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Free software groups protest France school software deal

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A group of three French associations free software advocacy groups wants to cancel a software licence agreement signed between the French Ministry of Education and Microsoft France.

The groups have started legal action, saying that the Ministry has ignored procurement rules, by foregoing a request for tender.

"Those services and products should have been the subject of a competitive bidding", the CNLL says in a statement. The National Council of Free Software (Conseil National du Logiciel Libre), is a trade group that represents about 400 free software companies.

The CNLL is one of the members of the newly formed Edunathon. The other two members are La Mouette, an association promoting free software and Ploss-RA, CNLL representative for Rhône-Alpes Auvergne area.

Edunathon is considering to take the Ministry to court. "We want to defend the public service, and preserve the rights of students and teachers to own their data and remain autonomous in their informational needs," the CNNL stated. Additionally, the trade group wants to support the equity between the firms and the economic digital players. "Including young French and European emerging companies on major projects supported by the French state and public institutions", the association says in its statement.

"An informal appeal"

For now, "it is an informal appeal", Marie Jo Kopp, president of La Mouette association explained. The Minister has two months to formulate a response. "Our request is to cancel this agreement, because we think It does not respect the public law" Kopp says.

On 30 November 2015, the Minister of National Education Najat Vallaud Belkacem and Microsoft France signed a EUR 13-million agreement to provide software and services to schools across the country.

"Microsoft is willing to sell at a loss - or even to provide its services free of charge", CNLL says in its statement. "This dumping will brutally force many French and European companies from the market and gives the company the most monopolistic position possible on the French education sector."

"Can we allow a private company to offer their services for free to the state, whereas some other companies are forced to bill those services ?", asks Jean Baptiste Soufron, a Lawyer at FWPA-Avocats in charge of the suit for Edunathon.

"This is a first step, Soufron explains. It's not aggressive. Where we go from here, depends on the Ministry."

The Ministry has not yet responded to Edunathon.

 

More information:

Statement by CNLL (in French)
Agreement between the Ministry of Education and Microsoft France (PDF, in French)

Information