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BSA slams EC's 'narrow-minded' interoperability vision

EIF 2.0 draft ruffles some proprietary software feathers

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An open standards row is brewing between the EC and a lobbying group for software multinationals over a proposed European framework on interoperability – a draft of which is due to be published on 15 July.

The Interoperable Delivery of European e-government Services to Public Administrations, Businesses and Citizens (IDABC) arm of the European Commission presented an outline of version two of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) at a meeting in Brussels last week.

The main crux of the new framework according to the presentation, which can be viewed here (pdf), is that European governments, firms and users should “be prepared and volunteer to share and reuse,” and “adopt open standards and specifications”.

However, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) has slammed the EC for continuing to tout what it sees as “narrowly defined open standards” in its fight to achieve interoperability among government IT departments.

Interestingly, the BSA and other industry players, including the Association for Competitive Technology, have lit the fuse ahead of a copy of the EIF 2.0 draft being made available.

BSA’s European software policy director Benoit Müller told The Register that despite years of lobbying from the group, which represents the likes of proprietary software pushers Microsoft et al, the Commission has missed a trick with its reworking of the EIF.

The letting go

“Our concern is that they [IDABC] will still insist on standards that have no intellectual property [IP] rights and they will not revise the definition of an open standard as contained in EIF version one,” he said.

“They define open standards inconsistent with the common understanding of the term in what we believe is a dogmatic approach. It fails to recognise that almost all standards that help interoperability and that governments should indeed use to promote the very objectives of the EIF do have intellectual property.”

Müller argued that such a “narrow-minded” view would stymie Europe’s competitiveness because it overlooks what he described as the “beneficial roles of IP within standardisation.”

We put those concerns about the draft interoperability framework to Karel De Vriendt at the IDABC, who told us that the BSA's interpretation of the forthcoming draft EIF was “factually incorrect”.

He said in an email: “We stressed the need for the evaluation of standards along many dimensions... one of them being openness and the possibility to implement the standard in open source software (which is of course only important if you value open source software)."

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