Russia bans purchase of foreign non-niche software in Russian state agencies

Zenaan Harkness zen at
Sat Nov 21 20:52:37 PST 2015

On 11/22/15, Anton Nesterov <komachi at> wrote:
> Ivan Markin:
>> Anton Nesterov:
>>> And if you thought that opensource will take place of foreign
>>> proprietary software, it's not true. Only in the form of proprietary
>>> Russian product using some GPL/etc. codebase in violation of these
>>> licenses.
>> Hmm. Are you sure about violation? As far as I know legal status is
>> still unclear in Russia. So in case of violation there will be no
>> regulation. No regulation no violation. Voilá!

We would say "no law making such activity illegal, no violation."

This matches Richard Stallman's position that the GPL relies on
copyright law, which it does - it is the original hack of copyright
law to manifest an idea, an ideal, which idea and ideal I happen to
agree with.
(Can't immediately find a link, but he has answered this question
before, ie "would you get rid of copyright law" - with the answer
being "no, because the GPL relies upon it.")

>> Anyway they would just sell super overpriced Uslugi (installation
>> services etc.) and it would look like "this software is purchased" (from
>> "our" company obviously).

That is just fine, that's a good thing - resources are being kept in
Russia, for Russians. And then the only question is efficiency of
government spending, which is an entirely different and solvable
problem - for example as long as the government makes transparent its
spending, then "installation services of GPL software" would soon
enough be seen as lucrative pursuit, and competition would
(presumably) arise for said installation (and customization) services,
and the costs to government should normalize, that is the costs should
normalize around relatively low installation/ customization/ training
services, rather than the cost of proprietary software rent-seekers
such as Microsoft, SAP and Oracle. This again will be a very good
thing for Russia and for Russians. More countries should follow this
lead of Russia - in fact it is in everyone's interest.

> GPL doesn't need special regulation, it should work by-design
> everywhere.

It is easy for me to say this is not true - but the assertion is a
'should' and is too broad. The GPL in fact relies upon law of
copyright. Copyright is one form of proprietary monopoly "right" which
is artificial, not natural - that is, except for "law" based
enforcement, it does not exist naturally. A coal mine is a natural
monopoly in the area that it exists, but there are many coal
locations, so coal has plenty of competition and transport is cheap,
so no actual monopoly.

GPL is clever - it uses "artificial (statutory) monopoly right" in a
unique way - essentially to apply the minimum number of restrictions
on redistribution of e.g. source code, in order to maximise the
availability of source code to the whole community, over the long
term. That's pretty cool. In the face of statutory monopolies and rent
seekers around the world, this is an effective hack to broaded the
free libre software source code base. That's a good thing.
This paper takes a new look at the debate over commons and property in
information and communications. It warns against recreating the old
communist–capitalist ideological divide by framing the movement for
informational commons as “info–communist.” The spectre of communism
haunts the movement because of an unresolved ideological tension in
its ethical and philosophical foundations. The case for free software
and open information contains both deontological appeals to the
virtues of sharing, and consequentialist arguments against the growing
intrusiveness of the institutional and technological mechanisms used
to enforce exclusivity in the digital economy. The paper argues that
the deontological case is a dead end that leads to info–communism. The
strongest case for open access and freedom in information and
communications is grounded in a liberalism that takes maximizing
individual freedom as its objective and relies on creative
complementarities between property and commons regimes as means to
that end."

> Russian civil code even mention free licenses specially
> (article 1286.1), so there is full legal basis, although I can't
> remember any cases when that article was used in court (probably there
> was none).

Perhaps you can spread the word that "overpriced services" is not only
OK by the GPL, but encouraged. "Charge as much as you can.":

> There is semi-opensource GNU/Linux distribution called Astra Linux based
> on Debian and used by Russian govt that violates GPL by not providing
> source codes to their KDE3-based DE
> (funny that Astra Linux was
> created specially for govt decree about moving state agencies to the
> free software).

It is still so much better than pumping money into proprietary
freedom-denying community-compromising software that you might get
from Apple and Microsoft.

> There is proprietary OS MSVS based on RedHat used in military which not
> only violate GPL by not providing source codes, but even removed most of
> copyright notices.

Military probably gets to do what it wants, without much question.

BUT, these examples and others, are examples of opportunity to build a
little GPL-enforcing community in Russia, perhaps send a letter to the
president (currently Putin), or simply to jump on the free libre
software bandwagon and make some money - but showing how to do it
right, with respect of original authors' intentions as expressed by
the respective software licenses.

This move by the Russian government is an excellent move, make no
doubt. Those Russians who can make money from it, can do so with their
heads held high, in dignity and with rightful respect from the rest of
the world. Go to it! Service your government and make some clean
money!! You have the blessings of the large global free libre software
community, the Free Software Foundation, etc.


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