Open Source, Open Standards Examined
Topics Focus of PFF Digital Europe in Milan, Brussels

Digital age companies are seeking a middle ground between exclusive control of standards and total openness, and policymakers around the globe find themselves in the middle of this transformation. Recognizing a need to focus the debate on allowing competition in free markets to act unhindered by government mandates, senior fellows from The Progress & Freedom Foundation will host a series of events in Europe next month.

 PFF Digital Europe 2005 is our first formal outreach across the Atlantic , but it won't be our last. 

PFF Digital Europe 2005 begins in Milan, Italy, on February 11th, when PFF joins with Istituto Bruno Leoni to hold an all-day conference titled "Interoperability in the Digital World: Open Standards, Open Source, Property Rights and Markets." PFF President Ray Gifford and Senior Fellows James DeLong, Tom Lenard and Solveig Singleton will participate in sessions. Additional events will be held in Brussels, Belgium, on February 15th and 16th with PFF senior fellows meeting with members of the European Parliament and their staff. Those events will be co-hosted with the Centre for a New Europe.

"PFF Digital Europe 2005 is our first formal outreach across the Atlantic, but it won't be our last," says PFF President Ray Gifford. "The digital economy is triggering dramatic changes in Europe just as it is here, and businesses and policymakers are scrambling to keep up. We look forward to partnering with our friends in Europe who share the belief that the best approach in the Digital Age is to rely on the creativity of private companies acting within free markets, with governments playing their classic role of defining and enforcing property rights and protecting the integrity of the market."

Also on the Milan agenda February 11th will be U.S. State Department Senior Counselor for International Communications and Information Policy Timothy Finton, speaking at a luncheon with Simon Bensasson, head of the Unit of the Information Society of the European Commission. Others include Italian Antitrust Authority Commissioner Antonio Pilati; European academic leaders such as Cesare Galli (University of Parma) and Pascal Salin (Université Paris Dauphine); Istituto Bruno Leoni scholars, including Director-Dipartimento Globalizzazione e concorrenza Alberto Mingardi and President, Amici dell'Istituto Carol Martino; and insustry leaders such as Microsoft VP Umberto Paolucci, Fujitsu Siemens CEO Pierfilippo Roggero, CompTIA VP-Public Policy Robert Kramer and Association for Competitive Technology President Jonathan Zuck.

 When governments express a desire to promote open source, exactly what do they have in mind? 

"Digital-age industries need hybrid models of control and openness that will permit interoperability by making any particular business' systems open to interconnection with the systems developed by other businesses, but that at the same time allow innovative businesses to be rewarded for investment and risk-taking," says DeLong, director of PFF's Center for the Study of Digital Property, known as IPcentral. When government is urged to mandate open source or other interconnection mechanisms, DeLong says, that approach solves the need for openness but ignores the need to maintain incentives for innovation and investment. "In practice," he argues, "the approach may also frustrate interoperability because its very openness encourages tweaking and forking, which can result in version proliferation and incompatibility."

"Besides, when governments express a desire to promote open source, exactly what do they have in mind?" DeLong asks. "Which of the 80 plus licenses is included? And what do they regard as the 'open source community' -- The new-model collectivists of the Free Culture Movement or the Free Software Foundation, who want socialism in IP? The competent professionals who maintain the Linux kernel? Entrepreneurial developers who want to hang money-making applications onto Linux or open-source Solaris?  Linux promoters who distribute software at no cost but charge for 'services'?  Practical IBM executives who want to turn software into a commodity so they can capture more profits for hardware and services? Equally practical corporate CIOs, who want as many choices and as much competition as possible?  Anti-Microsoft zealots?  Third world kleptocrats?  All of these are part of the open source movement."

In organizing its first trip to Europe, The Progress & Freedom Foundation is building on its ten-year track record in hosting the Aspen Summit, PFF's annual gathering of the digital world's most prominent business leaders, probing thinkers and influential policymakers. Debuting in 1995, the Aspen Summit soon became one of the most talked about events of its kind. Wired News has compared the Aspen Summit to the annual Davos event in Switzerland and the Renaissance Weekend at Hilton Head. This year's Aspen Summit will be held August 21-23.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.