The European regulators listened to the Open Source communities!


During 2023, OSI and many others across the Open Source communities spent a great deal of time and energy engaging with the various co-legislators of the European Union (EU) concerning the Cyber Resilience Act (CRA). Together with a revision to Europe’s Product Liability Directive (PLD), the CRA will bring the responsibilities of product liability to software for the first time.

In the light of the EU’s own research showing the huge impact of Open Source on Europe’s economy, the authors of these legislative instruments sought to ensure that the lifecycle of Open Source software was impacted as little as possible. Indeed, at FOSDEM 2023 the authors of the CRA and PLD said as much in their first-of-a-kind main track appearance. But when we all looked at the details, community members found that was not as true as we hoped. As a range of organizations explained, the CRA was likely to be an existential threat to Open Source development, because instead of placing all the compliance requirements of the CRA on companies deploying Open Source software for profit, the obligations as written potentially fell on developers and Open Source foundations.

Reactions To The Final Text

Many OSI Affiliates engaged with the European Commission, European Parliament and European Council during 2023. With the welcome coordination of Open Forum Europe, a group met regularly to keep track of progress explaining the issues. Many of us also committed time and travel to meet in-person. As a result of all this effort from so many people, the final text of the CRA mitigated pretty much all the risks we had identified to individual developers and to Open Source foundations. As the Python Software Foundation said in their update:

…the final text demonstrates a crisper understanding of how open source software works and the value it provides to the overall ecosystem of software development.

And the Eclipse Foundation wrote:

The revised legislation has vastly improved its exclusion of open source projects, communities, foundations, and their development and package distribution platforms. It also creates a new form of economic actor, the “open source steward,” which acknowledges the role played by foundations and platforms in the open source ecosystem.

As the Apache Software Foundation said:

So, all in all, this is mostly good news for volunteers who run and innovate with open source software. Or, more accurately, much better than most of us could have imagined at the end of last summer.

This time last year OSI recommended that the CRA:

…exclude all activities prior to commercial deployment of the software and … clearly ensure that responsibility for CE marks does not rest with any actor who is not a direct commercial beneficiary of deployment.

That recommendation has been accepted and implemented, and the OSI is very grateful to the various experts who took the time to listen.

OSI Observations

While it’s all much better, and while the burden placed on individuals and charities is minimal, there are still challenges ahead. For example, the concerns that the Debian project articulated give cause for thought. With Open Source projects exempted from the requirement to place a CE certification mark on their software, downstream users will need to pay careful attention to their responsibilities under the CRA as well as to their liabilities to consumers under the PLD.

In particular, “digital artisans” using Open Source software at small scale – the main concern of Debian – will need guidance from the European Commission. While the experts we have met have all said that using an Open Source software distribution as part of a commercial activity is unlikely to require CE marking of the distribution itself, the interpretation of the key phrase “making available on the market” will need careful clarification. OSI encourages the Commission to seek expert advice from the Open Source communities as they did last year, and not to rely on outsourced consultants alone in preparing this advice.


There is also the question of how future engagement by legislators should proceed. The effort made by developers and Open Source foundations in 2023 is not sustainable, and the Commission needs to accommodate the Fourth Sector in future deliberations. To get this started, a group of us who have engaged during 2023 got together to organize a unique set of workshops at FOSDEM 2024 on Sunday February 4. If you want your voice heard, come along to one of the workshops!

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