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BSA in open (standards) revolt

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The BSA has called on the European Commission to relax its requirement for open standards in its projects to make government services available to citizens online.

In an open letter to the Commission, Benoit Müller, the Business Software Alliance's European policy director, said that the EC's insistence on open standards would rule out the use of many widely accepted technologies, such as DHCP, and GSM mobile technologies.

The ECs guidelines on the use of open standards are clear. It says "to attain interoperability in the context of pan-European eGovernment services, guidance needs to focus on open standards".

The Commission laid out its guidelines for the use of open standards in the framework document European Interoperability Framework for Pan-European eGovernment Services. This is a guide to which member states can refer for guidance on how to implement e-government services.

The EC's defining characteristics of an open standard are that it is adopted and maintained by a non-profit organisation; that it has been published and the specs are publicly available and that any intellectual property in the standard is available, irrevocably, on a royalty free basis.

It is this last item that is the biggest stumbling block for the BSA.

"We are concerned that by defining open standards in this way, the Commission will actually exclude many standards essential to achieving interoperability, and the initiative will prove to be counterproductive," Müller told eWEEK.com. "We'd like it to be revised to be in line with reality - with the practices of the major standards organizations."

He also argued that a distinction needed to be drawn between open standards and open source: "It is a false assertion to say open standards must be implemented in open source," he said.®

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