[OSGeo-Discuss] Examples of Opposition to Open Source/Open File Formats in the United States

Landon Blake lblake at ksninc.com
Tue Aug 18 11:55:48 PDT 2009

It looks like I might have ruffled a few feathers with my earlier post
about the lack of support for open source software in the United States.
I was making a generalization, and didn't mean to criticize or downplay
the efforts of advocates and government employees that are promoting
open source software. I hope their advocacy continues, and I will do
what I can to support it.


I thought I would take a minute to post one or two articles that
highlight the type of opposition/attitude that I was talking about.


The first one isn't directly related to geospatial software, but it is
related to the use of open source software and open file formats by
government agencies in the United States. It has to do with the adoption
of ODF (the file format used by Open Office).


See the section on Massachusetts in this wikipedia article:

Here is an article about legislation proposed in 2006 to do the same
thing in Minnesota:


These articles are old, and there may have been updates and new legal
decisions that I am not aware of. You could check to ODF Alliance site
for updates:




There is no question in my mind that Microsoft opposed the adoption of
ODF by state governments in the United States. If you don't think this
is true, I've got a bridge I want to sell you. :]


My second example involves the Autodesk suit against the Open Design
Alliance. You can read an article about that here:



Autodesk may have legitimate concerns about trademark violation, but
I'll bet they would love to sink the Open Design Alliance ship. The
majority of CAD data produced in the surveying/engineering arena is
stored in the DWG format, and Autodesk knows this. Controlling that
format and programmer's access to it is a key component of Autodesk's
business model.


It looks like the legal battle was still on as recently as July 7, 2009:



Autodesk is certainly entitled to protect is intellectual property, but
in my mind this is a big obstacle to data sharing among the geospatial
communities in the US, especially as you move to the engineering/survey
side of things.


Let's not kid ourselves. There is a lot of money to be made selling
software in the United States, and people will do their best to
influence our legal and commercial systems to serve their own needs. One
thing I love about open source software development is the sense of
sharing and community. This is a definite contrast.


I think OSGeo (and all of us as individual software developers) should
be aware of this opposition to open source and open technology
standards, and should do our best to counteract it. A lot of the general
public doesn't understand the issues involved, or understand how
governments funded by their tax dollars might benefit from open source
software. We need to be the voice the people aren't going to hear from
Autodesk or ESRI.




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