Archive:Comment on 37 CFR Part 202

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(references for the unwary: Groklaw, Free Culture)

This is a rough draft. Consider it as such.

In accordance with our goals as an organization, in particular that of ensuring Free access by the public to its domain, we at FreeCulture.org must respectfully find unacceptable the recent supplementary proposal to Preregistration of Certain Unpublished Copyright Claims, namely that of making it “necessary to use Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser in order to preregister a work.�

We draw your attention to the following findings:

That a U.S. Government agency, such as the Copyright Office, should not impose tangential burdens on the public, that is to say, those that do not serve the public in their application, as it is with appropriate regulation;

That the Proposal this comment answers, in suggesting the requirement of use of Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser [henceforth “IE�] in order to preregister a work under the rulemaking this Proposal supplements, must therefore assert that the imposition of this requirement is not a tangential burden as defined above;

That this assertion in turn must be founded upon the axiom that a software program, such as IE, is merely a purpose-built tool, leaving no possibility of the intentional inclusion of functionality undesirable from the user's point of view (the “merely a tool� axiom);

That Microsoft does not produce versions of IE for all operating systems in common use, even while it encourages use of IE-only features, thereby furthering its near-monopoly on operating systems, which is neither desirable for those using its operating system Windows, nor for those using others;

That the well-documented security problems of IE are the result of those same IE-only features, and that security problems are highly undesirable in an environment of copyright registration over the Internet;

That the IE-only features the Proposal seeks to depend upon are themselves a tool to maintain a captive market: as web services such as that under consideration use IE-only features, their users are forced to use IE, thereby increasing the temptation of web developers to depend on those features, and so on;

That IE is a “black box�, whose undesirable attributes listed above may not be removed by any enterprising party, and Microsoft has a compelling interest to maintain the pervasion of these undesirable attributes, and this invalidates the “merely a tool� axiom;

That the only known category of software whose undesirable attributes may be removed by any enterprising party is that of free software as defined by the Free Software Foundation;

That, by Microsoft's own admission, IE is not in the category of free software;

That the interests controlling the development of IE software must impose the burden of undesirable features on IE's users;

That this burden, being not required to meet the regulatory goals of the ruling the Proposal supplements, is therefore tangential to the regulation at hand, and therefore ought not be imposed by a government agency;

That free software alternatives to IE are available, are in wide use, and are so featureful that the Copyright Office implicitly promises in the Proposal to support them in the near future (in particular “Firefox 1.0.3 and Mozilla 1.7.7�; Netscape 7.2, the other browser for which support is planned under the current proposal, is based on Mozilla);

That the aforementioned plan for future support of free software browsers implies that the tangential burdens imposed by way of employment of IE-only features are not only unacceptable in the context of regulation, but are here employed only as an expedient, rather than necessary compromise in the face of impossibility.

Given the above findings, FreeCulture.org must ask that the supplementary proposal to require Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser in that process that is the subject of the ruling be rejected.