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French senators propose making open source compulsory

Law proposes elimination of proprietary software use by state

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French senators Pierre Laffitte and René Trégouët are proposing that national and local government and administrative systems should only use open source software. Arguing in favour of their proposed law number 495, they say ease of communication and free access by citizens to information can only be achieved if the administration is not dependent on the goodwill of the publishers of the software. "Open systems whose evolution can be guaranteed via the free availability of source code are needed," they say. The two senators have set up a discussion forum for the proposed law at the French Senate Web site, and put forward the text, and their own explanation of why the move is needed. They see the Internet as becoming the primary way for government and citizens to communicate, and propose a period of transition prior to a switchover to wholly electronic communications. According to Article 3 of law 495, "State administration, local government and administrative services... can only use software free of [IP] rights and whose source code is available. A decree will fix the terms of transition from the current situation." In addition, the senators see the switch to open source by the state as providing the engine to drive a far broader movement. Private companies dealing with the state, in bidding for contracts, for example, will tend to switch to open source to make it easier to do so electronically, while those who supply the state with computer systems will have to redouble their open source efforts. Impressively, neither Windows nor Linux is mentioned in their proposed law and its supporting documentation, but it's pretty clear what the effect will be if it passes. Time for another Bill Gates visit to Lionel Jospin and Jacques Chirac, we fear. We're not sure what law 495's chances are, but perhaps a French reader can help us out with some further information. And while they're about it, could they explain to us why it's only number 495? Whenever we've been in France we've got the impression that there are a hell of a lot more than just 494 laws... ® Update: Thanks to all the French readers who've contacted us with explanations (in the plural, unfortunately) for the legal situation. We're inclined to go for it being a number for a "proposition de loi" rather than for a specific law. Alternative explanations are that it's the number of laws proposed by the senate, or the number proposed this year, and so on. But all French readers confirm France has a lot more than 495 laws. Now, could one of you explain the law governing the closed season for hedge-clipping?

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