For the first time in France, the Parliament votes a legislation that gives priority to Free Software
Paris, 9 July 2013. Press release.
The French Parliament just wrote into law the first instance of Free Software priority in a public service, by adopting the Bill on Higher Education and Research. April, after extensively contributing to the debate, especially welcomes this vote and congratulates Deputies and Senators for recognising the importance of Free Software in the Public Service for Higher Education, since it alone can ensure equal access to the future public service. April hopes that this first step will be followed by other legislation in favour of Free Software. It also thanks all the persons who mobilised and contacted the Parliament Members.
Following the Senate, whose vote was on 3 July 2013, the National Assembly adopted on 9 July 2013 the Bill on Higher Education and Research (in French), notably including Article 9 (previously Article 6) which gives priority to Free Software for digital services and educational resources provided by the Public Service for Higher Education.
Thus, Article 9 of the bill states:
II. – In the aforementioned Education Code, Article L. 123-4-1 is reinstated and reads as follows:
“Art. L. 123-4-1. – The Public Service for Higher Education provides digital services and educational resources to its users.
“Free Software is used as a priority.”
For the first time in France, a priority to Free Software has been enshrined in law.
“Free Software priority in the Public Service for Higher Education is a first step and, hopefully, will be followed by the establishment of a real public policy in favour of Free Software,” said Lionel Allorge, the President of April.
A similar provision had been introduced by the Senate in the bill about public school reorganisation, but an amendment, introduced by Education Minister, Vincent Peillon, was voted by the National Assembly and unfortunately took the wind out of the provision's sails. In that former instance, the Minister had raised so-called “legal difficulties”, in order to refuse legal status to Free Software priority. April had then sent to the Parliament Members and the Government an analysis of the legal validity of a legislative provision that gives priority to Free Software (PDF, 7 pages, in French).
“During the discussion of the bill on school reorganisation, the Government and MPs had clearly been manipulated by lobbies, which claimed that giving priority to Free Software was not possible. We welcome the positive move of the Government and MPs, who went back to rating general interest higher than the private interest of a few companies. Free Software is a way to make sure that everyone has access to information, and that students aren't just consumers of digital products,” said Jeanne Tadeusz, April's Public Affairs Officer.
“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, as a priority. We thank the Deputies and Senators for introducing legislation —the first one in France— that gives priority to Free Software,” said Frédéric Couchet, Executive Director of April.
The only thing the text is still awaiting is its enactment by the President of the Republic.
Pioneer of Free Software in France since 1996, April is a major player in the democratisation of Free Software and open standards, and their spread 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 and knowledge by private interests.
The organisation is non-profit and has over 4,000 members who use or produce Free Software.