- Join the action!
- What is a Freedom of Information request?
- How to file a FOI request?
- Get inspiration: The FSFE's FOI request for Horizon 2020
- Related wiki-pages
- External links
Join the action!
This wiki page, as part of the FSFE's campaign Public Money Public Code is a call for action!
What is our mandate? We ask all the public authorities in Europe which develop software for the public sector's needs, using public funding, to release it under Free Software licences, assuring the four essential freedoms: to share and reuse the code, but also to study and improve it.
Why? All public bodies should treat public funds carefully, ensuring the best possible value-for-money is obtained whenever public money is being spent or invested. Therefore, Free Software and re-use should be the norm, not only for the public sector to reduce the costly expenses for the acquisition of proprietary licences, but also for it to regain the control over its IT infrastructure. Money should not be the most prominent argument, though. Free Software and its four freedoms should be seen as public good, with value-added for every democratic society and its citizens, for co-operation among public authorities between regions and states.
What you can do? We would like to collect information about the status of non-free software used and released by public authorities in local, state and European level. One idea is to find "interesting cases" all over Europe and later request specific data about them. With "interesting cases" we mean two things, a. Same non-free software is being used in different states/municipalities. Every time another state or municipality wishes to use it, has to re-purchase the same licences; or, b. Software is being developed by a state or other public body. Other interested cities/states cannot re-use it, because it is not released under Free Software licences.
Another idea is to demand data focusing not on one or more specific projects, but rather on the use and release of Free Software by public administrations, in a more inclusive sense. For instance, submitting questions about the percentage of software developed by public authorities that is being released under Free Software licences.
This is where you, individually as a citizen or as part of a bigger community can contribute, by submitting #Freedom of Information requests to public authorities of your municipality, region, or state. The collected data will be aggregated and scrutinized to draw conclusions on how and if, at the end of the day, public money results to public code. Do not be upset, if you do not receive specific information back! This "lack of data" is also valuable for us in order to prove that there is no effective monitoring of the public spending in place, and consequently demand for it.
What is a Freedom of Information request?
Freedom of information laws allow citizens to access public data, held by national governments and public authorities. In order to access these data, citizens have to submit official requests to competent authorities, the so-called Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, either at no cost or for a small fee. The freedom of information legislation was triggered by the persistent obstacles citizens had to overcome in order to access critical public information, in combination with a degree of secrecy and obscurity surrounding government policies and decision making. Many EU member states have developed their own Freedom of Information legislation, in most cases harmonizing their national law with the EU legal requirements. For that purpose, they have established specific procedures that ensure access to public information, and a bigger level of transparency in the public sector. In many countries, there are organisations which aim to improve the information access process and support individuals and other organisations who wish to submit FOI requests for issues of great societal significance. A few of them even run online platforms, where information requests may be submitted addressing the public authorities.
How to file a FOI request?
Procedures may slightly differ among states and public institutions. Below you can find samples for Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and requests in front of state parliaments. Given the circumstances, feel free to use the sample text as it is, adapt it to the specific needs of your state/region or compose from scratch your own requests, as long as their core can still be used in support of our argumentation.
Freedom of Information Request Sample
To be filled.
Request about a specific project
To be filled.
Parliamentary Request Sample
To be filled.
How to add the info of the requests?
To facilitate the collection process, please add your data sorted by "Country", under the section "Add your FOI requests here", usually found at the bottom of the country sub-page. You can find a list with all the country sub-pages below. If a sub-page does not exist yet, we kindly invite you to create it and add your data there. In any case, please let us know about your FOI requests and outcomes at: firstname.lastname@example.org . We will make sure that they receive the necessary attention.
If you make a FOI request, remember to document it fully and include the following very important information: Date of the request, Specific region/city (if applicable), Who made the request?(eg. FSFE, MP, political party, citizen, etc.), Agency/Party/Specific person who received the request (eg. political party, parliament, public authority, politician, MP, etc.), Official title or short title of the request, Subject of the request, Short description of the requested data, the background of the request (eg. National Elections) and the reason why this action was considered necessary, Outcome of the request, Relevant link(s).
The attachment of documents to this wiki is possible, and these attachments can be versioned. For more information on how to use the wiki as a document repository, please consult this toolkit.
European Union: It is possible to contact all the European Union Agencies, asking for information, here.
Get inspiration: The FSFE's FOI request for Horizon 2020
Software is a cardinal part of almost every research project in Horizon 2020 and most of it is acquired or developed with public or public-private funding. We are interested to figure out what percentage of the funding is spent on proprietary licences and what percentage of software developed within Horizon 2020 is released under Free Software licences. Our aim is to aggregate this data and draw conclusions about the situation of software in publicly funded research.
You can read more about the significant role that Free Software licences and Open Standards play for publicly-funded science and innovation in the FSFE's position paper for the endorsement of Free Software and Open Standards in Horizon 2020 and all publicly-funded research, which was submitted to the European Commission as part of the consultation for the midterm evaluation of Horizon 2020, the biggest research funding programme in the world.
Subject: Expenses and Statistics on Software licences in Horizon 2020
Dear Research and Innovation,
Under the right of access to documents in the EU treaties, as developed in Regulation 1049/2001, I am requesting documents which contain the following information:
- Do you monitor and/or collect data about the usage of IT and software in Horizon 2020 projects, and specifically if projects use or develop Free Software (also known as 'open source')?
- How many projects, both in numbers and in percentage of the overall amount of research projects participating in Horizon 2020 pay licence fees for software? What are the top most paid licence fees for software amongst Horizon 2020 projects?
- How much money was spent by Horizon 2020 during its most recent "phase" on proprietary software licences? How much is this in comparison to the overall funds of Horizon 2020?
- How many projects in numbers and in percentage of the overall amount of research projects funded by Horizon 2020 develop software on their own? What percentage of this software is kept proprietary and how much is published under a licence approved by Free Software Foundation/Open Source Initiative? [^1] Which are the most used Free Software/Open Source licences in this regard?
On 26 January 2017, the European Commission sent back to the FSFE the following reply:
Your application for access to documents registered on 10/01/2017 under reference number GestDem 2017/0155 relates to information which is not contained in any existing documents and therefore Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 is not applicable. The Regulation applies only to requests for access to existing documents, meaning "any content whatever its medium (written on paper or stored in electronic form or as a sound, visual or audio-visual recording) concerning a matter relating to the policies, activities and decisions falling within the institution's sphere of responsibility" (Article 3 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001).
Your application was considered a request for information and was processed in accordance with the Code of Good Administrative Behaviour of the European Commission. Therefore we checked if the requested information existed and the competent Commission services informed us that the European Commission does not systematically collect information about open source software used or developed under Horizon 2020 grants, as this is not a reporting requirement in the Horizon 2020 legal basis. Consequently we are not in a position to provide you the information that you are looking for. The same applies to data concerning Horizon 2020 projects paying licence fees for software or developing software on their own.
Yours faithfully, RTD Access to documents, European Commission, DG Research & Innovation, Common Legal Support Service