[en] FSFLA board member requests source code of Brazilian tax software

info en fsfla.org info en fsfla.org
Lun Feb 18 20:16:31 UTC 2008

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)

== About FSFLA

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 en fsfla.org.

== Press contacts

Alexandre Oliva
Board member, FSFLA
lxoliva en fsfla.org
+55 19 9714-3658 / 3243-5233

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

Copyright 2008 FSFLA

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