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02 August 2011, 12:18

Swiss proprietary companies block government open source release

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Reports from Switzerland say that proprietary software companies are complaining about government plans to release open source solutions it has developed on the grounds of cross subsidy. A report from OSOR.EU says the issue emerged early in July as the IT department of the Swiss federal court was planning to release OpenJustitia.

In 2007, the Swiss federal court began development of its own internal document management system, OpenJustitia, designed to make it more efficient to search through court decisions. In 2009, the court's IT department announced it would release the system as open source under the GPLv3. This summer, it was expected that OpenJustitia would be released to allow other courts to make use of it.

But in a surprising intervention, proprietary software makers have called for the release to be delayed, claiming that the state is interfering in the market. The chairman of Swiss ICT, an IT trade group, said it was "incomprehensible that a state institution interferes in a market where several competitors are active", claiming that the release of the software would be concealing cross subsidy. Swiss ICT says it has made representations to prevent what it sees as the federal court acting as a competitor.

The chairman of Swiss ICT is Thomas Flatt, also CEO of Abraxas; Abraxas is one of the four companies named in a statementPDFGerman language link from the Swiss federal court as makers of software applications for courts. The other companies mentioned are Delta Logic, Weblaw and Eurospider. The federal court points out in the statement that all the companies have equal access to the code and can use it to develop their own applications and that they do not charge for it.

The issue has now moved to the Swiss parliament and the public accounts committee, to which the federal court is accountable, where the issue is expected to be clarified. There is already a proposalGerman language link in the Swiss parliament to encourage the government to release software it develops as open source.


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