The 'open source' lobby myth

Given the pressure being mounted against the UK Government position on open standards, I'm expecting more lobbyist action over the next few weeks.

So, I thought I'd better start by dispelling some of the myths and the first one is about the 'open source' lobby. Whether those myths are deliberate or just misunderstandings is not of my concern.

I'll use the following article about open standards as an example. It does includes a call for everyone to get involved which I completely support. However, it also talks about :-

(See http://www.publictechnology.net/sector/analyst-note-why-arent-we-passionate-about-open-standards)

‘open’ lobbyists who seem to think that everything commercial companies say is immediately, and irretrievably corrupted by the forces of capitalism

This is reinforced in the comments with the following :-

I get very concerned at the zealot like approach by self interested open source solution providers

First, let's make a couple of things clear. As I said in my Forbes article, there are two extremes in this debate.

(see http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/04/17/ignore-the-extremists-in-software-standards-wars/ ).

The two extremes are :-

1. The incumbent lobby who believes in maintaining a monopolist position with encumbered standards (such as FRAND).

2. A no IPR brigade who believe in no forms of IPR (intellectual property rights) in software.

Whilst the former is well funded, the latter are relatively rare and generally ignored. They do occasionally turn up - we had one at Cloud Camp - but their voices are minor and certainly don't represent any form of organised lobby.

Now, the Government Policy on open standards occupies a reasonable middle ground. It provides a preference for open standards (as in royalty free) to create a level playing field and a competitive market. It does not mandate open standards nor does it say anything on how solutions should be implemented (either open source or proprietary is acceptable).

The majority of open source providers are not only commercial companies (RedHat, Canonical etc) but strongly believe in free market capitalism and competition. They thrive on the stuff.

They also believe in IPR, hence we have an abundance of licensing in the open source world (e.g. Apache, GPL etc).

The majority of open source providers that I've spoken to are firmly with the UK Government in its attempts to create a competitive marketplace. The 'open' lobby is supportive of this reasonable position, it's pro competition, pro IPR (such as copyright) and pro open standards.

So, the myths I want to dispel are :-

1. Open source providers aren't commercial companies. That's clearly nonsense (e.g. RedHat, Canonical)

2. Open source providers don't believe in IPR. They clearly do (e.g. Apache, GPL and other copyright licenses).

3. Open source providers are zealots. They do operate on principles of free markets and competition and are with the UK Government on this. So, unless zealotry is defined as a belief in competition over incumbent monopoly, you're on thin ice here.

4. UK Government policy on open standards mandates the use of open standards and open source. It does no such thing, it provides a preference for open standards over encumbered standards (such as FRAND) and it says nothing over how solutions are to be implemented.

If you are a capitalist at heart who is for competition, consumer choice, competitive free markets and the development of future UK technology scene then you really need to get involved and support the UK Government consultation on open standards to ensure we get this.

If you believe that both open source and proprietary companies should be able to compete in a free market which is not encumbered by standards that support one party over another - then doubly so.

If you believe that consumers should have choice and be able to switch between providers more easily - then what are you waiting for?

Those monopolists (in my book a form of anti-capitalism) and self interested incumbents are certainly going to make their voices heard through lobbying and it won't be in the interests of a free market.

Get involved -> http://consultation.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/openstandards/
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