Celebrating The Software Freedom Day

sfdToday is Software Freedom Day (SFD) and celebrating it is scheduled not only in the Philippines but all over the world. SFD is a worldwide celebration of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) with the goal to educate the worldwide public about of the benefits of using high quality FOSS in education, in government, at home, and in business.  Software Freedom Day was established in 2004 and was first observed on August 28, 2004 when over 70 teams participated. Since that time it has grown in popularity as more than 300 teams from over 60 countries celebrate SFD which this year fall on this day.

The Philippines was among the original celebrants of SFD in 2004 when FOSS user groups convened in the UP College of Engineering Theater to celebrate with the world. Different presentations were made and a lot of knowledge were shared. Since then, more groups all over the country joined the advocacy and celebrate the event every year. But is there really something to celebrate on Software Freedom Day in the Philippines when the FOSS Bill which would strengthen the advocacy had been pending in Congress since 2006?

Party-List Representative Teddy Casiño, the main author of the FOSS Bill, has this to say on his weblog about its status:

Software Freedom Day has become an annual ritual for me for the last four years, ever since I authored the proposed Free Open Source Software Act in the 13th Congress in 2006. This is the bill that seeks to lay down official policy encouraging the use and development of FOSS and open standards in the country.

Under this bill, which by the way underwent an open source process when we posted the draft on the web for anyone to comment on, including Richard Stallman who emailed us his valuable two cents worth, government is mandated to use only FOSS and open standards except in instances where there are no available solutions except proprietary software. The bill defines FOSS and open standards, gives recognition to copy left and open licenses, and encourages educational institutions, especially computer schools, to use and teach FOSS to their students. The bill also amends the Intellectual Property Code to strengthen the provision that prohibits the patenting of software.

Unfortunately, the 13th Congress adjourned without approving the bill. Thus I re-filed the proposal at the start of the 14th Congress in 2007 as House Bill No. 1716. To date, the bill has undergone two joint committee hearings by the Committee on Information and Communications Technology and the Committee on Trade and Industry. We have been informed by the officials of the two committees that they plan to have the bill approved with amendments on the third hearing. But when that will happen, perhaps only Bill Gates knows.

Rep. Teddy Casiño added that one problem being encountered in the passage of his bill is the lack of knowledge by congressmen about FOSS. He said that while the bill has been warmly welcomed by the FOSS community, our policymakers are still in the dark as to what FOSS is, what its benefits are, and why we as a people and a country would be better off using the free/open source rather than the proprietary model of software development.

The question now is when can we expect those congressmen to understand the meaning of software freedom. When can we celebrate a true Software Freedom Day?

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