More details in this article
What it seems to come down to is the court could not find a product that met its needs. So it developed its own:
The federal court (Bundesgericht) began development of its internal document management system in 2007. The IT department decided to develop OpenJustitia "after finding that none of the existing solutions on the market satisfied met the technological and quality needs" of the court.
Two years later it decided to make the source code available as open source, under the GPLv3, planned for this summer. It also started to present the DMS to interested courts in the country. OpenJustitia offers courts an efficient way to search through court decisions, the Bundesgericht explains in a statement.
At this point, a software publisher with a similar product complained:
Swiss newspapers on 1 July wrote how this caused one Swiss IT vendor, Weblaw, to fear that it will lose a number of bids with such courts for its own, proprietary search engine. The vendor, in a statement sent to Inside IT: "Instead of operating an oversized IT department funded by tax-payers, the Federal Court should investigate the existing products available on the market. This would be sustainable and cost effective."
What is interesting is how the publisher neatly ducked the issue of whether or not its product was superior or more effective, Instead it immediately resorted to the usual accusations of "bloated government" and the imperative to go with a privately provided solution whenever a government requirement is identified.
The local industry group (surprise!) immediately closed ranks behind this publisher:
The vendor is supported by Swiss ICT, an IT trade group. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung on 1 July quoted Swiss ICT's chairman Thomas Flatt: "It is incomprehensible that a state institution interferes in a market where several competitors are active. This is not about open source or proprietary solutions, but about using the term open source to conceal cross subsidization."
But again - there's nothing about how any of the commercial offerings are superior or equal to the system developed by the court. They (like the publisher) again toss out one of those vaguely socialistic yet paradoxically 'free market' statements so beloved by trade groups whenever they encounter some creditable outside competition.
The argument boils down to one simple thing: An established trade group has members whose products are now being jeopardized by the appearance of a new and arguably superior one. Further compounding the problem is that it will be provided to interested institutions at no charge under the GPL. And the parties to the complaint don't like it. Not one little bit.
Perhaps the most telling sign of the degree of fear and desperation the Swiss ICT member firms are feeling can be seen by the fact that Swiss politicians are now entering the fray. One member of the Swiss Parliament has even raise a novel question about why the court could possibly not be allowed to share the software it developed (emphasis added):
Whether or not Swiss public administrations can share their software applications as open source, is made a question for the Swiss parliament. Free Democratic Party parliament member Hans Hess is taking the unwrapping of OpenJustitia to the Federal Court's control committee in the parliament (Geschäftsprüfungskommission), reported ZDnet. "Commercial services are not on the list of tasks of the Federal Court. This will be clarified and possibly prevented", it cites the MP.
I'm not sure (apparently something got lost in translation) which side of the question Mssr. Hans Hess is coming down on. But it is interesting that some people might try to argue for the court not releasing its software because software development, publication and distribution is not part of the court's charter and by releasing its software, the court has exceeded its authority!
Can't wait to see how this one plays out. Wonder if it's too early to put a bet down?
Note: links to some of the original filings and statements can be at the bottom of this article. My German isn't good enough for me to feel comfortable about commenting on, or translating them. But perhaps somebody else's is?