Using information gathered from the OSOR.
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Our analysis suggests that, to evaluate in a meaningful way rationales, motivations and consequences of such public interventions, one has to properly distinguish between the various roles played by policy makers and the different categories of software involved. The last work programme of the IDABC the Interoperable Delivery of pan-European eGovernment services to public Administrations, Business and Citizens places considerable emphasis on the actions that should be taken by public administrations to promote open source software and open standards 1 , which are seen as two key drivers in pursuing the general objective of giving all citizens the opportunity to participate in the global information society.
Governments not only set the legal and regulatory framework where economic agents interact, but are also themselves major buyers of software products 2. With this double role, governments are key players in determining the future evolution of the software market and it is therefore of crucial interest to understand both the motivations and the effects of public interventions in this sector. Rather than focusing on any specific case study, we have collected information from the Open Source Observatory and Repository for European public administrations OSOR.
We draw some general considerations on the motivations and the characteristics of government interventions implemented across the EU. The first subsection provides a general overview of the arguments that have been proposed to justify public support. In the second subsection we look at this issue from the perspective of the non-interventionists.
It has to be noted that the participation in this discussion is not only multi-disciplinary but has also benefited by the contribution of many open source and closed source advocates and practitioners. Such views, while fruitfully fueling the debate, have in some cases blurred the line between positive and normative perspectives on the topic.
In what follows we will try as much as possible to stick to the latter approach in reporting the different opinions.
Cost-efficiency is the second most common justification for public interventions. This second argument is particularly relevant if one considers software not only as an intangible asset that generates maintenance costs during its lifetime, but also as an instrument to store data, such as documents or databases.
This argument is reinforced by the findings of a recent series of theoretical and empirical contributions that have stressed the importance of innovations obtained in a more open context where intellectual property rights are weak, or are not enforced by companies Chesbrough, ; Boldrin and Levine, In particular, Bessen and Maskin show that the pace of technological growth in industries where innovation is cumulative might be significantly enhanced when the protection granted by patents is limited.
Public intervention in the software market is not justifiable also from a broader perspective: focusing on proprietary software, many authors claim that there is no clear evidence of significant failures in the software market and, consequently, there is no urge for regulations in this direction.
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In particular, various authors are making strong arguments against the current system of protection of intellectual property rights. A long series of decisions taken by US courts during the last twenty years has extended to software the patent protection system and has made it easier for applicants to obtain patents even for obvious inventions. Bessen and Hunt provide an empirical support to this view: according to their econometric analysis, the strategic accumulation of patent thickets seems to be the most convincing explanation for the large increase of software patenting in the USA.
In particular, closed source software companies may be prevented from adopting and developing complementary applications for software distributed under GLP-like licensing schemes. Lessig suggests that governments should employ a non-discriminatory approach: publicly funded code should be released in the public domain or employing non-restrictive open source licenses such as BSD-like ones. On the contrary, we believe that, in order to judge correctly rationales, motivations and consequences of public interventions, it is important to distinguish between the various roles played by policy makers and the various categories of software involved.
Our claim is that many existing contributions in the literature have based their arguments without properly taking into account such distinctions. On the one side, being big spenders for packaged software licenses and custom software solutions, their adoption behavior represents a significant share of the demand in many segments of the market, thus having a major impact on market outcomes. These policies are usually aimed at promoting compatibility and interoperability between different software platforms, thus creating a level-playing field between different competitors.
This kind of intervention clearly affects the efficiency of the market and therefore it suggests a regulatory intention of the proponents.
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Software is not a commodity and the industry is extremely heterogeneous: indeed, the vast majority of software is either self-developed or custom while packaged software represents a minor share of the market The structure, the players and the dynamics of mass-market and custom segments of the software industry are very different as well as different are likely to be the effects induced by the various public interventions. Ghosh et al.
Other contributions enlarge the scope of investigation, by explicitly taking into account also regulatory policies, but limiting the focus at the national level. This information is gathered by using different sources. For each intervention a brief abstract and, usually, a series of official documents and press releases describing the content and the nature of the policy are available.
Moreover within the OSOR. To our knowledge, OSOR. We started from the full set of news entries, out of which we selected interventions, distributed across 29 European countries all the 27 EU members, with the exception of Cyprus, plus Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. We discarded those entries that were not clearly recognisable as public interventions, such as informal statements of support by public officers or other initiatives by advocacy groups or industry representatives.
Moreover, we excluded from the sample law proposals both the failed ones and those which were not yet converted in bills at the moment of the dataset collection. To select the relevant sample of public interventions, as well for the subsequent phase of coding, two authors screened independently all the OSOR. The accordance rate was higher than 90 per cent and discrepancies in the sample selection or in the coding phase were later solved via face-to-face sessions involving all the three authors.
In the tables we have grouped policies according to:. We distinguish among local taken by municipalities or regional governments , national national governments or authorities , and supranational level when involving more than one country ;. Table 1: Shows the total number of interventions undertaken by the different countries in our sample Number of public policies — distribution across countries. EU Source: our elaboration from the OSOR.
Table 2: public policies classified in terms of type of intervention. Table 3: public policies classified in terms of type of software. From Table 4 some interesting observations can be drawn: a large share of adoption policies 60 out of are aimed at mandating the adoption of packaged software while development policies mostly focus on customized software 29 out of Table 4: public policies classified in terms of type of intervention and type of software.
Interestingly, while at the local level, the preferred type of intervention is adoption 69 out of , at national level both advisory and adoption policies seem to be equally important 36 and 45 out of respectively. This is not surprising once considered that central governments often provide guidelines for action, while at the local level administrations focus more on operative decisions. Supranational interventions account only for a small fraction of the whole sample and are naturally oriented towards advisory policies 10 out of Table 5: policies classified in terms of type of intervention and administrative level.
At the table suggests that local governments are more active towards packaged software while national governments show interest for all the different types of software, although there a is slight preference towards generic interventions. The large part of the supranational interventions are generic as well, as one should expect. Table 6: policies classified in terms of software type and decisional level. In order to eliminate from our sample the distortions due to different country size and to different number of local authorities, we consider only interventions taken at the national level Table 7: interventions at national level, e-government diffusion and software goods trade balance.
Source: our elaboration on OSOR. Obviously, this empirical observation does not say anything about the causal relationship between the two measures and should be interpreted cautiously. Countries with a trade ratio larger smaller than 1 are net exporters importers of software goods: this ratio proxies the presence of a more or less developed domestic software industry.
As shown in the table, we find a negative correlation, although of little magnitude, between the two measures. This online platform is aimed at promoting the collaboration between programmers developing software projects intended for public administrations. Naturally, the visibility provided by the platform facilitates software reuse and re-distribution as well as the creation of an active community around a project. The OSOR. Table 8 provides some interesting statistics about the characteristics of the projects hosted in the Forge.
Table 8: characteristics of the projects hosted on the OSOR. Indeed, 71 per cent of the projects is considered at an advanced stage of development This observation is reinforced by the large number of downloads: , with twelve projects that have been downloaded more than one thousand times each. The limited available figures on the Forge activity make less clear to what extent this platform is also able to stimulate collaborative development on new projects, and further inquiries will probably be needed to measure this phenomenon However, a significant share of projects is released according to the European Public License EUPL , a licensing scheme that has been approved by the European Commission in January According to several commentators, despite being similar to the GPL, the EUPL is preferable since it has been specifically created to be compatible with the European jurisdictions and it is available in all the EU languages Mais de moins en moins.
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Celle-ci est-elle en train de changer? PB: Oui, nettement. Et ce n'est pas fini. BL: Le manque d'information En fait il s'agit surtout d'illusions, de craintes irrationnelles cf. BL: Correction : nous parlons logiciels libres : c. L'assistance, c'est du service, du travail humain, et cela se paie.
Il primait essentiellement l'excellente assistance offerte sur l'Internet. BL: L'assistance sur l'Internet est gratuite web, forums, listes de diffusion. BL: Envoyez-le moi Il est notoire que toutes les innovations importantes que l'ont retrouve maintenant sur les UNIX modernes sont issues du la version BSD. Et Linux, dans bien des domaines, est maintenant le moteur principal de ces innovations.