At the beginning of August, the Copyright Office issued a request for comments on a small technical detail. It would be much easier for them, it seems, if their new system for preregistration of copyrights (a requirement under something called the Artists Rights and Theft Prevention Act, which, you may or may not be aware, makes the use of a video camera in a movie theater an imprisonable offense) could just support Internet Explorer 5.1 or later. The Copyright Office promises to add support for other browsers as soon as possible but the system need to be online by October and this would make it much easier ...
Enter a voice of reason, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web and director of the W3C. In a comment filed with the Copyright Office Tuesday, Berners-Lee emphasizes the importance of building standards-based systems, not systems based on specific software products.
As a background to the Copyright Office's decision to attempt to offer services over the Web without the use of standards, it is important to keep in mind the Web was born and achieved widespread use only because of a commitment to open, vendor-neutral standards. The early Web faced the threat of fragmentation through the actions of competing browser vendors. These actions actually jeopardized the broader adoption of the technology. In response to this threat, we created the World Wide Web Consortium as a global organization, currently over 390 members, for the purpose of enabling the ongoing development of Web standards. Since those early days in 1994, we have witnessed the creation of tremendous opportunities, technical, social, and commercial, the world over, in large part due to the commitments of corporate and not-for-profit entities to the development of technical standards that may be implemented in diverse settings and for diverse purposes. Since then, those content providers, software vendors and service providers who have adopted a standards-based strategy have seen benefits not possible with a proprietary approach.
Berners-Lee cautions that he would oppose any single software solution, but he must especially irked that it's IE. In recent weeks, we've seen news that the Dept. of Homeland Security is making cybersecurity a priority, that military networks have been repeatedly breached, that Internet Explorer has critical bugs that would allow hackers control of personal computers. And of course there are numerous statutes on the books requiring government agencies to use open standards and to embrace e-government.
Obviously the Copyright system is being built on Windows, which leads to a question. Who made a technology choice that requires the adoption of a single source of software, by all accounts the least secure browser available?