In 2010, the German Parliament set up a commission of enquiry (“Enquete-Kommission”) on “Internet and Digital Society” that looks at future strategies in this field of policy (http://www.bundestag.de/internetenquete/Hintergrund_Enquete/). The idea behind such commissions, which have existed and exist in a number of other fields as well, is to collect and evaluate information about the impact of technical, economic and social developments in the relevant fields to provide the Parliament with recommendations for its further political decisions.
The Internet and Digital Society commission just recently turned to a topic of the highest importance for the use and development of digital technologies when it decided to form – among several others – a project group called “Interoperability, Standards, Open Source”.
In last week’s meeting the project group agreed on the general agenda for the rest of this year. Two expert hearings are scheduled for September. Also in September, the group will make a decision if the project group shall be renamed in “Interoperability, Standards, Free Software” in order to emphasize that openness of the source code is not the decisive aspect of the free and open source license model.
Apart from that, the project group plans to discuss a wide range of questions reaching from “Open Source Software in the public sector” to business models, the eGovernment action plan 2010-2015, and the smartphone market. Open Hardware and Free Software Collaboration will be covered, too.
This initiative is not the first time that the German Parliament makes an effort to consider and protect the Free Software license model. Already in 2001, the German Parliament welcomed the support of Open Source Software products and the introduction of Open Source Software in German administrations (see http://dip.bundestag.de/btd/14/052/1405246.pdf).
Furthermore, and far more importantly, the German Copyright Act contains since its major reform in 2002 some specific provisions (so called “Linux-Clauses”) to avoid certain problems German Copyright law would otherwise face with regard to the Free Software licensing model. More clearly, Free Software licenses are, according to the Linux clauses, exempted from the general rule that authors have a universal claim to adequate compensation for any act of exploitation of their works (for more on the Linux clauses see http://ifosslawbook.org/germany/).
We will keep you posted about any new developments in the commission’s work, in particular, which recommendations it will make, and which of those will eventually make it into the law.