Lawsuits debate freedoms pertaining to software.

This past week was marked by two important developments towards stopping the disobedience to the Brazilian Constitution by the Brazilian public administration, as far as choosing software platforms is concerned.

On one hand, IBDI: Brazilian Institute of Informatics Politics and Law filed its Amicus Curiæ petition for the constitutionality lawsuit 3059/03 filed against the Free Software law in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, carrying FSFLA's article `On the constitutional preference for Free Software´ as an annex. FSFLA thanks IBDI and all the participants in preparing this petition, particularly the lawyers Dr Omar Kaminski and Dr Euripedes Brito Cunho Junior. More information in the editorial of our latest bulletin at, in our article at and (in Portuguese)

On another hand, lawyers Dr Segio Ruy David Polimeno Valente and Dr Rafael Gandara D'Amico, representing Mr Odilon Guedes, filed mandamus #3494 against the requirement, by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), of use of a program exclusively for the MS-Windows platform for accounting information demanded of every electoral campaign. (in pt_BR).

Even though their arguments contain errors such as referring to GNU/Linux, one of the operating systems the candidate would like to be able to use, by the name of one of its components, Linux, we consider pertinent the allegation of violation of the constitutional priciples of legality and impersonality, by the arbitrary choice of a software platform that benefits, in an unjustified way, a single company.

Although many won't identify with this situation, that affects only electoral candidates, a similar imposition is made by the Federal Income (parallel to USA's IRS) office. Many of its programs are offered both for MS-Windows and for Java. Even though the need for a Java virtual machine is indicated, such programs often refer to features not defined in the platform specification, but present in the implementation by a single company, among the various companies that offer Java virtual machines. That's therefore the same kind of violation of the principles of legality and impersonality.

In order to avoid such violations, we suggest complementary approaches:

  • publishing protocols and file formats used by programs offered by the public administration, in order to respect the transparency principle and enable alternate implementations of these programs for other platforms, and

  • licensing of software distributed by the public administration in such a way that enables citizens to adapt the software to platforms of their choice and/or hire third parties to do so. These permissions require the source code of the applications to be made available (which is also necessary to comply with the transparency principle) and respect to the freedoms to adapt, distribute, study and run the software, modified or otherwise. In other words, licensing of the software under terms compatible with the Free Software definition.

FSFLA expects the disobedience to constitutional principles, that has caused losses to both citizens and the public administration itself, to come to an end, and encourages citizens to act to assert their rights and freedoms, among them those of demanding from public administrators the compliance with the constitution.


FSFLA, in process of legal constitution, joined in 2005 the FSF network previously formed by FSFs 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 or write to