The French government refuses to give priority to Free Software in the future "Public Service for Digital Education"
June 4th, 2013. UPDATE: the amendment was adopted by the French National Assembly. The debate will continue in the Senate.
For French people : please read also our call for action (in French)
Paris, May 31st, 2013. Press release.
The Senate, at first reading, and National Assembly commission of Cultural Affairs and Education, at second reading, voted for a provision giving priority to Free Software and open formats in the future "Public Service for Digital Education." Regrettably, the government, yielding, without any doubt, to pressure from Afdel and Syntec Numérique, has just filed an amendment neutralizing this provision.
Article 10 is about the future "Public Service for Digital Education" and its subparagraph 7, in version of the bill presented at second reading a the National Assembly reads thus:
"This Public Service prioritizes the use of Free Software and open document formats."
The bill returned to the National Assembly this week. The commission on cultural affairs and education met on Wednesday, May 29th. It confirmed article 10; however, during discussions the rapporteur, Yves Durand, stated that the bill would be debated in a public session. The meeting minutes:
Mr Rapporteur. This elaboration is not useful. The debate over the possibility of writing into the law language promoting of the use of Free Software already took place in the context of the present bill and also in the context of the bill on higher learning and research. We will revisit this in [public] session.
And what eventually appeared in the amendments submitted for the public session? The Government's amendment n° 359 (in French).:
Amendment N° 359
Draw up subparagraph 7 as follows:
"In the context of this Public Service, determining the choice of resources used takes into consideration Free Software and open document formats on offer, if there are any."
The explanatory statement specifies in particular, " The objective of this amendment is to encourage the use of Free Software and of open document formats in the context of establishing the proposed 'Public Service for Digital Education', without going as far as to prioritize them, which could lead to legal difficulties. " The Government was clearly sensitive to the vehement objections of Syntec Numérique (their statement in French) and Afdel (their statment in French) (IT trade associations); in spite of the claims of these two organizations, however, the type of clause the Senate introduced is perfectly legal, and was, moreover, validated by the State Counsel in its September 30th, 2011, decision (French). On the contrary even, asking for Free Software specifically is a strong signal in favour of a "Public Service for Digital Education" that's open to all.
" Free Software is the digital incarnation of the French Republican motto, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity [Brotherhood]," and allows everyone to obtain knowledge and understanding. It is therefore essential that Free Software be integrated into our education system, in priority. We call upon the representatives to reject the amendment proposed by Vincent Peillon, " declared Frédéric Couchet, April's executive director.
The bill for the reorganization of public schools (in French, "refondation de l'école de la République") will be discussed in public session on or after June 3rd, 2013.
Pioneer of Free Software in France, April is since 1996 a major player in the democratisation and the spread of Free Software and open standards to the general public, professionals and institutions in the French-speaking world. In the digital era that is ours, it also aims to inform the public on the dangers of an exclusive appropriation of information an knowledge by private interests.
The association has over 5,000 members, using or producing Free Software.
English translation done by : jason, Jeanne, Thibz, echarp, janchou.