Background

The existence of a vibrant and active community has been critical to the worldwide growth in the use of open source software such as Linux, Apache, Firefox, and Jboss. The acceptance of open source distribution and development models into the IT mainstream has been the result of hard work by a combination of grassroots volunteers and commercial support organizations. Most of the technical obstacles to using open source have been eliminated, as people and organizations within the public and private sectors have discovered its many advantages.

Canada is home to many open source software projects, as well as a thriving community of users, academics, developers and vendors. The country has the potential to develop open source based IT into a truly home-grown infrastructure which encourages innovation, creates jobs, and offers export opportunities to serve the world's growing demand for open source expertise.

However, this leadership situation is under serious threat, as opposition to open source methods and philosophies shifts its focus from the technical arena into corporate and public policy.

Certain vested interests, threatened by the growth of collaboration and the rights of technology consumers, have started to show their intent. Many content publishers, proprietary software vendors and others have concentrated lobbying and campaign funding on specific political targets. The current Canadian copyright system is under attack by lobbyists and pressure groups. The current debate regarding open standards for data exchange in Massachusetts, which has led to personal attacks on technical staff, could result in a lack of courage when addressing the issue in Canada.