New Zealand consultant Rob England, a self-described IT skeptic, has launched a campaign to persuade the UK government to open up the rights to the widely-used IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) service management framework, in line with its general policy of releasing government data and other intellectual property under an open licence.
Licensing of ITIL is at present under the control of the UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC), which has recently renewed a licence for The Stationery Office (TSO) – formerly part of government entity Her Majesty’s Stationery Office and now a private company - to print and distribute the books that form the core of ITIL, at a retail price of about $US500.
“ITIL is a body of knowledge that has a huge international user community,” says England “Over a million people have been trained in it.” He says the user community contributes, reviews, translates and markets ITIL and that it ran the international roadshow in 2007 to release the most recent version.
They continue to be “the only useful community” promoting ITIL, he says.
The UK government, England argues, is diverging from its own policy of openness and the OGC’s core “public purpose”, which is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of government departments.
The UK government’s Office of Public Sector Information, in a recent report on a licensing dispute over ITIL, said. “This [objective] begs the question as to why [OGC] sponsors the publication of proprietary IT service management guides.”
OGC maintains that ITIL is a “value-added” product outside its public purpose and hence it is free to licence the product as it sees fit.
Unless ITIL is freed, says England it will “eventually be overrun by other frameworks with a more enlightened attitude to creating a community of open content.” One of the likely contenders is, ironically, the king of proprietary content, Microsoft, which is now distributing its own Microsoft Operating Framework (MOF) under a Creative Commons licence.
England, however, says he is concerned less with the price than with the distribution being “free as in free speech”. Restrictions under the OGC regime, he says, mean accredited ITIL trainers are constrained in the supplementary products they can create for training courses, such as study notes or summaries of the core content. “PhD students are being beaten up for publishing theses about ITIL; universities are prevented from including training about ITIL in their courses; consultants cannot offer ‘ITIL consulting’ without a licence, he says on his blog.
England has launched a petition on the IT Skeptic’s website.