ACT Supports “Men In Black”
The recent Microsoft lobbying effort in Florida inspired a blogger at ZDNet to propose that FLOSS needs its own lobbying teams. (How he expects such a disparate collection of companies and projects to ever fully-agree on a legislative agenda, he does not say.) ACT blogger Morgan Reed responds, saying that IBM and Sun are doing the work, so no one else needs to be there. Says Reed:
Let’s not be naive, there’s big money on the table and big money is here to play. Open Source isn’t just a bunch of hobbyists anymore. It’s supported by some of the largest tech firms in the world, all of which have significant lobbying teams.
Obviously, seeing how effective Microsoft was at killing the amendment in Florida, it is obviously not enough.
… bigger, more profitable commercial software companies tend to hire lobbyists and to be actively-involved in advocating to officials why they believe that their way is the best way. On the other hand, FLOSS tends to be produced by much smaller groups (non-profits and businesses), with a few larger ones scattered among them. Only some of these are actively involved in lobbying and advocating their positions before politicians and officials. Software users, whose interests are probably better-aligned with FLOSS, have even less involvement in the process.
So says my response at Slingshot. I continue:
It is a little disingenuous for a lobbyist for multi-billion-dollar monopoly software companies to say that his opponents don’t need to lobby. Should we trust old Morgan to do the right thing for us? No? Maybe it is time for smaller FLOSS projects to start lobbying.
Here's hoping that such strong-arm tactics produce a backlash that breaks up monopoly vendors and their hold on critical software and communications systems in our nation. It is just too risky to have a single bug in one vendor's product take down the whole nation. It is necessary to divide things up so that any particular bug can only take down a certain proportion of the system.