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Swiss Federal Court may share its DMS as open source

The Swiss Parliament’s control committee for the Federal Court is allowing the publication of Open Justitia, a document management system (DMS) developed in-house by the court as open source software, according to OSOR. The software will be made available under the GPLv3 licence soon.

The parliament’s committee discussed Open Justitia last Thursday following complaints by a proprietary software firm, Weblaw, which alleged the Federal Court was to become a commercial competitor.

The commission had sent the Federal Court (Bundesgericht) a list of questions in July, aiming to check the legal basis for the development of Open Justitia.

In its response in August, the court explained that it believes it has sufficient legal grounds to develop its own DMS and that making the source code available does not mean it is entering in competition. “The aim is to treat all participants the same way, especially those ICT service providers that develop software applications for the courts.”

The court refers to the e-Government strategy which encourages the sharing and reuse of data and services. It explained how it built its DMS on top of existing open source components, a database system and a search engine. “The court has added to these components some code specific for the court.”

It also rules out that its developing and sharing of the DMS is a form of cross subsidisation. “It was developed in 2007 and its costs have already been written off. Those interested in implementing it will have to bear the costs for the implementation and any further adjustments. There are no overhead cost and no need to charge others for it.”

A spokesperson for the court confirmed this afternoon that Open Justitia will become available soon. “They are deciding on the exact date of publication right now.”

The decision of the parliamentary control committee was announced last Friday by the Parliamentary Group for Digital Sustainability. The group welcomed the decision: “With the release of Open Justitia under an open source licence, costs can be saved, as the cantonal courts no longer need to purchase expensive proprietary software licences.”