WRITTEN QUESTION E-1218/08
by Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE)
to the Commission
Subject: Use of patented software standards within public administrations
The 'European ICT crossroads: A new direction for global success' conference organised by the Commission's DG Enterprise and Industry on 12 February 2008 could turn out to have been a decisive moment for communications and information in the EU. The idea contained in the conference's title, at least, should be a turning point. It also embodies the very essence of what could be seen as the ideal framework for a wide-ranging and open discussion – without pre-formed ideas – on defining a European strategy on communications, in the search for tools and systems, with a major potential for the future, that are and within the grasp of a greater number of citizens. However, a quick assessment of the discussion document reveals certain worrying features, indicative of a certain tendency towards standardisation by means of patents, which in practice involve the exclusion of free software which is available free of charge. The document clearly supports the (F)RAND option with regard to managing intellectual property rights, which in practice implies not only that a choice has been made beforehand, but furthermore that this choice favours a system which benefits, and is in the hands of, the large software developing companies, rather than users. The document actually explicitly states, several times, that it is impossible for the legislators to impose cost-free status under these circumstances. This means that the commitment to patented standards could run contrary to fundamental principles such as equality, particularly with regard to access to information, and could hamper the implementation of the manifest desire to encourage more effective communication with citizens, which is crucial to the objective of encouraging citizens to identify more closely with the institutions and with European integration. This being so,
Has the Commission taken into account the important, and still increasing weight of open-code software within the information society and the economy in Europe? Does the Commission not think that it is necessary thoroughly to revise the stances adopted in the discussion document, and launch the debate from a broader perspective? Does the Commission not think that the option proposed runs contrary to the Lisbon Strategy of turning the EU into the world's most competitive economy based on the knowledge society, in which development and guaranteed free access to information technology are decisive?