October 24, 2002

"Geek activism" forces Congress to reconsider Open Source

- By Robin "Roblimo" Miller -
Many Open Source activists first heard of a move by some Members of the U.S. Congress to decide which software licenses are and are not allowed for release of government-sponsored software from this NewsVac post, although Danese Cooper of Sun Microsystems says she and other IT industry government-watchers had heard "as long as six weeks ago" that Open Source controversy was brewing in some Congressional offices.

The original letter had no anti-GPL language in it. As this AP story at Washingtonpost.com explains, that language was added by a Representative from Washington State whose largest campaign donation source is Microsoft Corporation.

The NewsVac post, and variants of it, were rapidly reposted and reported on as far away as Australia.

There was also a short-lived discussion of the matter on the Free Software Business email list that petered out after this message from Danese, which said, in part:

"Congressman Adam Smith's staff contacted Open Source Public Policy
advocates
around 6:00pm EDT to say they were flooded by calls from reporters about
the
letter that sparked this thread. Many staffers of the 67 Congressman who
signed
are now claiming they didn't know what they were signing and the letter
is being
withdrawn.

"Chalk one up for our side!"

Danese says, "Sun's position is that Open Source is good, that we like to see Open Source in use extensively, and it doesn't make sense to exclude one license or another." She also says that over the last few days, "Sun got avalanched with info requests" about Open Source, not only because of the Congressional letter but also because she and many other corporate and individual Open Source advocates were in Washington, D.C., last week lobbying for more Open Source use in government.

Their efforts certainly have borne fruit.

"If they [Congress] weren't aware before that it was a controversial issue, they're certainly aware now," says Danese.

It seems that Congress has suddenly been made aware that, despite Microsoft's massive anti-GPL lobbying efforts, there are plenty of pro-GPL and pro-Open Source activists out there who have email accounts, fax machines, and telephones -- and enough sense to contact not only members of Congress, but influential reporters as well.

What's next? "I Believe in Open Source -- and I Vote!" bumper stickers?

I'd buy one. Wouldn't you?

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