The source code for France’s income tax software should be made publicly accessible, says the country’s Freedom Of Information authority, the Commission d'accès aux documents administratifs (CADA). Source code for governmental applications is administrative information which should be made publicly available, CADA writes.
CADA was asked to intervene in a Freedom of Information request by a citizen, whose request for the source code had been turned down by France’s Tax Department. The citizen wants to use the source code for research purposes.
The Tax Department explained to CADA that the software consisted of many files and that making them available would be too difficult. The documents should be regarded as non-existent, the Tax Deartment argued.
CADA dismissed the arguments, writing that such technical complications can not justify a refusal. The source code should be made available in the form in which it exists, CADA concludes. The code should also be reusable, except when that is prevented by third party intellectual property rights.
“This is a very important decision”, says Frédéric Couchet, executive director of April, France’s free software advocacy group. The NGO hopes it will lead to further, similar requests. “Inevitably, this also raises the question of which licence to use for sharing such code”, Couchet says. He recommends the code is distributed using a free software licence.
The advocacy group says that making the code public would be in line with the 2012 Ayrault Memorandum on the use of free software in France’s public administration. It would also be an appropriate fit to Openfisca, a French government-led project to develop a free software application to model and simulate taxes and benefits.