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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 3224 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

something is that it becomes your property and you can do with it as you wish, even to the point of selling it on to someone else. You can even break a car into pieces and sell the pieces to different people.

Somehow we have been tricked into believing that software is a different kind of thing and many have accepted the idea that we do not own a piece of software once we buy it. In fact, some of the major suppliers of software have moved to a revenue model whereby it is necessary to continually pay rent for the right to use a product that has been purchased.

Even more strangely, we are not allowed to see the workings of the software so that we can check to make sure that it is doing what we expect or want it to do. If I continue with the car analogy, this would be equivalent to buying a car but never being allowed to look under the bonnet to see what is inside. It is indeed a very strange situation where people are paying astonishingly large amounts of money on an on-going basis for very few rights. In many cases people are not even allowed to talk about their experiences with using a piece of software because of the narrow terms of the licence agreement that comes with that software.

In response to this and many other problems in the computer software industry, a worldwide movement of people has developed a set of competing software products that do not have restrictive licence agreements. In fact, the most common clause associated with open source software is that you can use the software in any way you wish, and modify it as you see fit, provided you include a full copy of the source code every time you sell the software on to another party. As the source code of this software is available for anyone to see at any time, the code is robust and secure.

In the ACT, the open source software movement presents a wonderful opportunity for us. Our universities could teach computer science around open source products, allowing students to examine in intimate detail the workings of established products. Every student assignment has the potential to contribute to the body of functioning open source systems. Simply by forwarding their completed work to the relevant open source project, their code could become part of a greater work in publication.

It is worth noting that some of the world's most widely used and recognised pieces of open source software have been developed right here in the ACT. For example, the Samba project, which allows Linux computers to seamlessly integrate with windows networks, was developed by a team primarily based here in Canberra.

Because the open source paradigm uses a different business model, it is possible for student computers to be fully programmed with operating systems, development tools, and working application software at no cost to the student. A lot of open source software is free software. This fact alone could save the ACT education sector many thousands of dollars in licence fees.

Our local information technology industry is ideally placed to develop and maintain open source systems. Every government development project could leverage the efforts of previous projects by standing on the shoulders of the work that has been done before. Open source code is inherently portable and can be compiled to run on any computer

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