Thursday, July 23, 2009

Is Smartmatic's PCOS software covered by GPL?

Smartmatic's PCOS computer, called the SAES-1800 [1], will be used as vote counting machine at the precincts on election day, May 10, 2010. SAES works under the uClinux operating system and most probably uses the libSANE scanner library for its built-in ballot scanner. Both the uClinux operating system and the libSANE scanner library are covered by the General Public License (GPL) [2], a freedom software license (open source license). Under the GPL, any derivative product, like the SAES software, has to be covered by the same GPL, and so must necessarily be open source. Is the refusal of Smartmatic to release the source code of SAES-1800 a violation of the GPL? During the Senate hearing on the Smartmatic-TIM-Comelec contract by Senator Chiz Escudero's committee, I asked Mr. Cesar Flores, spokeman of Smartmatic how I can get technical documentation and the source code of the SAES-1800. Mr. Flores said that anything that we need from them, we should ask Comelec. The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (of which I am IT consultant) asked Comelec for the source code of the election programs, including the SAES and CCS (canvassing and consolidating system) programs. In an en-banc resolution dated June 2009, Comelec granted CenPEG its request for a copy of the source code of SAES and CCS. Up to now, more than a month after the en-banc resolution, CenPEG has not gotten a copy of the source codes of the two programs. Comelec's Executive Director Tolentino asked CenPEG to wait for the Comelec's Technical Evaluation Committee to issue a set of guidelines for the source code review by independent parties outside of Comelec. But the law (RA-9369) [3] is quite clear on this issue of source code review of the election programs:

"Once an AES technology is selected for implementation, the Commission shall promptly make the source code of that technology available and open to any interested political party or groups which may conduct their own review thereof."

Is this delaying tactic part of the Smartmatic-Comelec conspiracy to get full control of computerized election 2010, so that no one has an idea of how the Smartmatic computer programs are counting our votes and combining them into canvasses? Is this refusal of the Comelec to "promptly make the source code ... available" to CenPEG, so that it may "conduct its own review thereof", a violation of RA-9369?

Is Smartmatic's refusal to release the source code of the SAES-1800 a violation of the General Public License? In recent announcement of Microsoft to contribute 20,000 lines of Hyper-V code under the GPL, it was discovered that Microsoft had used open source components that were released under GPL. Microsoft is contributing its Hyper-V code under GPL in order to avoid a big embarassment that will be caused by its violation of the GPL of some of its components. Now is this not precisely the same case of Smartmatic's use of uClinux and libSANE library? Should not Smartmatic do the honorable thing and release the SAES-1800 code under the GPL?

Smartmatic: the people of the Philippines is waiting for you to do the honorable thing.

Richard Stallman: What are you doing?



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