Re: Elena Herrero-Beaumont Kellogg School of Management

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Wed May 05 2004 - 20:36:21 CDT


A private company could disclose their source code calling it "open source" something like VoteHere did shortly after our April 1 demo. The VoteHere software remains proprietary although they have disclosed the source. It's little more than a marketing gimmick.

Scientists and engineers--especially those involved in developing competing products and especially those working on "free" software--generally don't want to look at proprietary software. If engineer A looks at VoteHere's software, it's possible that VoteHere could sue engineer A (or her company) if VoteHere can make a case, however flimsy, that some ideas from VoteHere's software are showing up in the software on which engineer A is working.

So disclosure of the source code in the case of voting software has little real benefit since the people you'd really like to look at the software will not be much interested in doing so.

The type of software Diebold has developed is relatively simple in the world of computer science. There is not much incentive to steal their software since anyone could hire a few Visual Basic/Access programmers to create something just as good in short order.

The GPL model (or something very similar) is the right way to go. From a business perspective, it would make no sense for Diebold to make their software GPL. They may go to GPL if market and other forces demand that, but most likely they would be leaving the voting machine business because they would not be able to make the kinds of margins they are used to making. If cheap commodity systems can do everything they do, how can anyone justify paying such a premium for their expensive hardware?

Suppose laws are passed outlawing paperless voting machines and outlawing the use of privately-owned software in public elections.

Diebold could make money in the voting business, but their business model would have to change dramatically. First, they'd want to join the Open Voting Consortium.

I have copied this message to our voting project email list. You can check our archives ( ) to see if there are follow up messages that might clarify other issues for you.


Alan Dechert, President
Open Voting Consortium

p.s., I didn't find you in the Kellog School directory. Are you new there?

  ----- Original Message -----
  Sent: Wednesday, May 05, 2004 5:00 PM
  Subject: Elena Herrero-Beaumont Kellogg School of Management


  I am a scholar at Kellogg School of Management and I am working on a case study regarding Diebold's current crisis situation.

  I was wondering if you could give me your opinion on how a private company like Diebold could change its policy regarding its private software into an open source software. Would that policy entail a dramatic loss in the revenues obtained from e-voting equipment? If yes, could you explain me why? It could be due to the risks of being copied?



  P.D.: Good luck. I thing your cause is admirable!

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Received on Mon May 31 23:17:18 2004

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