This month a leaked draft of the revision of EIF has shook the FOSS world.

Having read the initial EIFv1 and lectured and written already about it and its implications, I feel I can safely share a few of my thoughts on the official draft of EIFv2 from the summer of 2008 and its recenlty leaked later draft.

While reading the 2008 draft of EIFv2 I had the impression that some very much needed work was done towards clearing up some of the terms that EIFv1 kept a bit murky and ambigious. Also I was quite happy with the fact that the European Comission would now require the EU member states to implement a policy that is in terms with the EIF and that all public tenders have to comply that policy – (if that draft was final) effectively meaning that all public tenders would have to prefer open standards/formats and open source solutions whenever possible.

I knew this was only a draft and it even showed some weaknesses even then, but little did I (just as anyone else, I suppose) suspect that the public consultation[summary] [comments] would lead to such drastic twist of events! As FSFE states in its critique "FSFE: EC caves in to proprietary lobbyists on interoperability" and analyses in detail in its comparative analysis "EIFv2: Tracking the loss of interoperability", if the draft would be approved as is leaked, it would mean a heavy draw-back on interoperability an openness on several grounds. Here is just a short summary of FSFE's points:

  1. the original draft had a very strong pro-standards position, while the leaked draft undermines the importance of standards and leaves place for non-standard solutions
  2. while the original draft emphesised the open standards and gave a pretty good definition of what they are, in the leaked draft the "principle of openness" can be applied in full or not at all
  3. the spectrum of "openness continuum" is too wide in the leaked draft
  4. the public consultation phase was not done nearly as transparent as it should have and the leaked draft shows that from the numerous comments the EC only took notice of one loby group – namely, the BSA

I strongly suggest you read the rest of the critique and analysis yourself, because it includes some other points that I will not add anything to here.

Apart from what FSFE is warning about, I noticed another aggravation. As already mentioned, in the 2008 draft of the EIFv2 it was clearly stated in its recommendations that the member states should both integrate EIF into their national policies (i.e. NIF) and use those to comply to EIF in their public calls-for-tendee. This measure would give some – even if only slightly – more strength to the document itself apart from some political (quasi)obligation.

What happened in the leaked draft on this matter is two-fold:

  • The recommendation to member states to comply to EIF (via their NIF) in their calls-for-tender has vanished from the text.
  • If the first draft of EIFv2 did not limit itself to a specific layer of communication and was to be broadly applied to both national as well as EU level, the leaked draft only talks about cross-border communication. Which could well be interpreted as that on the national level the EIF does not need to be considered at all.

These changes would not only give the member states (and in fact the lobies within them) a bigger freedom in deciding on how much of EIF will they effectively use, but therefore – which is even worse – cause the member states to implement formats and solutions that are not compatible or interoperable. This in turn means that if the leaked draft is to be adopted, EIF would de facto not ensure any interoperability anymore.

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