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25 August 2011, 12:09

More confusion over Romania's position on open source

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Fresh doubts have been cast over the Romanian government's position with regard to open source. The minister for Communication and Information Society, Valerian Vreme, announced back in May that the government would recommend open source "wherever appropriate"; however, a tender from the government emerged in August that specifically prohibited the use of open source software in any offer made in response. Now, a report from OSOR.EU quotes several authoritative sources doubting the validity of the prohibition and whether "it would stand in court".

The August tender concerned the development of an "Information System of Romanian Criminal Records (Rocris)"; this is in response to the EU initiative for the development of a European-level interoperable system, enabling the exchange of information on criminals' previous convictions. The Romanian ministry maintained that it was this interoperability requirement that had forced it to ban the use of software published under a free software licence. It also stated that its own internal security policies "prohibit the existence of the possibility to amend the source code".

It is that latter comment that may well have attracted the attention of Patrice-Emmanual Schmitz, a Brussels-based specialist on the European Union's open source licence (the EUPL), quoted in the OSOR report. Schmitz stated that "The ministry's ban may reflect a lack of understanding of open source ... It is a very surprising prohibition." Schmitz explains that the ministry may hold the view that open source in itself constitutes a security risk to sensitive information, and that: "If this is the case, it reflects a lack of perception of the real risk."

OSOR also quotes Mathieu Paapst, an open source and software procurement specialist at the Dutch university of Groningen. He concludes that the open source ban contravenes the European procurement directive. Also quoted is the European Commission's Directorate General for the Internal Market: "(The ban) will have the effect excluding from competition economic operators whose software solutions are based on such public licences. Such limitation may create an unjustified obstacle to the opening up to competition."

OSOR concludes by stating that the Romanian ministry had not yet responded to questions seeking clarification.

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