Hourtin Summer University
A round table on Free Software was organized by the
university at Hourtin, France. This event is the
traditional meeting where government officials meet with
companies and non profit organizations on the general subject
of information society. Frédéric Couchet managed for us to
be invited at the round table to speak in the name of the Free
The discussions were bound to be controversial, given
the fact that Olivier Ezratty from Microsoft is among the
speakers. Pierre Breese is also present and is a well known
advocate in favor of software patents.
In the following people said Linux when meaning
GNU/Linux, except Frédéric Couchet, of course. I fixed this to
avoid confusion. I found remarkable that only Logiciel Libre
was used during the round table. The conference was in french
but I wrote my notes in English to avoid the translation
effort. I apologize to french people who cannot read english
easily, I feel it is important that non french speaking people
in Europe can read this protocol and had not the courage to do
the french version.
H. Le Guyader (Moderator): The title on the program is
'advantage and usages' but on my notes it was 'peculiarity and
drawbacks' which is quite representative of the confusion that
exists on the subject. I'm happy to have Mr. Ezratty who will
show how Free Software can be integrated on an apparently
closed platform. (he introduced all the people, only adding a
word on Mr. Ezratty). In my professional activity I face the
Free Software alternative. My goal is to end this debate
knowing what to do with Free Software.
M. Joly (IBM): We have a focus on GNU/Linux. We have
servers (45% of the turnover) infrastructure software and services. We need
OS and GNU/Linux is a good one. We saw a trend that influences
the market and we felt compelled to provide this to our
customers and at the same time contribute to the evolution of
GNU/Linux. IBM goes to Free Software and specifically
GNU/Linux to provide usable hardware.
H. Le Guyader: A software is not only running on a PC.
Embedded software in various devices also. This grows and companies
are eager to conquer this market. Could F. Couchet explain what
a Free Software is ?
F. Couchet: The FSF was created in 85 to offer an
alternative to proprietary software. You can use free
software, study how it works in its source form, redistribute
them as you do with recipes, modify it match your needs. This
creates an economical activity that is independant and
lively. The GNU project is a philosophical project.
MandrakeSoft is a french company that combines the
philosophical aspect and the economical activity.
Free Software is based on copyright law to establish
a best match between the will of authors and the interest of
the public. Software patents threaten this but this will be
the subject of tomorrow's speech.
H. Le Guyader: Some ministery create portals to help
people understand how and why we should switch to Free Software.
I question myself. Update of licenses cost my money. But the
stability of Free Software is problematic. And the freedom to
modify is something we don't really need, do we ?
B. Jelowicki (Education): I'm not sure I can answer
this. I came here because the title was 'advantage of free
software' and I asked you to introduce Free Software advocates
because only proprietary software advocates were invited. I
don't understand the problematic of this debate and I still do
not understand where this is going.
For education the advantage of gratis is pushed but is
not the most important. Teachers produce software and use them
in creative ways. We face a philosophical and independance
problematic, not an accounting problem. For companies the
network installation of schools is a big market and there are
not many alternatives. Our resources are limited.
The advantage of Free Software is that it can be studied
where proprietary software cannot. Most software produced by
education are not very wide spread and it would make a lot of
sense to make them Free Software. Some of them could become
the base of an economical activity.
We currently teach to students the Microsoft tools and not
Free Software tools. Why is it so ?
Introducing Free Software in education is nowadays only
powered by volunteers and it would be very beneficial if teachers
were given some time and background on their paid time to educate
H. Le Guyader: I'd like to say that the original panel
of speaker included IBM and Bull who have an implication in Free
B. Pinna (Bull): If Bull was to make business on OS, we
would be in trouble. This is not the goal. We want to be with
our customers and we acknowledge that Free Software is an
alternative because it represents a market. We say to our
clients that in some cases Free Software is an alternative.
What Free Software will be used for in governement and companies ?
We recommend it for infrastructure.
H. Le Guyader: Microsoft will not speak last. We do
not deliver the chritian to the lions at the end.
Proprietary software and Free Software can be co-exist, can you tell
us more about this ?
O. Ezratty (Microsoft): Free Software is a
phenomenon that is visible since five years. This is a
peculiar competition. There are juridical and ethical
components. There are also economical considerations.
In education Free Software is an advantage. Microsoft must
change its behaviour to adapt to this.
When evaluating software we count the gain of time they
bring and their use value, this is our scale of values.
Co-exist ? How ? We have a negative image. We adopt standards
and we contribute to standards. We face a fast evolving Internet.
All we do around XML is to open Internet. Why ? Because we want
to grow the market. In this respect we have a common ground
with Free Software.
H. Le Guyader: What about intellectual property law ?
P. Breese: I use Free Software because it's a good
software. Not because it's Free Software. I also share the
definition given by F. Couchet. Patents are not contradictory
with this definition, it allows modification with the software
with the agreement of the author.
L. Dachary (interrupt): This is non-sense, this is
contradictory with the Free Software definition.
P. Breese: What about software patents ? This is an
ancient reality. 40 years ago a patent was registered
(P. Breese gave an example I did not have time to write down).
Bull sold software patent usage for millions. In 70' software
was excluded from patentable inventions.
P. Breese was interrupted a few times, my notes are not
L. Dachary (talking to B. Pinna): How do you handle
the fact that chosing between Free Software and proprietary
software involves an ethical choice ? Do you direct your
client to organizations that are competent in ethical matters
? If not how do you handle the ethical aspect related to these
choice when speaking to government and education departements ?
B. Pinna: We do not impose our offer. Our motivation
is not to make money on software. We also develop Free Software,
we are not against it. We cannot be accused to be partial. For
instance we have people using Jonas and they were really happy.
F. Couchet (talking to P. Breese): the
technology academy made a study on patentability without
interviewing Eurolinux, only Microsoft, IBM and others. This
F. Pelegrini (ABUL): our theories are not patentable and
software patents are a way to patent them. I do not want that.
Anonymous (talking to O. Ezratty): I'd like to say
that in foreign countries the role of Free Software is of
major importance. A Microsoft subsidiary installed itself in
oceania and chased the pirates and bankrupted companies. The
Free Software is an advantage, it excludes piracy.
H. Le Guyader: What Free Software do you use ?
Anonymous: Apache mainly.
O. Ezratty: intellectual property must be
protected. There can be accidents when doing so. A non
material object has a cost in the same way as a material
object, this must not be forgotten.
Anonymous: I'd like to know if at IBM and Bull you
use Free Software internally. You also provide services, what
is the share of services ?
M. Joly: There is no offer for end user applications,
we only use infrastructure Free Software. Free Software is not
the answer to all needs.
B. Pinna: We do not use Free Software for applications
because there are no software available. What is our share of
service on Free Software ? I don't know.
F. Couchet: There do exist applications for end users,
it's not only for infrastructure.
Anonymous (proprietary software CEO): How do you
earn money with Free Software ?
F. Couchet: The economy switches from selling licenses
to selling services. The company contribute to the software and
people time is sold.
O. Ezratty: Microsoft is 12% of the development in
the world. RedHat earn money but does not escape the
concentration phenomenon since they represent 50% of the
GNU/Linux boxes sold in the world.
J. Peyratout (ABULEDU): I use Free Software only,
in a primary school. We have no money and we know nothing
about computing. We face a problem. I joined ABUL and AFUL,
two organizations who offered me to solve this problem. It was
two years ago. A tool was developped for our need, on our
spare time. And we saw that it would take a lot more time.
Therefore we searched for finances and we searched for
professionals. I already paid the people because I needed
this, now what harm does it do if people copy and use it ?
We kept Microsoft products and they are slowly
disapearing. Mainly because children have troubles using
Microsoft products, because of closed standards.
P. Jarillon (ABUL): I tried to get the RTF and saw
that the standard was later modified unexpectedly. Do you plan
to modify other standards in this way ?
O. Ezratty: Standards are evolving, this is a natural
thing. I cannot really answer. But XML will not be modified in
this way, this is the interoperability language.