Bringing the Cloud down to Earth

ECIS symposium 24 April 2013
Sofitel Europe, Place Jourdan 1, Brussels

The European Committee for Interoperable Systems sponsored a symposium to look at some of the pressing issues of inter-operability for the collection of technologies called the cloud.

The videos below feature a keynote speech by Michail Bletsas, director of computing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (“MIT”) Media Lab, who explains how the cloud hides that complexity.

Before he talks, others consider where and when government should step in to regulate the cloud, in order to make sure that there is real competition. For example, should government help make sure consumers and businesses can easily move their data from one cloud to another?

After the Bletsas speech, two lawyers in private practice talk with him about his views, and look at some of the dangers of security.

We begin with an 11-minute summary video:

Thomas Vinje, the counsel and spokesman for ECIS, welcomes people to the symposium:

Ken Ducatel, head of unit for software and services at the European Commission’s Directorate-General Connect, talks about issues government faces in dealing with the Cloud:

Katarina de Brisis, Norway’s deputy director for the Ministry of Government Administration and Reform, with responsibility for the cloud, talks about that government’s approach to handling cloud issues:

Linsey McCallum, who deals with high tech issues at the European Commission for the Competition Directorate-General, as acting director in the unit handling information, communication and media, looks at the way competition law is likely to apply for cloud issues. She notes that these are “early days” in this area:

The panel of McCallum, de Brisis, and Ducatel take questions in a discussion moderated by Martin Porter, managing director for Edelman at The Centre in Brussels:

Michail Bletsas keynote speech, including slides, helps explain how the Web works:

David Lawsky, senior adviser to ECIS, introduces Bletsas. In the event this preceded the Bletsas speech:

Andrew Updegrove. a founding partner of the law firm Gesmer Updegrove LLP, in Boston, reacts to the Bletsas speech. He also raises novel questions about the dangers for society posed by war should server farms be attacked:

Thomas Vinje, chief counsel to ECIS, talks about the application of competition law to issues surrounding the cloud:

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Statement regarding EU General Court case T-167/08:

Brussels, 27 June 2012 – “The European Committee for Interoperable Systems is pleased that the court essentially upheld the Commission’s actions regarding Microsoft, making only a 4 percent adjustment in the fine,” said ECIS spokesman Thomas Vinje.

“Of course, today’s decision in no way changes the remedies or fine which the European Commission imposed on Microsoft eight years ago, when it found that Microsoft illegally used its monopoly power to squelch competition,” he said.

“Nor does it change the requirement that Microsoft provide interoperability information on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis (FRAND),” Vinje said.

FINE

“The decision today makes a minor adjustment for one of two monetary penalties imposed on Microsoft for its delays.  Microsoft had delayed its compliance with remedies which the Commission imposed with the aim of restoring competition,” Vinje said.

When then-Commissioner Neelie Kroes announced the first fine for non-compliance on 12 July 2006, she said that it was unprecedented for a company to defy the Commission’s imposition of remedies, but that Microsoft had done so for more than six months (exact dates in the timeline below).

“This is the first time ever, in the 49-year history of the European Union, that the Commission has had to fine a company for failure to comply with an anti-trust decision. I hope that it is also the last”, Kroes said.  http://bit.ly/M6jkCVhttp://bit.ly/LwbfIw   It is that second fine which the General Court made a minor adjustment today.“The Commission ultimately succeeded in compelling Microsoft to make interoperability information available. That decision, which promotes competition in the market for work group servers, has been upheld by the EU judiciary,” Vinje said. 

Unfortunately, Microsoft continued to defy the Commission for another 16 months and Kroes had to impose a second penalty for non-compliance, on 27 February 2008.  

Contact: David Lawsky, +322 613 2824. Mobile: +32 472 91 47 48, cipa@lawsky.com

For more information, please access the full press statement available here.

 

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April 4, 2012 @ 12:36 am

INTRODUCTION

ECIS is dedicated to assuring competition in information and communications technology that helps consumers and users and promotes innovation For more than 20 years, ECIS has sought to shape government policies and practices which promote interoperability and open standards.

In the coming year, ECIS will focus especially on:

ASSURING OPENNESS IN CLOUD COMPUTING

  • The principles of competition will prove as important in the cloud as they have in other areas of new technology. While work continues on voluntary industry standards for cloud computing, users and the European economy will benefit when appropriate specifications are in place to permit portability of data among cloud vendors .
  • As enterprises — whether public authorities or private enterprise — take up the cloud they should be able to mix and match equipment and software. Data formats should be standardised so that data can be moved readily from one cloud provider to another.
  • These will foster competition among the vendors of cloud software and among public cloud providers, which should lead to innovation and falling prices.
  • Cloud computing is easily described but subtle in its execution There is room for much to be invented, and industry players are developing cloud computing standards. Government should not interfere with the process but should engage as an important stakeholder. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) provides an excellent model for standards setting, laid out on its website:
  • “The World Wide Web Consortium achieves its mission by bringing diverse stake-holders together, under a clear and effective consensus-based process to develop high-quality standards based on contributions from the W3C Members, staff, and the community at large.”
  • The success of open standards on the Web is around us everywhere and helped foster radical changes in commerce, destroying old business models and creating new ones.
  •  A similar process including government, industry and others in the community is the sensible way to set standards for the cloud.
  • Questions of the cloud are intimately connected to the approach that governments take to standards setting and procurement.

REFORM OF THE STANDARDS SETTING PROCESS

  • The best way to set standards is to do it publicly and democratically. As efforts to reform the ICT standards process progress in Europe, and reliance on consortia and open standards grows, ECIS will work to ensure that policies are adopted that recognize these market dynamics and that standards setting groups should listen and involve the owners and the users of technologies involved before acting.[1]
  • The European Commission took an important step to laying out principles for standards setting in its “horizontal guidelines,” which provide legal guidance – but no mandatory requirements – to competitors in horizontal markets, such as competing makers of memory chips.
  • The Commission suggested that companies disclose patents and make irrevocable written commitments to license them on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms while a standard is under consideration, in order to avoid patent hold-ups later. Only after such commitments are made should a standard be adopted.

NON-DISCRIMINATORY, OPEN PUBLIC  PROCUREMENT

ECIS will continue its long-standing commitment to technology-neutral public procurement.[2]


[1] Standards and specifications for software are usually royalty free but hardware industries such as telecommunications usually charge royalties.

[2] Specifications from W3C, the Internet Engineer Task force (IETF) and the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS)  should be recognised officially within the EU for use in public procurement. The Commission, advised by the newly appointed, multi-stakeholder ICT standardisation platform (MSP), would have to be satisfied with the transparency and openness of the process by which the standard is developed. This would correspond to criteria used in the World Trade Organisation.

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On June 1 2011, the European Commission proposed a Regulation on European Standardisation, according to which ICT technical specifications developed by industry fora and consortia such as W3C, Oasis and IETF may be recognised in the EU, and be referenced in public procurement procedures.

The decision for the recognition of such ICT technical specifications will be taken by the Commission with the assistance of a European Multi-Stakeholder Platform already established in November 2011. The European Multi-Stakeholder Platform will have an advisory role to the Commission to assist the later with its decision on the recognition of ICT specifications. The Commission has aimed at keeping the decision-making process as simple as possible.

ECIS however understands that the Council considers amending the Commission’s proposal to provide for a requirement for the Commission to follow the comitology procedure when deciding on this issue. Moreover, the Council believes that the examination procedure provided by Regulation No 182/2011  is the appropriate procedure to be followed by the Commission to exercise its implementing powers. According to that procedure, a comitology committee – a committee comprising of Member States representatives – will consider the Commission’s draft decision and will have the right to veto the adoption of that decision. On the contrary, should the less complex advisory procedure be followed, the Commission would only need to reach out to the comitology committee for their non-binding advice before the adoption of its decision.

To read the statement in full, please click on the link below:

ECIS_statement_on_the_recognition_of_fora_and_consortia_specifications

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This article argues that competition and innovation in the software industry in the European Union will be seriously undermined if the Court of Justice of the European Union in SAS Institute, Inc v World Programming Ltd holds that copyright protection for computer programs extends to the functional behaviour of computer programs, to programming languages and to data formats and data interfaces essential for achieving interoperability.  This article explains why the text and legislative history of the EU Software Directive, in line with international treaty provisions, should be understood as providing protection for the literary aspects of programs, but not to functionality, languages and data interfaces.  Copyright has an important, but limited role to play in protecting program innovations, especially in view of the increased availability of patents for functional aspects of software.

The draft version of the article that was published in the EIPR in February 2012 is available on SSRN:

Does Copyright Protection Under the EU Software Directive Extend to Computer Program Behaviour, Languages and Interfaces?

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