The Unpleasant Whiff of Lobbyists

In 2011, the UK Government Cabinet Office survey on open standards showed an overwhelming majority of the 970 'Chief Technology Officers (CTO), senior architects and academics were encouraged to see the Cabinet Office carrying out such an activity on open standards. There was support for the initiative and the efforts that were being put into driving forward open standards adoption in the UK Government'.

68% of respondents agreed with the statement that 'open standards have intellectual property made irrevocably available on a royalty free basis'.

[Those are direct quotes from the Gov paper on this subject
see http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/resources/20111124_OpenStandardsSurveyOutcome_FINAL.pdf]

From this feedback a definition for open standards was developed but for reasons which are not entirely clear to me (yet), the Cabinet Office is running another consultation on Open Standards. What's surprising here is the first roundtable discussion of this new consultation was apparently lightly attended and packed with a certain type of company.

At that discussion, the 'consensus was that the definition and proposed policy would be detrimental to competition and innovation and a mandatory list of open standards could in fact be a closed barrier.'

'The majority of the attendees considered that open standards, as defined in the policy, would close down the Government’s ability to benefit from an alternative standards development model and limit our choice – not least because they considered that the definition excludes standards that are made available on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms.'

[See http://digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/2012/04/12/are-open-standards-a-closed-barrier/]

OK, so lets be clear. In one year we've gone from overwhelming support in a wide survey for both the open standards definition and those open standards be royalty free to attendees of one roundtable arguing that such open standards could be detrimental to competition and innovation precisely because they're royalty free.

I have a reasonably good sense of smell for the influence of paid lobbyists. This smacks of an OOXML re-run.

If you're in the UK tech scene then wake up! In my honest opinion, this feels like of our Government being lobbied that royalty free Open Standards will hurt competition & innovation in the software world. Expect lots of mock academic research and claims that adopting open standards will cost tens if not hundred of millions ..

Get involved in the Cabinet Office consultation
See http://consultation.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/openstandards/

In my opinion, Our Government is being sold a pig in a poke by paid lobbyists chortling in their decafe macchiatos. It's time to start fighting for our society's interests.

Please share this widely but more importantly, get involved.

Update

OK, I've just come across Mark Ballard's Computer Weekly piece on the subject, which was posted today.

Apparently 'Software patent heavyweights piled into the first public meeting of the Cabinet Office consultation on open standards on 4 April, conquering the meeting ballot with a resounding call to scrap the government's policy on open standards'

Also apparently the reason why we need this other consultation is because 'patent lobby induced government to withdraw its open standards policy last year and put it to consultation'

So there we go. There's no probably about this ... the Government is being sold a pig in a poke by paid lobbyists hell bent on changing the initial consultation process to serve their own ends.


[See http://www.computerweekly.com/blogs/public-sector/2012/04/proprietary-lobby-triumphs-in.html]

If you're involved in the UK tech scene and you want to see the UK Gov taking a more representative approach to open source and open standards then spread awareness of what is going on here and get involved.

Apparently the next roundtable meeting is on the 19th April in Bristol and you can book your place on the consultation website.
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