Free Software PDF Readers
What would you think about a sign on the highway saying “You need a Volkswagen to drive on this road. Contact your Volkswagen dealer for a gratis test drive – Your Government”? When it comes to software that opens PDF files, many public sector organisations do this every day. With the pdfreaders.org campaign we have turned the spotlight on government organisations who behave in this way, exposing how frequent such advertisements for non-free software are. With the help of activists across Europe, we are contacting these organisations and explain to them how to improve their websites so that they respect our freedom.
What was already achieved
Every day, public institutions advertise non-free software on their websites. Some examples are below. With the help of our Fellows and of hundreds other Free Software activists, we have collected over one month 2286 bug reports coming from every countries in Europe, and also nine countries outside of Europe.
Our Petition For The Removal Of Proprietary Software Advertising On Public Institution Websites was signed by 90 organisations, 63 businesses and 2799 individuals. If you haven't signed it yet, do it now!
What is currently being done: Contacting the public sector
Finding public bodies that advertise proprietary PDF readers was only the first step of the campaign. FSFE has sent a letter to all the public administrations on our list asking them to either remove their advertising for proprietary software or at least run equal advertising for Free Software, so that users of their websites realise that they have a choice. You can see the progress that is being done.
Help us contact the remaining institutions!
What you can do to help
FSFE is for the moment dealing with the answers of the institutions and recontacting those who didn't reply, so we don't have time to file for new bugs and contact other institutions. However, if you discover a page of a public institution of administration that advertises for non-free and is not yet or doesn't appear as resolved on the list, don't hesitate to contact them on your own. You can for this purpose use our model letter. You just need to change the address and the URL. You can send it per mail or post.
If you have any doubts in the process, contact us
Inform us about the institutions you're contacting, and the progress you're making. We will publish the positive results alongside with the other reported institutions.
A question of neutrality: Public institutions should not engage in advertising
By recommending a single non-free program, public institutions are promoting the proprietary software model. There are loads of alternatives to the reader they promote, so there is no reason for public institutions to further strengthen the dominance of a single company over a part of the software market. Advertisements on public sector websites may be fine if they're marked as such and paid for, and if they don't endanger competition and choice in the software market. When public bodies act as a marketing channel for a single company's product, something has gone wrong.
A question of freedom: Public institutions should not ask citizens to use non-free software.
Free Software is software that anyone can use, study, share and improve. These four freedoms give users the full control over the software they use. Free Software makes sure you don't have to buy a company's product if you just want to read documents that other people send you, including public bodies. Any program can be checked for security holes, so that problems often get fixed quickly. Free Software helps protect your privacy, because you can be sure that the program you're using only does the things you want, and nothing more. A government that exists to protect and preserve our freedom should not be asking us to use non-free software.
A question of Open Standards:
The versions of the PDF format which are Open Standards can be implemented by all PDF readers. If public bodies don't stick to Open Standards when generating their documents, they make it harder for Free Software offerings and different vendors to compete in the market.
To go further
Help us contact the institutions who have not answered yet.
See which institutions have been reported in your country.
The pdfreaders.org website list all Free Software PDF readers with recommendations of download based on technical compatibility
"Petition For The Removal Of Proprietary Software Advertising On Public Websites".
The letter that we will send to public institutions.
A guide to prepare PDF Sprint events.