The Swiss Confederation

Why Lobbying?

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The «Zero Point» statement

Among Open Source developers, there is a known massive rejection of political interaction. Mostly, this rejection is supported with the words «You can't change anything anyway» and «They don't listen to the small people».

The campaign against software patents, which started way back in 1998, does however constitute a major hint that this assertion simply doesn't hold. In this campaign, FFII has successfully turned down several attempts to introduce US style patent law in Europe, and is currently on its way to create its own directive proposal. This proposal will constitute a major step towards a new era of intellectual property rights which tries to achieve more dynamic protection of rights which is adaptable to the requirements of both the inventors and the consumers.

Necessity for Open Source lobbyists

So Lobbying can be worthwhile. Still, the question remains why we should participate in lobbying as such.

The problem is that the IT market isn't quite as apparent as the so-called «real world». In fact, most of the parliamentarians aren't very clued when it comes to information technology, even less about information security, which is a big topic as well. This makes it easy for professional lobbyists working for big corporations to educate the parliamentarians about the things that they consider reasonable to know. This again makes the parliamentarians much more likely to make favorable legislation for big corporations.

However, the small and medium sized enterprises and the Open Source community don't have a lobby of their own. This means that in a lot of occasions, the parliamentarians aren't going to hear about the arguments that this group is bringing across, even though in a lot of cases they are logically and economically superior.

However, everybody who is working as a lobbyist at least half of his spare time will already cause a great relief to the problem. If you talk to your parliamentarians and provide them with good arguments to support your point, we are already one step closer to building a world that we would actually want to live in. Parliamentarians tend to listen to good arguments rather than bribes or harassment, which is a major handicap to the big industry.

If we combine our forces, we can win a whole lot of further debates and make this world a friendlier place to small players and Open Source.

Why lobbying at all

Some people, however, consider lobbying in itself to be the evil it is trying to solve. We from FFII believe that this is not the case. In our opinion, lobbying isn't just a model of influencing people's opinion, it is more than that: it's a solution to a particular problem, which was created by the parliamentary democracy itself.

The problem is that laws exist for the vast majority of things we encounter in our lifes. However, nobody can be expected to be able to judge every aspect of our daily life, simply because he doesn't have the expertise to do so. This is especially true here in Switzerland, as we have a parliament of volunteers.

The solution Lobbying provides is that there is a set of established experts on all the areas that will be covered by legislation. These experts can be asked for their opinion and for amendments to the current legislation, and will also contact the parliamentarians with suggestions and motions. These experts are called «lobbyists» and are supposed to ensure that sensible legislation is passed.

The problem we're facing these days is, in our opinion, that the distribution of lobbyists is rather unilateral. Large corporations can afford to pay dedicated lobbyists to lobby the parliaments, while most of the small businesses and private producers have ceased to lobby their parliamentarians themselves long ago. There is however a need for opinions from smaller businesses, because they actually still make up the vast majority of the market, as has been shown in the Economic Majority campaign. So in order to be representative, it would be necessary to have their opinion as well. This idea is called «grassroot lobbying» because it starts from the root of industrial growth.

The big corporations have also discovered that there is ineed a demand for opinions from small companies. However, since there isn't much action to be expected from the small business side, they invented small businesses which they send to parliament in order to simulate grassroot lobbying. This process is called «astroturfing», because like with astroturf, it looks like grass roots, but there is no real development taking place.

The easiest way to eliminate astroturfing is to get more small business lobbyists into the parliaments. If the parliamentarians get to know the small businesses better. they learn to differenciate between a real IT business and a fake one. This step will bring us a big step further ahead, which means one step closer to an open source society.

However, no matter if lobbying is expertise or evil, we have to put up with the fact that lobbying exists in its current shape. So the discussion whether there should be lobbying or not is actually irrelevant, since the other side of the debate does very heavy lobbying already, and all we can currently do to improve our position is to provide information and arguments from our side.

Thus our suggestion is that we spare the debate on whether lobbying is a good idea or not for later, and get to support our aims in the way that we're given at this time.

How to help

There are a whole lot of different ways in which you can support the aims of FFII (and as such, the aims of the Open Source community and the small and medium sized IT businesses). You can read more about this subject in the article «How to support FFII».