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Write to your government in support of OpenDocument

by John Sullivan Contributions Published on Feb 25, 2008 12:11 PM
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To [Name of official]:

Our government should adopt a policy requiring that all digital public documents and information be stored and distributed in formats that are standard, open, and royalty-free. OpenDocument Format (ODF) is one such format, and I'm writing to support its use as a critical component of this kind of policy.

OpenDocument is used for spreadsheets, word-processing documents, and presentations. It is an international standard (ISO), and is supported by applications on all major operating systems. It can be used in place of proprietary formats like Microsoft Word's ".doc". In 2006, the Software Freedom Law Center thoroughly reviewed OpenDocument and concluded that it is "free of legal encumbrances."[1]

We've all had the experience of not being able to open a file because it's saved in an older, unsupported, or incompatible format. Often this happens because the format in question is proprietary and owned by one particular company, who may go out of business or decide unilaterally that they want to make changes in the way that their software works, breaking compatibility with our documents.

Our information is too important to be left to the whims of any one company like this. It's imperative that the documents recording the business of government are readable by anyone at any time in the future. Only an open standard like ODF can achieve this.

Because they are widespread, Microsoft's formats are often the source of problems, but supporting ODF is not about being anti-Microsoft or in favor of any particular company's product. Any company is free to write software that works with OpenDocument. The whole reason for having standards bodies like the ISO and the standards they produce is to guarantee compatibility and stability above individual companies' commercial concerns.

With more and more information being stored and distributed digitally, more and more governments around the world are realizing the problem that proprietary formats pose for their responsibility to ensure that their documents are permanently and widely accessible. Please join the government agencies in countries like Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and the United States in moving toward the freedom and security provided by free formats like OpenDocument.

Sincerely,
[Your name]
[Your address]
[Your phone number]

[1] See http://www.softwarefreedom.org/resources/2006/OpenDocument.html.

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