Fight the power
August 11, 2005 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Don't let the copyright office REQUIRE IE. Take a break from email and Web surfing to send a real, paper letter (with five copies) to the U.S. Copyright office and tell them that REQUIRING use of IE for online preregistration of copyright claims is not acceptable. Read the request for public comment and then send an original and five copies of your public comment to:
Copyright GC/ I&R
P.O. Box 70400
Southwest Station
Washington, DC 20024-0400
posted by twsf (60 comments total)
 
Shouldn't you be forwarding this to all the people in your address book or something?
posted by goatdog at 11:09 AM on August 11, 2005


Ted's just heady from his last successful campaign:

Don't let the MetaFilter REQUIRE QUALITY POSTS!
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:34 AM on August 11, 2005


More on this from the WaSP.

When a federal agency *requires* the use of a browser made by a specific manufacturer for something as trivial as form submission there is a problem. A taxpayer funded agency has an obligation to make their services available to all and locking out people who are unwilling to use an antiquated browser is foolish. We're not talking rocket science here and a simple adherence to basic web standards would solve the problem.

Granted, this isn't the most scintillating post ever, but it is certainly not worthy of derision.
posted by cedar at 11:37 AM on August 11, 2005


MR. J. of Toronto did not FORWARD 5 COPIES and he died in a CAR ACCIDENT the next day!
posted by boo_radley at 11:39 AM on August 11, 2005


If you don't want to use IE, can't you still use the mail/fax? How does this lock anyone out?
posted by dios at 11:42 AM on August 11, 2005


cedar: EVERY post is worthy of derision to some people around here.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 11:42 AM on August 11, 2005


When a federal agency *requires* the use of a browser made by a specific manufacturer for something as trivial as form submission there is a problem. A taxpayer funded agency has an obligation to make their services available to all and locking out people who are unwilling to use an antiquated browser is foolish. We're not talking rocket science here and a simple adherence to basic web standards would solve the problem.

The government nearly restricted access to NSF science grant funding to Microsoft users last year. The research crowd spoke up and got things changed back to a platform-agnostic process.

This post ain't great, but as cedar mentions, the point behind the post is as pertinent as ever. An aware public is a vigilant public.
posted by Mr. Six at 11:44 AM on August 11, 2005


I use firefox, but it's not like I uninstalled IE when I installed firefox. Yeah, it's a bit cheap that they would require its use, but by far it is the least likely thing I would complain to the government about.
posted by Citizen Premier at 11:45 AM on August 11, 2005


If you don't want to use IE, can't you still use the mail/fax? How does this lock anyone out?

At least with NSF, electronic submission is more or less a literal requirement. Grants are not entered on paper any longer, except to provide a paper trail after the fact.
posted by Mr. Six at 11:47 AM on August 11, 2005


I look forward to the day when MetaFilter is nothing but pleas to petition the government. Cuz that's awesome.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:47 AM on August 11, 2005


pre-register Um. Did you read the law? This is soooo limited.

This "policy" is saying that those who want to pre-register claims for protection under a provision that protects people from filming movies at film festivals or otherwise pirating soon-to-be released commerical works will need to use IE for the time being because other browzers are not yet compatible.

This is sooooo limited. It doesn't say that other browzers won't be compatible at some point. It doesn't say that you have to use IE to pre-register (you can pre-register by mail or risk using a non-compliant browzer). It doesn't have anything to do with the actual registration, only the pre-registration. And it is limited to the this niche copyright market of things which is about protecting from privacy works that are about to be commercially distributed.

How on earth does one get worked up over this???
posted by dios at 11:48 AM on August 11, 2005


I wouldn't care, except there's no IE For Linux software package.
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:49 AM on August 11, 2005


Hey it's not like it's the IRS or something. How often do you find yourself submitting works for a copyright?
posted by poppo at 11:49 AM on August 11, 2005


Well, this should be of intrest to internet users. I mean. Its not that intresting or anything, but still.
posted by delmoi at 11:50 AM on August 11, 2005


What does this have to do with Public Enemy?
posted by afx114 at 11:50 AM on August 11, 2005


Dios, it's the stupidity of the whole thing that galls me. When it is so easy to use common best practices and prevent the problem they choose to deny anyone not using IE the convenience of filing online. It's not the end of the world but it could be better and there is no harm in pointing out to the MeFi membership the proper way to comment1.

The mail/fax thing isn't good enough. That's like saying Section 508 isn't needed because blind users are free to have somebody read their screen to them. Just because there is an alternative doesn't mean they shouldn't strive to make it easier for everyone.

Now I want to know why I can't make my public comment via a handy web form.
posted by cedar at 11:51 AM on August 11, 2005


From the link:

At this point in the process of developing the Copyright Office's system for online preregistration, it is not entirely clear whether the system will be compatible with web browsers other than Microsoft Internet Explorer versions 5.1 and higher. Filers of preregistration applications will be able to employ these Internet Explorer browsers successfully. Support for Netscape 7.2, Firefox 1.0.3, and Mozilla 1.7.7 is planned but will not be available when preregistration goes into effect. Present users of these browsers may experience problems when filing claims.
posted by dios at 11:51 AM on August 11, 2005


Also, I agree with Dios. I mean, come on.

Government agencies also often require the use of a black or blue ink pen for filling out various documents. Only want to use your red pen? Too bad.
posted by poppo at 11:52 AM on August 11, 2005


So, cedar, you are upset because a new process to allow pre-registration (not registration) under this very limited provision of the copyright code is only currently known compatible with IE (even though it will be compatible with others). But those who can use IE are free to use something else which may or may not work. And they can always fax or mail file the pre-registrations which have nothing to do with the actual registration of a copyright under this very limited provision of the copyright code???

As I said yesterday: is there anything so benign that it won't trigger outrage from someone on Metafilter?
posted by dios at 11:54 AM on August 11, 2005


Red ink lowers self esteem and demoralizes our youth!
posted by mr.dan at 11:55 AM on August 11, 2005


"the Office now seeks comments that will assist it in determining whether any eligible parties will be prevented from preregistering a claim due to browser requirements of the preregistration system. Therefore, this notice seeks information whether any potential preregistration filers would have difficulties using Internet Explorer (version 5.1 or higher) to file preregistration claims, and if so, why. More generally, in the interest of achieving support for browsers in the Office's preregistration processing environment, this notice inquires whether (and why) an eligible party who anticipates preregistering a claim on the electronic-only form will not be able to use Internet Explorer to do so, or will choose not to preregister if it is necessary to use Internet Explorer."

I'm no web guru, but it seems there are a lot of pages out there that work just swimmingly with all sorts of browsers. How about instead of soliciting information from "potential preregistration filers would have difficulties using Internet Explorer" you just make it work? huh?

I wouldn't get agitated about it, but it is dumb.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 12:04 PM on August 11, 2005


Damn you, Karl Rove! Is there no end to your treachery?
posted by brain_drain at 12:05 PM on August 11, 2005


I hear it's all James Dobson's fault...
posted by SweetJesus at 12:05 PM on August 11, 2005


In the much better news.com article on this

In its request for comments, the office made clear that it plans to support other browsers in the future. In an interview, an attorney with the office said that the sticking point was Siebel software that guaranteed compatibility with only selected browsers--including both IE and Netscape 7.02, a browser with negligible market share--in the current Siebel 7.7 software.

The Copyright Office said it planned to upgrade to Siebel 7.8, which supports Netscape 7.2, Firefox 1.0.3 and Mozilla 1.7.7, but not in time for the Oct. 24 launch.


Would you all like some cheese with that whiiiine...
posted by PissOnYourParade at 12:06 PM on August 11, 2005


Why are we limited to the HTTP standard for submitting copyrights? Argh! I want to do it via FTP!
posted by geoff. at 12:06 PM on August 11, 2005


Also, love the title. Good thing we have revolutionaries like you around to keep the US Copyright Office's IT staff in line...
posted by SweetJesus at 12:11 PM on August 11, 2005


Dios is right, this doesn't say that the pre-registration system will only be available on IE.

This is essentially a request for bug reports -- if you believe problems may occur with your non-IE browser of choice that would prevent you from pre-registering a copyright, you're asked to let them know. So Kickstart70's lack of IE on Linux is a valid complaint, or if there's some glitch in the system that keeps it from working on Safari 1.0.1.
posted by me3dia at 12:13 PM on August 11, 2005


dios: This is a problem not because it affects a lot of people, but because it reveals that the U.S. Copyright Office ignored the standards process in the section process for this software.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:15 PM on August 11, 2005


I agree with everything posted above.

Oh, and . . .

Metafilter: Take a break from email and Web surfing to send a real, paper letter
posted by Outlawyr at 12:16 PM on August 11, 2005


...is there anything so benign that it won't trigger outrage from someone on Metafilter?

Dios, in your charmingly dramatic way your confusing amusement tinged with a bit of minor annoyance with outrage. Look it's stupid, it's not best practices and they could do better. I don't care if it's for reporting cases of Sympathetic Neuron Disease in the muskrat population of the Upper Penninsula and don't think that is unreasonable to expect a government agency not to limit resources (for any length of time, if it isn't ready, leave it in the box until it is) to a particular flavor of software.

Is there anything so benign that it won't trigger a condescending atagonistic response from a pissant ankle-biter on MetaFilter?
posted by cedar at 12:27 PM on August 11, 2005


If you are capable of getting whipped into a frenzy over something so mundane as browser software, well... then, um... it is my opinion that you are boring100.
posted by MaxVonCretin at 12:29 PM on August 11, 2005


but because it reveals that the U.S. Copyright Office ignored the standards process in the section process for this software.

How dare the US government ignore web standards. Right. And did you read that quote up thread?

"The Copyright Office said it planned to upgrade to Siebel 7.8, which supports Netscape 7.2, Firefox 1.0.3 and Mozilla 1.7.7, but not in time for the Oct. 24 launch."
posted by puke & cry at 12:37 PM on August 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


"I tried to pre-register a copyright for my yodeling cat album and all I got was this lousy Jrun!"
posted by tpl1212 at 12:42 PM on August 11, 2005


Citizen Premier writes "I use firefox, but it's not like I uninstalled IE when I installed firefox."

You are aware that not every computer runs Windows, yeah?
posted by clevershark at 12:49 PM on August 11, 2005


dios writes "This 'policy' is saying that those who want to pre-register claims for protection under a provision that protects people from filming movies at film festivals or otherwise pirating soon-to-be released commerical works will need to use IE for the time being because other browzers are not yet compatible."

And if there is no strong stated opposition to this requirement, the site will never be made compliant to other "browzers". That's why people might want to state the opposition to the requirement.
posted by clevershark at 12:51 PM on August 11, 2005


puke & cry: How dare the US government ignore web standards. Right. And did you read that quote up thread?

Certainly, it also implies that standards-compatibility was not a primary consideration in selecting this software. I don't see why it is a big deal that where existing standards exist, that the government as a customer encourage the adoption of those standards.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:55 PM on August 11, 2005


Isn't it possible to set FireFox to pretend like its IE? Not that I don't think is ridiculously myopic on their part because it is.

clevershark, not every computer runs Windows but all the ones the government cares about do apparently.
posted by fenriq at 12:58 PM on August 11, 2005


There's "View in IE", but no emulation. Exchange via the web is especially annoying and limited in FireFox.
posted by geoff. at 1:08 PM on August 11, 2005


And if there is no strong stated opposition to this requirement, the site will never be made compliant to other "browzers".

That's simply not true. The linked notice specifically says that support for other browsers is planned, but won't be ready in time for the launch. Again, this notice is intended to seek comment from people who may be inconvenienced in the month or two before multi-browser support is implemented.

Would you people please read the damn thing? It's all right there. Also, see this comment.
posted by me3dia at 1:10 PM on August 11, 2005


poppo wrote "How often do you find yourself submitting works for a copyright?"

Um.. today, for example?

Granted it's for the first (and likely only) time, but still. I had to deal with this idiocy before. In the process of trying to consolidate my student loans, using the government student loan website, I was confronted with a browser detection script that told me I couldn't use my browser to do the online loan consolidation.

Never mind that the browser detection script was last modified in 1998!! (I looked at the source - it couldn't detect anything higher than IE 4, for fuck's sake). Forget that this script was popping up AFTER I had successfully completed the consolidation application using Firefox. I was pissed that they had this inane bit of stupidity on a government website, that is required BY LAW to meet Section 508 standards. I bitched, they apologized, but goddamn, why can't they hire someone who gives a rats ass about standards when putting a website together?
posted by caution live frogs at 1:15 PM on August 11, 2005


Current browser and OS statistics.

IE represents about 73% of the total, and has been trending downwards for the last four years. Windows is about 94%, with very slow gains by Linux and Mac.

It seems logical, not Orwellian, to design for the most frequently used tools first.
posted by cenoxo at 1:16 PM on August 11, 2005


I am a total Web-standards queen, but no way this qualifies as a front-page post.
posted by joeclark at 1:18 PM on August 11, 2005


This is a pretty minor thing to get up in arms about, but I can understand the frustration. It's not difficult to make a website like this work in all browsers. Even ignoring things like 'web standards', if you put a form on a webpage, it should, by default, work in all browsers. Unless you somehow go out of your way to make things so convoluted and complex that it doesn't. I know of an Australian government site that requires IE because it insists on an ugly, drop-down menu design for navigation. Use another browser and the links don't work. Now, sure, we could get our panties in a knot and insist that they design the menu system to web standards so it works in all browsers. Or they could have just provided plain, normal goddamn hyperlinks that any reasonal person can click on.
posted by Jimbob at 1:22 PM on August 11, 2005


IE represents about 73% of the total, and has been trending downwards for the last four years. Windows is about 94%, with very slow gains by Linux and Mac.

It seems logical, not Orwellian, to design for the most frequently used tools first.


It would be enlightening to see an analysis of bias from browser user-agent header changes, in order to work around proprietary sites that force certain user agents.
posted by Rothko at 1:24 PM on August 11, 2005


cenoxo: IE represents about 73% of the total, and has been trending downwards for the last four years. Windows is about 94%, with very slow gains by Linux and Mac.

It seems logical, not Orwellian, to design for the most frequently used tools first.


It seems logical to design using published standards that have been developed to ensure compatibility among all systems.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:25 PM on August 11, 2005


It seems logical, not Orwellian, to design for the most frequently used tools first.

It is not a difficult process to make form submission work in all browsers, from Lynx up. It's the natural state of being, if you like. You have to work at it to make it incompatible.
posted by Jimbob at 1:25 PM on August 11, 2005


me3dia writes "The linked notice specifically says that support for other browsers is planned, but won't be ready in time for the launch."

You're free to believe what you like, but the fact is that if there is not sufficient feedback it's most likely that the agency involved will not consider it worthwhile to fill in the gaps. That's how business works, and although this is a government agency that part of the site is, without a doubt, subcontracted to a private firm -- and evidently not one that knows what it's doing either, because this is exactly the sort of thing which can easily be fixed on day one.

I know this because I used to work for a bank, and my experience there was that non-IE support was something the developers themselves had to insist on; otherwise, the decision-makers really didn't care if anyone not using IE6+ could access the system.
posted by clevershark at 1:30 PM on August 11, 2005


You have to work at it to make it incompatible.

Not if you use Microsoft's Visual Studio to develop VB.Net/ASP/etc. pages. The code that comes out of that program is atrocious and breaks after it leaves IE. The problem is that these tools can be standard for web development teams working on a large project.
posted by Rothko at 1:37 PM on August 11, 2005


semi-related:
Last week I wanted to make an online reservation with America West, using Mozilla as I've always done for the last year or so. Well I got an weird error message when trying to buy the ticket and I called their help desk.

Turns out that as of the end of this past June, they stopped honoring any browser other than IE. WTF? They used to work with at least Mozilla but now have locked us out. I'm truly curious why, and emailed them about it (no response yet). Man I hate using IE.
posted by NorthernSky at 1:41 PM on August 11, 2005


MeTa:

The mind reels! BoingBoing links to this issue and via's.. US!? *head assplodes*
posted by cavalier at 2:18 PM on August 11, 2005


Well, IE is an awful browser, and requiring its use anywhere is like requiring nudity on a nude beach - the people uncomfortable with being nude themselves should still be allowed access.

and there's no reason why they couldn't be allowed... access..
posted by hoborg at 2:25 PM on August 11, 2005


It seems logical, not Orwellian, to design for the most frequently used tools first.

Philosophically, government should not be in the business of arbitrarily pushing the private and proprietary at the expense of the commons (course, this is what government does 24/7).

This requirement puts money in Gates' pocket and is immoral.

Taking a wider view, the microsoft monoculture is bad for competitiveness and government should certainly not support it, even if being non-proprietary requires more resources.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:28 PM on August 11, 2005


I'm incapiable of using IE, I haven't paid Microsoft $200 [1] for a new copy of Windows and I don't plan on doing so. Thus anything that requires IE automatically locks me out. If the government wants to require that I own a $200 bit of software to access stuff paid for by my tax dollars I've got a problem with that. That's like the government requiring that I buy a Big Mac (TM) and display the reciept before I can renew my driver's license. It is not the government's job to require that I do business with any for profit corporation.

[1] That's the rate for a non-upgrade copy of WinXP. I'm not eligable to purchase an "upgrade" copy because I do not own any qualifying prior versions of Windows. I had a Win98 CD once, but I lost it several years back. I built my computer from parts so I didn't get a license with the system.
posted by sotonohito at 2:31 PM on August 11, 2005


Not if you use Microsoft's Visual Studio to develop VB.Net/ASP/etc. pages. The code that comes out of that program is atrocious and breaks after it leaves IE.

This isn't true. It's perfectly possible for ASP.NET to output any client side code/markup the developer chooses, standards compliant or not. It's only the code produced in the WYSIWYG 'design view', when accepting all MS defaults, that produces codeshite. Not what one might wish, but in that regard it suffers from the same non-compliance problems that many non-MS WYSIWYG editors share.

What's most disturbing about this story isn't the specifics of the project, but that a federal government department is employing a methodology so inadequate as to be unable to produce standards-compliant client-side markup and script by default. It's not difficult.
posted by normy at 2:57 PM on August 11, 2005


"If the government wants to require that I own a $200 bit of software to access stuff paid for by my tax dollars I've got a problem with that."

Yeah, and how dare the government require me to have access to a computer to use their website! They should allow me to access the website by phone! Or turtle!

I agree its silly not to just be compliant, but it sounds like they're using off-the-shelf stuff that was not itself compliant, so I doubt they intended this. But really, tax dollars often pay for things that can't be accessed by 100% of the people. For example, not everyone can afford to visit Washington, DC, so should they not have to pay for monument upkeep? Not everyone knows how to use a computer, so we shouldn't have government web sites?

This particular example only seems wrong b/c it is easily avoided, but there is no requirement that everything the government does be available to everyone all the time, unless the law specifically says there is. And in this case, there are non-website ways to submit that are more generally accessible than websites (more people have access to the USPS than to a computer).
posted by wildcrdj at 3:57 PM on August 11, 2005


"Design view" is basically for people with no clue what they are doing who shouldn't really be working in proffesional web development - Usually either n00bs or (worse) "proper programming types" who have drifted in.

Hpwever If your ASP.NET site is created by someone who actually knows what they are doing there should be no problem.
posted by Artw at 4:21 PM on August 11, 2005


Hang on, aren't there some pretty significant Federal Laws regard accessibilty of websites? If Mozilla throws a fit at this site what happens to Screenreader X?
posted by Artw at 4:32 PM on August 11, 2005


wildcrdj, in this case (assuming they weren't going to fix it, anyway), they would be limiting a form of government services to those who have paid the Microsoft Tax. That would be like using government money to maintain the Washington Monument, but requiring that you arrive in a Greyhound bus if you want to actually see it. Greyhound would be most happy with this arrangement, but other bus companies -- and their customers -- would likely get a bit persnickety.

In this case, there's really no good reason to limit the site to IE only. Data entry and forms submission are pretty simple things. And there's a very compelling reason NOT to, in that it limits the service to people who have entered into a contract with Microsoft, willing or no.

Obviously, it's going to be fixed eventually, but it really should be fixed the day it opens. Throwing open the gates to the Washington Monument to ALL buses is the right thing to do, but that doesn't change the fact that limiting access to just Greyhounds for even a day was wrong. It's not exactly "crime against humanity" level, but it's definitely a blunder, and definitely needs attention.
posted by Malor at 5:15 PM on August 11, 2005


Hey, Free Republic (sort of) links to Metafilter

This has to be rare, right?
posted by JeffL at 7:25 PM on August 11, 2005


Um.. today, for example?

Granted it's for the first (and likely only) time


My point exactly. You're incovenienced once? Sniff
posted by poppo at 6:55 AM on August 12, 2005


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