News | 27 April 2022

Open letter to the legislators in the EU: The universal right to freely choose operating systems, software and services

Title page open letter

Together with 37 European organisations and companies, Germanwatch publishes an open letter calling on legislators in the EU to introduce the universal right to install any software on any device, including full access to hardware.

The European Union is in the process of redefining the ecodesign criteria for products in several legislative proposals, including the Sustainable Product Initiative, the Circular Electronics Initiative, and the Right to Repair. These proposals aim at extending the usage time of hardware and facilitating circular use of electronic devices. The current regulations do not include any criteria regarding the design and licensing of software as an important factor for the sustainability of electronic products. However, software directly influences how long consumers can keep using their devices.

That is why we call on legislators in the EU to make use of the historic chance and enable a more sustainable use of electronic products and devices with a universal right to install and run any software on any device. In short, we demand that:

  • Users have the right to freely choose operating systems and software running on their devices;
  • Users have the right to freely choose between service providers to connect their devices with;
  • Devices are interoperable and compatible with open standards;
  • Source code of drivers, tools, and interfaces are published under a free license.

Nowadays, users who want to keep using their devices for a longer time, or to reuse their hardware in a creative way, face a wide range of software barriers: from obsolescence to an unexpected end-of-support, from spare part serialisation to locked boot loaders. In practice, these artificial restrictions on using and reusing hardware are ultimately imposed by software. Neither consumers nor professional third-party services can overcome them, often simply due to the obscurity of proprietary software licensing models. Free software licensing solves many of these issues and in this way becomes crucial for an eco-friendly design and the sustainability of hardware; this is the core message of the open letter signed today by 38 European organisations and companies.

The initial signatories of the open letter include civil society organisations from the environmental, economic, and technological sectors. In addition, several companies such as Fairphone, Nitrokey and Nextcloud support these demands, showing that a more sustainable digital society and economic growth are not contradictions.