington DC work for PG&E and represent Microsoft and the BSA.
In reviewing registered lobbyists in Washington DC, we found employees of PG&E and BSA practicing in the area. They refer to themselves as the foremost organization dedicated to promoting a safe and legal on-line world. BSA also claims to be the voice of the world's commercial software industry before governments and the global market. The BSA employs highly dedicated and capable people. They believe in their cause and have a track record for getting the job done. Consider BSA to be of the highest professional caliber and experts in copyright law.
In August 2002, Microsoft became a member of the Initiative for Software Choice. The ISC has close associations with the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) based in Washington DC. The ISC supports four principles: software should be procured on its merits, the promotion of government funded research, the promotion of interoperability through platform-neutral standards and the maintenance of strong intellectual property protections.
In August 2002, the organization reported it opposed legislation in four countries—Israel, Portugal, Colombia and the Ukraine—that require the use of open-source software in state institutions. I guess they read that Texas was once a country and decided to show up at the hearing.
Sixty-year-old AeA primarily involves itself in Government affairs. This group has a large membership and maintains significant clout in Congress and in state and local governments. It contends that it influences federal legislation and regulations. AeA tracks state legislation and regulations with a direct bottom line impact in 14 states. Ken Barber wrote that AeA ultimately killed the Oregon bill and maintains a significant influence on the Oregon Speaker of the House. We also read that in Oregon, AeA represented only one of its members.
Founded in 1998, ACT represents industry members in computer software, hardware, consulting and the Internet. ACT says it prefers market-driven solutions over regulated ones, so it targets any attempt at government involvement. ACT holds an opposition to any law that would favor any software, regardless of the reasons.
ACT officially states that market forces drive the success of the IT industry. It also officially states that government intervention is uninformed. I believe it means to say that government officials who intervene in market forces are uninformed. ACT believes governments threaten to stifle innovation and competition. Perhaps it forgot to include economics 101 in its curriculum in college or missed the part about monopolies and free trade.
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