On October 15, 2006, FSFLA launched a campaign against "Softwares Impostos" in Brazil [CSI], inviting citizens and taxpayers to write to the president requesting measures to ensure they wouldn't have to give up their freedoms to interact with the government, in particular, to fill in their tax forms. "Impostos" means both "taxes" and "imposed" in Portuguese.
Our arguments are based on the constitutional principles established for the public administration, and we have reasons to believe they may apply in other countries as well. If you can confirm that the law in your country imposes such limits on what the government can do, please bring it up on firstname.lastname@example.org, such that we can launch a similar campaign there.
Timing was a bit unfortunate, because the presidential elections dominate the news in Brazil, but there was little time to act if taxpayers were to be able to comply with their obligations in freedom next year or even the following year: some tax programs to be used throughout the year are published in January. Fortunately, even though the campaign started slow, we're told it has already started having positive effects within the government (we shall mention and thank Ada Lemos, our ally in Brasilia, for her work) and the reelected president's IT proposals for the next administration [CvD]. International news certainly helps [NwF]. Time will tell.
Even though we'll expose our arguments based on the specific case of the tax programs, keep in mind that they apply to any interaction between government and citizens or taxpayers.
The Brazilian Federal Constitution [BFC], in Article 37, determines that the public administration must comply with the legality principle. Article 5 sums it up: "Nobody will be required to do or not do something except by force of law." There isn't any law that requires taxpayers to use proprietary software to fill in their tax forms, therefore this requirement is unconstitutional.
In fact, the very use of the software infringes upon article 9 of Software Law 9609/98 [SwL], that states that, in order to run a piece of software, you need a license or a proof of purchase. Software distributed by Receita Federal (Brazilian IRS) has neither, therefore its use is illegal, and Receita Federal is demanding taxpayers to break the law.
Most such software is available for MS-Windows and Sun Java 1.4.1. This infringes upon the impersonality principle because it favors a few specific vendors: the implementors fell in the Java trap [JvT] and used internal classes of Sun's implementation, not present in the specification. This abuse even fails to comply with Receita Federal's own decision [RFD], which doesn't mention Sun's JVM as a requirement. If it were possible to run the program on Free Software platforms, no specific vendor would be favored, because anyone could offer support and services for such platforms.
Another problem is the lack of transparency, that infringes upon the publicness principle. Article 5.XXXIII of the Constitution grants citizens access to the source code of these applications, documentation about its file formats and network protocols, since their secrecy is not justified by a matter of society or state security [ScL].
Lack of permission to port the software to other platforms, to adapt it to suit users' legitimate needs or even to make it more friendly or more convenient, or to hire third parties to do so, infringes upon the legality and efficiency principles, since anyone might wish to do voluntarily what the government doesn't do, or pays to have done.
This means Free Software running on Free Software platforms, using open and unrestricted standards, protocols and file formats, are the preferred way to comply with the Constitution, and this is what the campaign against "Softwares Impostos" fights for.
Join us! If you are Brazilian or pay taxes in Brazil, send your letter to the president, with a copy to email@example.com. Look for similar principles in the legal systems of other Latin American countries and let us know what you find out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[CvD] http://www.convergenciadigital.com.br/cgi/cgilua.exe/sys/start.htm?infoid=4906&sid=7 (in Portuguese)
[BFC] http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/br00000.html (in English) https://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil03/Constituicao/Constitui%C3%A7ao.htm (in Portuguese)
[SwL] https://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/Leis/L9609.htm (in Portuguese)
[RFD] http://www.receita.fazenda.gov.br/legislacao/Ins/2006/in6222006.htm (in Portuguese)
[ScL] https://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil03/Ato2004-2006/2005/Lei/L11111.htm (in Portuguese)
In order to increase FSFLA's contact with communities and activists committed to the Free Software ideals in all Latin-American countries, we launch the (GNU)^2 or GNUGNU initiative: GNU National User Groups. [The acronym works in Spanish and Portuguese, but not in English.]
Even though FSFLA intends to work in all of Latin America, volunteers in our workgroups have concentrated in a few countries. Besides, Free Software User Groups have remained more distant from FSFLA than we'd like. Since user groups have always had a very important role in disseminating Free Software, we want to offer these Free Software groups some space at FSFLA to share ideas and experiences and strengthen links and initiatives.
Through this initiative, we intend to establish contact with existing Latin-American organizations, committed to the ideals of the FSF worldwide network, and/or foster and support activists who'd like to create them.
If you are a Free Softweare activist in Latin America and would like to work in such an initiative in your country, or if you're already part of a Latin-American user group committed to the Free Software philosophy, subscribe to email@example.com, express your interests, watch out for previous and subsequent messages from activists in the same country and get join forces.
Even though it's not strictly necessary that groups in this initiative be country-wide, we encourage the use of this space as a way to get different groups together, thus strengthening the Free Software community in Latin America.
Federico Heinz, Juan José Ciarlante and Beatriz Busaniche participated in VI Jornadas Regionales de Software Libre (Regional Free Software Summit) in Mendoza, Argentina, on October 13-15, lecturing on GPLv3, DRM and the SELF project. http://jornadas.lugmen.org.ar/
Alexandre Oliva participated in the IV Fórum de Software Livre do Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro's Free Software Forum), on October 16-20. During this event, he took part in a debate about GPLv3 and Creative Commons and presented various lectures about Free Software philosophy. http://www.forumsoftwarelivre.org.br/
He and Pedro Rezende participated in the the III Fórum Cearense de Software Livre (Ceará's Free Software Forum) with various lectures on Free Software philosophy, electronic voting and problems with the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program. http://www.psl-ce.softwarelivre.org/iiifcsl/
As part of the MABI workshop: Monopolios Artificiales sobre Bienes Intangibles (Artificial Monopolies on Intangible Goods), Enrique Chaparro and Pedro Rezende participated in a panel on patents; Federico Heinz participated in a panel about Copyright, access to culture and Free Software community, and Beatriz Busaniche participated in a panel on convergence of social movements. The event took place in Mar del Plata, Argentina, on October 26-29. http://www.educacionambiental.org.ar/
Beatriz Busaniche, Enrique Chaparro, Federico Heinz and Juan José Ciarlante will attend CaFeConf in Buenos Aires on November 10-11. http://www.cafeconf.org/modules/edito/content.php?id=3
Alexandre Oliva will lecture about Free Software at the Brazilian finals of ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest, that takes place in Rio de Janeiro on November 10-11. http://maratona.ime.usp.br/ http://www.dcc.ufrj.br/~maratona/ http://icpc.baylor.edu/
Alexandre Oliva will represent FSFLA at the 5th International GPLv3 Conference in Tokyo, Japan, on November 21-22, speaking about Free Software activities in Latin America. http://gplv3.fsij.org/
On November 25, Alexandre will speak at UNINOVE, Campus Vila Mariana, in São Paulo, lecturing on Free Software, game theory, competition and cooperation.
Richard Stallman, founder and president of FSF, North-American FSFLA's sister, will visit Colombia in December. On December 1-5 he'll be in Bogota; on 6-7 in Guayaquil, and 9-13 in Quito. More details will be at fsfla.org as we obtain them.
FSFLA is constantly seeking for people interested in working in our various workgroups, listed in http://www.fsfla.org/?q=en/node/121.
If you have an idea of a workgroup that FSFLA should set up, please bring it up at the firstname.lastname@example.org mailing list.