FOSS United's Policy Roadmap (November 2023 to October 2024)

Srikanth, can you elaborate? I am afraid I did not understand your point at all.

I think what @Srikanth is saying is that there is now a distinction being made between: “core developer freedoms” and “[non-core] user freedoms”. And that this distinction might mirror the similar philosophical distinction between “open source” and “free software”. Wherein the former is only about keeping the software unencumbered (from patent suits, and other legal issues) in building companies (and saving money while doing so) whereas the latter is also about freedoms for “the society as a whole because they promote social solidarity—that is, sharing and cooperation”.

I would not blame anyone for doing what they practically can.

But we do have to remain honest about our politics.

Interestingly, Venkatesh says “orthodox belief that equates patents with innovation”. ChatGPT describes Venkatesh’s beliefs about copyright thus: “align more with a belief in the value of copyright and intellectual property rights, which can be associated with a more traditional or proprietary stance in the context of creative works and content”.

In general, I believe there’s a pro-industry slant in this politics. Is this influencing the call on what is “practical” and what is not is a question that should be honestly introspected and answered by FOSS United.

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It indeed has to be “user freedoms”, where developers are implicitly a subset of “users”. Not just developers, all users–individuals, institutions etc, implicitly so. “Developer freedoms” is a narrow lens @Venkatesh_Hariharan. The phrasing may be ambiguous.

At this point we are just reacting to policy initiatives by the government in what seems like a very passive way of approaching things.

This is a legitimate way of policy engagement globally. Long term technical policy capacity and reacting to what’s happening in society are not mutually exclusive. The net neutrality campaign of 2016 is a great example of a reaction that grew into a movement.

Also we have been very active on the anti-patent front (I keep hearing you say “clear and present danger”), but I am yet to see the priority in this. Have there been any patent trolls in India?

This contradicts your previous statement :slight_smile: Are you suggesting that we wait for patent trolls to start showing up before deciding that software patents are harmful and react?


Assuming we all share the belief F stands for “Free as in free speech, not (just) free beer” - prioritizing “core developer freedoms” because limited resource availability at the cost of disengaging from “divisive topics” on liberty rights (privacy, anti surveillance among others) has significant costs to the vision of building a long lasting institution that puts India on the global FOSS map.

The approach of skipping the “battles” that are too big to fight and looking up for wins (and only focusing on winnable things), looks contradictory to furthering ideals as it seems that only “winning ideals” will survive. This sets a slippery slope of ideals for the next generation of FOSS policy advocates If resources are constraints - they must be listed and we must try to achieve the gap instead of parting ideals (for others). There can always be ‘resource-light’ ways to further ideals and some battles are worthier to be fought and lost than to be skipped.

Assuming I sufficiently expanded on my previous comment - Here is an additional thing that could adds-on increasing both user and developer rights.

I find “FOSS Usage in Government / Adopting FOSS in government” as a narrower win (yes, less taxpayer money spent on proprietary licenses, but can it be much more?) for FOSS when bulk of government systems are closed. To further FOSS ideals, all public facing digital systems for sovereign functions of state (Tax administration, currency, e-governance systems, “DPI” ) must be under FOSS license.

The letter to NPCI is a great start, can we also say write a letter to RBI, UIDAI, CBDT, GSTN (among others) making the same / similar request? At some level - this will be similar to Public Money, Public Code campaign in EU, but the realms need to be localized given how DPIs are financed using philanthro-capital or how data is fueling investments into artificially cross-subsidizing public expenditure into building the systems and so on. This could be one way to increase both user and developer rights.

Are these impractical - This greatly depends on the political belief systems / end-goal needs.

Some people (in positions of power) close the door for adversarial interactions and only are open for “constructive” / buzzword things like innovation, development etc as against expanding user rights that takes away power from them - and will have impact on our ability to collaborate with them.

Can we really further FOSS - if we avoid adversarial interactions / Would such collaborations (or lack of them) be detrimental to further FOSS? These are trade-offs that need to be made in “picking the battles” and framework that lets larger community deliberate and decide on these - can help ease the resource allocation problem - given that resources will always be limited and there will always be many battles to fight for ideals.

PS : Downloading is easiest way to access / cherish shared ownership of knowledge and we can avoid self-shaming ourselves on being a nation of downloaders.

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Exactly my thoughts. A focus around an aspirational goal like “public money, public code” should be the core thrust of a FOSS policy. Beyond writing letters, we could use a rights based framework that says that all code deployed in tax funded institutions should be public.

At some level, I am not a big fan of industrial policy. It will lead to more open washing, pushing of substandard code, but it would still be a better position to have. But keeping a standard that is very high, will lead to probably a lot more awareness in the government bureaucracy than trying to build relationships with bureaucrats who keep changing often.

Any policy thrust must be accompanied by some sort of public campaign. Say 5000 of us use our social handles to push for “Public money, public code” and maybe we can organise an in-person demonstration to that effect, it can create a lot more impact.

Agree. This is exactly why we need to have this discussion, if we all align with our limited pool of time / money, we can be a lot more impactful. I am a strong advocate of going bottomups up - getting the community sensitised rather than working with bureaucrats, academics and think-tanks. This how things should work in a democracy. Ability to access “powerful” people should not be the default way of influencing public policy. The “public” has to be sensitised as well.

Absolutely. It’d be amazing if we could do that! Where’s the human capacity though? Please feel free to volunteer! We need way more policy-aware voices from the tech community to take interest and participate. The early experiment of the tech-policy scholarship which is still running, its sole goal is to enable this. @rahulporuri got involved via that.

The pace at which tech laws, policies, and regulations are coming out in India, and the disproportionately tiny amount of participation (just about non-zero) from what is a massive tech community, is beyond scary. I’ve said the same thing in multiple places already: Technology+Policy course scholarship for FOSS devs

There’s this happening in EU, and it’s only a matter of time before stuff like this starts happening everywhere. If something like this comes through, the concept of freedoms in FOSS goes out of the window.

However, if applied as written, the bill could make authors of free and open source (FOSS) projects legally and financially responsible for how their projects are used within others’ commercial projects. This is a problem since Open Source software is, by definition, distributed “as is,” with no guarantees, thus relieving authors of any liability.

Stuff like this and numerous other things (not just in India, globally) strongly indicate that tech/FOSS isn’t going to be just about repositories, code, and sharing anymore. It’s going to be increasingly legislative (at the hands of bureaucrats and not technical people). The golden era of unhindered software freedoms and liberties, we have to wonder how long it’s going to last.

Techies need to be aware of policy and legislation and they need to actively participate and engage rather than sleep walk. There have to be strong, collective, informed, and technical voices from the community that engage with tech policy and law making.


Good to see a vibrant discussion here. I am working on the response to the Kerala IT Policy today. Will reply in detail to the points raised here by tomorrow.

Software patent related work needs a reasonable amount of work. Venky has pointed out that we have reasonable laws on paper (software patents “per se” clause being a hurdle still in some ways). Ensuring that the on-ground implementation doesn’t diverge from the law is what needs the elbow grease.

New govt tenders largely require usage of FOSS software, but don’t rule out reuse of proprietary components. Also:

  1. Any maintenance of FOSS dependencies is not expected to be up-streamed
  2. Any additional software developed on top of FOSS isn’t mandated to be open sourced. However, the govt seems to be asking for ownership rights in new projects to the extent possible.

To implement “Public Money, Public Code” in its entirety, the govt would need to shun proprietary software (of all types) completely…

Making a broad based campaign for “Public Money, Public Code” won’t be easy. The primary problem here is inspiring a lot of people to participate in something that doesn’t impact them directly. Hopefully this can be achieved to some extent in, say, Kerala?

+1. At a discussion in Takshashila, I asked a question about DPI and Open Source. Apparently, the word “DPI” (applied to things such as UPI, Adhaar etc) was chosen to make a distinction from “DPG”, which by definition would mean open source. That said, there seems to be a push to (a) promote open sourcing DPIs (b) trying to evolve DPIs as open standards.

FOSS projects won’t be responsible as they aren’t “products with digital elements” (as defined in the bill). Whoever selling them as products will be responsible. This is my best reading of the bill as of now.

The point is not our individual interpretation of a tiny snippet of a bill proposed in the EU. The point is that such bills are appearing in increasing frequency and that a large number of technical people should be taking interest, paying attention, and actually engaging.

The overall point is well taken. I wasn’t thinking about this prior to my recent submission to the broadcasting policy. Ours was among the few submissions made by individuals - rest were all by industry bodies and associations. The faculty also pointed out that this was low involvement . This is generally true for most TRAI consultations (perhaps others as well), with the net neutrality campaign being one of the exceptions.

Lack of involvement of tech people in policy is a broader issue as well that needs be to be addressed in various forums. @rahulporuri can we brainstorm about this in a meeting with GCPP alumni ?


Loved all the detailed comments. Let me try and respond to them here.

I agree that we should focus on “user freedoms” and not just “developer freedoms.” The “developer freedoms” issue has been on top of my mind due to all the missives we recently sent out around software patents and that crept into this document. Will amend that.

@asd Interesting usage of ChatGPT but I disagree with its analysis of my post. My viewpoints on software patents have been expressed numerous times. My old blog at has many examples of the same. On copyrights, the context of our earlier discussion was around AI models having unfettered access to our data and copyrights are one of the few means by which one can protect our data from such unfettered access. Having said that, I have done way more work around software patents than copyrights and have been reading up Stallman’s views on copyright, which offer a perspective different to the one I hold currently. I need to reflect more on those views.

I also don’t see what is “pro-industry” about my stance, but maybe that is my blind spot. Do expand on that comment. Happy to do a call too, if that works better for you.

Also, I thought that I had addressed the sharing and cooperation aspects when I wrote about the , “FOSS values of collaboration, community and the shared ownership of knowledge, and contributing back to the global commons of FOSS?”

@Srikanth The point on user freedoms is well accepted and no one is trying to take short-cuts here. Nor are we looking for “winnable battles” but looking at the essential battles that we need to fight as part of the FOSS community. In the past, these battles have ranged from the fight against Microsoft’s OOXML, the fight to get the open standards and open source policies approved by the Government of India, and the ongoing fight against software patents. In these battles we have gone up against industry leaders like Narayana Murthy who sided with proprietary software vendors, and against some of the most powerful industry associations in India. However, as a matter of policy, we used conflict as a last resort, when all other forms of persuasion failed.

A simple question here is – If we do not fight the software patents fight, who else will? If there are a few other organizations willing to take up this fight, we could look at other freeing up capacity to fight other battles.

I agree with you 100% when you say, “To further FOSS ideals, all public facing digital systems for sovereign functions of state (Tax administration, currency, e-governance systems, “DPI” ) must be under FOSS license.” If there is volunteer enthusiasm, we can reach out to RBI, UIDAI, CBDT, GSTN and others, and we can put together an outreach plan for the same.

On the “nation of downloaders” language, I agree it is harsh. I first heard this term 20 years ago from an eminent academic and the harsh truth is that even today we do not have too many global FOSS projects to our credit despite being the third largest community on GitHub. However, it may be better to change this language to read something on the lines of “building a culture of contributing back to the global FOSS commons.”

@rushabh I agree with the first part of your statement, “I am a strong advocate of going bottomups up - getting the community sensitised rather than working with bureaucrats, academics and think-tanks.” However, this need not be a binary, either/or situation. In fact a vibrant engagement with both the community as well as policy makers and influencers (bureaucrats, academics, politicians, think-tanks) can be mutually reinforcing and lead to better, FOSS friendly outcomes.

@knadh I agree with you on this 100% and will work on building a cadre of volunteers actively engaged in these issues.

In this discussion, we have directly jumped to the “how” and the “what”, rather than talking about the “why”

In context of some of my thoughts in this post, to me it is clear that the “why” for a FOSS community has to be around software rights.

In my personal view, for private individuals / companies, it is the choice of the creator to choose how they want to release their code. But in the case of public funded institutions where the code belongs to “the people”, there is no doubt that it should be free software.

Every citizen should have the right to study the code that runs the machines that run public institutions. This is an idealistic policy stand that is worth fighting for.


You are right. We skipped the “why” and went straight into the “how and what.” Akshay Dinesh’s post is a good starting point to reflect on the “why.”

@Venkatesh_Hariharan any update on this? Might be good to lay down some specific goals we can set for the coming quarter.

Agreed. I will update the doc and share more details next week.

The roadmap for the End Software Patents website in 2024 is here.. Roadmaps for our other policy initiatives shall follow shortly.

The first of the reviews of the Indian Patent Office has been uploaded for comments here ## Software Patents Review # 1 dated 15/01/2024. We aim to upload it to the End Software Patents website on Thursday, 18th Jan, 2024.

@Venkatesh_Hariharan now is a good time to propose the policy roadmap for FY 24-25!

I think it is very important that we get the buy-in of the community we are representing.

cc: @knadh


@rushabh I will publish the roadmap by 10th April.

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Let’s also crowdsource suggestions from the community first?

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