A battle for software supremacy within the public and private sectors of Ukraine has begun. Recently, the Ukrainian Parliament registered a "project of law" (the equivalent of a bill in U.S. terms) that may radically alter the manner in which the Ukrainian government procures software. If adopted, it will require government agencies, along with all state-owned or state-controlled companies, to give preference to open source software, News Forge reported.

However, the proposed legislation still offers ample opportunity for competition by legitimate proprietary software. It requires giving preference to an open source product only when the open source feature set is analogous to that of a commercial product, and justifies using proprietary products if the open source counterparts are more expensive.

The open source project contains nearly the entire OSI definition of open source, translated into the language of the Ukrainian legal system. It stipulates that all source code developed by public authorities is to be of an open nature, constrained only by the requirements of national security. And the bill does not limit itself to just software. Among its key elements is the requirement for state authorities to incorporate open standards in their work. Another provision requires public authorities to open the source code of the software they develop, except in cases when national security considerations requires the contrary.

The adoption of the open source project is more than a software issue; it is critical to the well-being of the Ukraine economy. Today, more than 90% of the million-plus computers in Ukraine run pirated software. If we assume that the average cost of the software installed on these computers runs to at least a thousand dollars each, the funds that would be required to legalize all this proprietary software would run into the billions of dollars.

In addition, there are issues that extend beyond Ukraine itself. Specifically, Ukraine has declared its willingness to join the European Union and must therefore remove the stigma of being a violator of intellectual property rights by legalizing its proprietary software. Such a move could financially strangle the country. According to estimates by the Centre for Constitutional Studies, a Ukrainian think tank, the overall expenditures necessary to legalize the currently installed government and commercial proprietary software could cost the country as much as $523 billion. Those costs include both anti-piracy campaigns and license fees. The magnitude of the problem is clear when you consider that Ukraine's state budget for 2005 is just over $100 billion.


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