FSFLA board member requests source code of Brazilian tax software

Brazil, February 18, 2008---Last year, FSFLA supported the release, as Free Software, of the Brazilian income tax software distributed by Receita Federal. We are already working to make it happen earlier in 2008, but Receita Federal insists in breaking the law and disrespecting citizens, taxpayers and Free Software developers.

As in past years, early last December, Receita Federal published a test version of the software to fill in forms for the following year's income tax for natural persons, IRPF. Unfortunately, it disregarded all of the points in the our last year's petition, justified legally and technically in an article we'd published before.
http://www.fsfla.org/svnwiki/anuncio/2007-03-irpf2007-pet (in Portuguese)
http://www.fsfla.org/svnwiki/texto/denuncia-irpf (in Portuguese)

The test program was still non-Free Software; still impossible to run, or even install, using Free Software implementations of the Java Virtual Machine, including IcedTea, the upcoming OpenJDK 1.7 to be released by Sun under the GNU GPL shortly; it still used undocumented file formats and protocols; and it still infringed on third parties' copyrights, including those of FSFLA's sister organization, the original Free Software Foundation. "We had told them about all of these problems almost a year ago, and they have done nearly nothing to fix them", says Fernanda G. Weiden, FSFLA board member.

Reverse-engineering this year's program is slightly more difficult than last year's, because of technical measures taken by Receita Federal. "That's why I've started earlier this year", says Alexandre Oliva, the FSFLA board member behind IRPF2007-Livre. Unfortunately, there are new legal restrictions on the program that prevent the result of these efforts from being used in Free Software. These restrictions are in conflict with some licenses of Free Software included in the program distributed by Receita Federal.

So, while coordinating with copyright holders of the Free Software used by Receita Federal to help them correct the violations, we've requested Receita Federal and SERPRO to publish the original source code, ideally under a Free Software license. "Every Brazilian has a constitutional right to receive those specifications and source code from government offices", says Alexandre, "so I've requested them, and suggested they might as well proactively set them free."

But while SERPRO, now publicly committed to the federal government mandate to choose and publish Free Software, had previously claimed to have its hands tied, Receita Federal resists, hiding behind alleged security and data integrity reasons. "It's not just against the law, it's also against technical principles of security", challenges Pedro A.D. Rezende, FSFLA board member and professor of security and cryptography at University of Brasília, "you just can't entrust taxpayers' computers to perform data integrity checking, too many things can go wrong. Even if you do, you must also verify the data at the receiving end, if you want the verification to be trustworthy."

Ultimately, Receita Federal is forcing taxpayers to run software that, by its own arguments, is insecure, and not too hard to reverse engineer to expose the flaws while at that. "A robust solution can only be achieved through transparency in file formats, protocols and source code. If it depends on the difficulty or absence of reverse engineering, it is already broken", complements Pedro.

"Other countries, such as US and Ecuador, publish their tax file formats, enabling multiple software implementations, including Free Software ones", points out Oscar Valenzuela, FSFLA board member. "It's a pity that Brazil, held as a global reference of Free Software adoption, resorts to insecure non-Free Software for something that affects so many citizens, aggravated by the missing or incomplete publication of transmission protocol and file format specifications."

"It is our tax money that paid for this software, so it belongs to the public. We have the right to run, inspect, modify and distribute it. It must be Free Software.", agree Brazilian FSFLA members.

About FSFLA's Campaign against Softwares Impostos

We understand the Brazilian law, particularly the Federal Constitution, grant preference to Free Software in the public administration, both internally, for compliance with constitutional principles, and in interactions with citizens, for respect for their fundamental constitutional rights and for compliance with the same and other constitutional principles.

This campaign, started in October, 2006, seeks to educate public administration managers about these obligations that are beneficial both to citizens and to the public administration itself, such that they pay attention not only to compliance with the law, but also to respect for citizens and for digital freedom.
http://www.fsfla.org/svnwiki/anuncio/2007-03-irpf2007 (in Portuguese)


FSFLA joined in 2005 the FSF network, previously formed by Free Software Foundations in the United States, in Europe and in India. These sister organizations work in their corresponding geographies towards promoting the same Free Software ideals and defending the same freedoms for software users and developers, working locally but cooperating globally. For more information about FSFLA and to contribute to our work, visit our web site at http://www.fsfla.org or write to info@fsfla.org.

Press contacts

Alexandre Oliva
Board member, FSFLA
+55 19 9714-3658 / 3243-5233

Pedro A.D. Rezende
Board member, FSFLA
+55 61 3368-6031 / 3307-2482

Copyright 2008 FSFLA

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