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<html newsdate="2014-07-02">
<title>Bundestag election: The parties' positions on Free Software</title>
<h1>Bundestag election: The parties' positions on Free Software</h1>
<p newsteaser="yes">
Today, the Free Software Foundation Europe publishes its
Free Software related "Wahlprüfsteine" for the Bundestag election on
September 22, 2013. All parties listed therein have taken a stand on the
questions. These questions covered topics like the necessity to publish
publicly funded software under a Free license, the ElsterFormular
software, control over mobile devices, Secure Boot, royalty-free licensing
of standards, advertisement for proprietary software on websites of the
public administration and software patents.
<!-- Gollo: This sentence is much too long (in German *and* English) -->
Fortunately, the parties have clearly improved their knowledge about Free
Software since the preceding elections.
Below you find a summary and an evaluation of the <strong><a
answers</a></strong> done by FSFE. In addition, FSFE encourages Free
Software activists to use these questions as an inspiration for their own
questions to candidates on federal and local level.
First, something pleasant: SPD, the Greens, the Pirate party, the Linke and
the Free voters want software ordered by the public administration to be
published under a free licence. The SPD states that "publicly funded software
should be available to the general public as far as possible". The Greens
demand the publication as Free Software in their manifesto (see <a
overview on the election and party manifestos in Germany</a> (German)) and in
their answer, they justify this demand with benefits such as "bigger and more
sustainable innovation potentials, broadening of competence in handling
software, but also security-related advantages". They continually criticise
the regression away from Free Software in the Foreign Office. The Pirates and
the Linke both advocate a general publication of all contents funded by the
state. The FDP does not directly address the question, but generally claims to
"consider both proprietary and Free software" in public procurement.
The CDU however spots "budget law restrictions" for the publication and
advancement of Free Software by the public administration. In their answer,
they refer to a paragraph in the Bundeshaushaltsordnung (BHO § 63 para. 2).
The federal government however states the following in its accompanying legal
document to the <a
guidelines (German)</a>: This paragraph "does not constitute a limitation for
the dissemination of software" (p. 41) and "in the practically most important
case, the further development of GPL licences software, a public authority can
share its own development portions to private parties without levy of licence
fees" (p. 43). In contrast, the guidelines see a problem in the free of charge
propagation to private parties for development of new software or continuing
development of non-copyleft software. It is incomprehensible why the CDU did
not improve the BHO in eight years of government participation if they see
this as a problem. Furthermore, the CDU/CSU state that in every single case,
it should be checked "if obvious modifications of the software would allow it
to be used for illegal purposes" and if this was the case, the software should
not be published.
The <a href="">retention of the
Elsterformular software (German)</a> encounters a lack of understanding,
regret and criticism among the parties. The FDP points to the platform
independence of the upcoming version of Elsteronline, which will not need Java
to run. Still, they regret that the Elsterformular is not available in a
platform independent way. The Free voters perceive the given platform
dependency as incomprehensible in view of system security. The fixation to a
single operating system development company is unacceptable for the SPD and
they want to engage to "make according software available for alternative
operating systems as well". The Greens want to advocate the possibility to use
the Elsterformular for users of Free operating systems. Distinct criticism is
passed by the Linke: "The provision of the Elster-Formular solely for
Microsoft Windows and the retention of GNU-Linux and Mac OS X versions by the
Bayerisches Landesamt für Steuern which is in charge of the development is not
acceptable." The Pirates furthermore demand the publication of the software
and its documentation under a Free licence – even if it was of bad quality –
to allow others to further develop the software.
All parties agree that public authorities should demand all usage rights
(access to the source code, the right for further developments (also by third
parties), the right to distribute the software to others) when placing an
order for software development. The FDP states: "This creates independence
from the producer, planning reliability and freedom of choice when selecting a
service provider." SPD and the Greens mainly justify their demands from an IT
security point of view. According to the Linke, the state "should ensure its
power of disposition and use it in the common interest". The CDU wants to
"attach special importance to the consideration of the possibility of further
development of the software from the beginning" in the future. <!-- Gollo:
Please improve this sentence --> The Pirates and the Greens point to the fact
that governmental usage rights are a necessary condition to publish software
of the public administration under a Free licence as demanded by the parties.
The Free voters state that they will consider fines for officials and
employees who sign contracts without these usage rights.
Asked about the control over mobile devices, the parties mainly focus on
aspects of data protection. The SPD sees "challenges especially regarding the
right of informational self-determination". The Greens, Linke, Pirates and SPD
demand data protection-friendly technology as a basic adjustment ("Data
protection by technology"), while CDU/CSU, FDP and the Free voters target a
better education of citizens. However, the parties do not answer the question
about the rights the users should have on the software on these devices – a
question that for example is asked by FSFE's <a
href="/campaigns/android/android.html"> campaign</a>.
<p>On the subject <a
Boot"</a> all parties are in agreement: the <a
href="/news/2012/news-20121120-01.html">key issue paper of the federal government</a> contains important claims which they want to support and implement. "With the implementation of Secure Boot the owners of IT devices get limited in the possibility to entirely control contents and applications", so writes the Linke to the problem description. FDP wants to "assure that users can make an informed decision about their devices" and CDU wants to pursue the work on this issue on national and international level. In their detailed answer the Pirates write: "Systems which hinder the user to install specific software are on economic-political ground not acceptable. This inevitably leads to promotion of oligopolies or monopolies in the software market. But more important is the socio-political relevance of control over IT systems [....]". The Greens doubt how the federal government will implement the key issue paper "with the extensive bonds to Microsoft services" and SPD demands an "initiative on European level [...] to let these targets not only be a political declaration of intention, but to really stick to them."</p>
<p>Except for CDU and Free voters, all parties explicitly support the fee-less licensing of standards. The Greens point to their demand in the <a
href="">Enquete Kommission
"Internet und Digitale Gesellschaft" (EIDG, commission of inquiry in internet and digital society)</a> where they want to place the public administration under an obligation to bring forward interoperability and sustainability of their IT systems "to be independent from interests of single market participants at the further development of the systems." Criticism of SAGA comes from the Linke and Pirates. The Linke see in the specifications without restrictions and licence fees no automatism for increased implementation of Free Software. "On this, active political will and proactive acting of federal government is required", so the Linke. The Pirates criticise that ODF in SAGA is only a recommended format what results to the fact "that non-free software and closed formats can still be used in administrative practice." By this, SAGA decays to a "paper tiger".</p>
<p>Unfortunately the CDU sees no problem in <a
href="/campaigns/pdfreaders/pdfreaders.html">advertisement on public administration's websites</a> for non-free software as long as it serves usability. The other parties reject this kind of advertisements and want to prevent those in future. The Greens refer in their answer to their request "Advertisement for proprietary software on websites of federal ministries and public administration" (printed matter 17/8951) in which they picked up on this issue, and to the following discussion of this subject in the IT planning council. The Free voters offered their help for solutions on municipal level.</p>
<p>The long-standing work against software patents shows effects: By now all parties on federal level agree on the issue software patents that patenting of software should be limited effectively. To this they refer to the <a href="/news/2013/news-20130612-01.html">inter-fractional request "save competition and dynamic of innovation in software sector - limit patenting of computer programs effectively"</a>.</p>
The CDU/CSU is generally in favour of using "Serious Games", i.e. learning
games with the primary goal of imparting knowledge in an entertaining way, in
schools and universities and thinks about releasing those games under a Free
licence. The FDP also has intentions in the education sector; They want to get
more children into programming and "take care that newly acquired learning
aids can be used platform independently". The Free voters want to further Free
Software in the communal sector. The Greens especially demand a consistent
procurement practice for software funded by the public, continue to criticise
regression like for example in the <a
href="/news/2011/news-20110511-01.html">Foreign Office</a> and want to serve
as a good example by releasing their own software ("betatext"). The Linke sees
Free Software in the context of common property economics and thinks about
ways of funding, e.g. using parts of the broadcasting fees. The SPD wants to
primarily further Free Software in the administration and as already demanded
during the <strong>FIXME</strong>Sondervoten in der EIDG<strong>FIXME</strong>
"provide subsidies for usability analysis and the improvement of user
friendliness of selected projects".
<li><a href="/campaigns/askyourcandidates/askyourcandidates.html"> More
election interviews</a> done by Free Software Foundation Europe and <a
href="/campaigns/btw09/btw09.html"> publications about the last Bundestag
<li>References to Free Software in <a
and party manifestos in Germany (German)</a>.</li>
<tag>public administration</tag>
<translator>Martin Gollowitzer</translator>
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