Want to handcuff a politician? Free software activists will help

Open standards advocates want to highlight the dangers of vendor tie-in

Free software activists are to send handcuffs to 100 European legislators to highlight concerns about vendor tie-in.

Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has asked the public to nominate politicians who could do more to promote open standards. The "lucky" 100 will receive information about open standards along with the handcuffs to promote Document Freedom Day.

In the European Union, an open standard is one that is publicly available with no fees for use. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute and use it freely. However, the definition varies from country to country. "Open Standards are a basic condition for freedom and choice in software; ensuring the freedom to access data and the freedom to build free software to read and write information," according to the FSFE.

Across the E.U., public IT procurement must comply with European Interoperability Framework which broadly promotes open standards. The United Kingdom is currently holding a public consultation on its open-standards policy. One element of the consultation, which ends on May 1, is to ensure that the U.K.'s policy is compatible with E.U. rules.

The policy currently requires that all government IT spending "must demonstrate compliance with open standards and compulsory open standards for software interoperability, data and document formats" or provide evidence why that is not possible.

FSFE recently held a successful campaign to stop governments and public bodies from promoting proprietary pdf readers on their websites, whether the handcuffs will have a similar impact remains to be seen.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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