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EU withdraws claim that Linux support is illegal

Blames translation mistake, but still fails to support open-source users on its streaming video service
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor

The European Union has blamed a translation mistake for its claim that it cannot legally support Linux.

As reported last week, the EU had claimed that Linux users could not legally view its video streams — after many thousands complained that they are being excluded. The streaming service offers many important videos of the EU's debates and briefings, but only to Windows and Mac OS users.

The claim, which was contained in a widely viewed questions-and-answers document on the EU's site, has now been amended following inquiries from ZDNet UK.

A spokesman for the Council of the EU, the Union's representative body, told ZDNet UK: "It was originally written in French, and the French version has no such statement. So it is a mistake."

But while the statement has now been removed from the document, the EU is continuing to allow only Windows and Mac OS users to view the videos. Linux users are left out in the cold.

The Council said the reason for its failure to support Linux was the complexity of offering such support. "Streaming in 23 languages is very difficult," said the spokesman. Referring to Windows and Mac OS, he said: "It is easier to take what is used by many, if not all, the people."

The spokesman explained that the service was only fully launched in September, and there was a need to get the service up and running, even if that meant not supporting all operating systems. He also said there was a cost, and complexity, of supporting additional operating systems such as Linux. And he added: "If we change, it is not only for Linux, we would have to open up to all open sources."

The Council's refusal to support Linux has angered the open-source community. Debian enthusiast Stefan Esterer last week started a petition to lobby the EU to change its mind. His petition has now been signed by nearly 12,000 users.

Several ZDNet UK users have also voiced concern about the EU's stance.

Chris Rankin suggested that the EU learned from the experiences of other online content creators, such as the BBC. "The BBC also has a mandate to reach as many people as possible, and so currently supports both WMV and Real formats. However, it is also creating its own Free codec called "Dirac". I'm sure that something like Dirac would serve the EU's purpose as well," wrote Rankin.

Another reader, Moley, was also unimpressed by the situation, commenting: "Bloody disgraceful! Whose interests are the Council serving?"

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