Friday folly: EP requires proprietary software to register for workshop [Update]
There’s a great workshop coming up at the European Parliament, on “Legal aspects of Free Software”. The official link is rather understated, but the speakers are first class [Update” here’s the preliminary agenda]. They include Eben Moglen, economist and Free Software researcher Rishab Ghosh, FSFE’s very own Carlo Piana, and the project lead for Munich’s migration to Free Software, Jutta Kreyss. The workshop will take place on July 9 in Brussels, coinciding with RMLL, so a great many Free Software people will be in town.
So far, so good, and I’m very glad this event is taking place. Of course I want to be there, and registration is required. And to register, you need what? Adobe Acrobat.
Fortunately, you can also register by mail. I’ve done so, and used the opportunity to raise some concerns about what this choice of procedure means for the EP’s relation to Europe’s citizens. In case you want to come for the workshop, and if you share these concerns, feel free to re-use whatever you see fit of the points below.
UPDATE: I’ve been assured by the people who have been working for about a year to make this workshop happen that they’ve actually tested the sign-up form in a number of Free Software PDF readers, and that they’re going above and beyond their obligations in making sure that people can also register by mail. So the blame for this doesn’t fall with the EP staffers running the sign-up process, who have apparently done the best the can, but rather with the people in charge of the EP’s overall software environment (and those setting their priorities). The problem just becomes more apparent because this particular workshop deals with Free Software.
Dear Madam, Sir,
I would like to register for the
JURI Workshop on LEGAL ASPECTS OF FREE AND OPEN SOURCE
taking place in the EP on July 9. Please find my registration data
The workshop program is highly promising, with great speakers who
are leading experts in their field.
However, I would like to express my severe disappointment at your
decision to require would-be participants to sign up using Adobe
Acrobat. This choice means that in order to participate, I would
have to purchase and install non-free software on my computer,
which might not even work on my operating system.
The European Parliament must set itself the highest possible
standards for transparency and citizen participation. In this
instance, it has clearly failed to do so.
If I were to recommend a more suitable procedure for handling
registrations in an efficient manner, I would suggest setting up a
simple web form. This is easy, efficient, and is done frequently
at a wide range of institutions, including the European
Commission. I would expect the EP’s IT department to make
available such a tool available to all parliament staff; if this
is not already the case, I recommend requesting it from them.
As regards PDF files, you might be interested in the website
which lists Free Software  PDF readers for the most widely used
Requiring people to use non-free software in order to
participate in the Parliament’s activities erects unnecessary
barriers between European citizens and their institutions. I urge
you to help reduce those barriers, rather than making them
My registration data is as follows:
 Free as in freedom, not price.