Battle Ensues Over Open Standards in EU Rules

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While the European Commission has said the EIF will create interoperable standards to empower businesses and citizens and give them better access to information, lobby groups now are loudly arguing about the role of open standards in the framework.

Last week a letter from the Business Software Alliance (BSA) to the Commission was leaked. Now, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has hit back saying that the BSA is pressuring the Commission to "remove the last vestiges of support for open standards from the interoperability recommendations." The BSA represents such software giants as Microsoft, SAP, IBM, Dell and HP.

Reportedly, the draft document reads: "Because of their positive effect on interoperability, the use of [...] open specifications [...] has been promoted in many policy statements and is encouraged for European public service delivery."

The BSA claims this shows the EIF is biased in of favor patent- and royalty-free technologies, saying that in its current form, the EIF will encourage companies to give away their patents if they want to win public sector contracts.

However, the European Committee for Interopable Systems (ECIS) hit back at these claims and said the EIF does not undermine patent rights or force governments to procure intellectual property-free software. ECIS members include IBM, Nokia, Oracle and Red Hat. Another lobby group, Open Forum Europe, is also urging the Commission to resist efforts to "water down" the section on open standards.

When she was Competition Commissioner in 2008, current Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes championed the use of open standards in the belief that it would save public money.

Unlike other E.U. rules, the EIF is not subject to the approval of the European Parliament or member states. The Commission has pledged to adopt it before the end of the year.

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