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2015 letter to the U.S. Department of Education

by Joshua Gay Contributions Published on Dec 18, 2015 03:10 PM
This letter was submitted alongside our official comment to the U.S. Department of Education in the matter of Open Licensing Requirement for Direct Grant Programs (80 FR 67672).

To whom it may concern,

Alongside this letter you will find printed comments regarding the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), Open Licensing Requirement for Direct Grant Programs 80 FR 67672 (Nov. 3rd, 2015). The purpose of this letter, which itself is not a comment on an NPRM, is to explain to you why we, the Free Software Foundation, along with many of our members, were unable to submit these comments in digital format.

Currently, the only method of submitting comments in digital format requires the use of, which requires the use of proprietary JavaScript software. Proprietary software is any software that denies users the right to study, distribute, modify or distribute modified versions of that software. Such restrictions prevent users from fully enjoying rights they should have to the software, and render the software nonfree. When software is proprietary, that means that some company claims ownership of it, and through that ownership claim, imposes restrictions on users as to how they can or can't use the software. When the government requires citizens run such software, it is requiring that they accept the specific and arbitrary terms imposed by that company. Citizens should not be required to engage with any particular private company in order to participate in public proceedings or use any governmental Web sites or network service. Ensuring that users are free to study, share, modify, and reshare any software they receive is not only the right thing to do, but is also in line with the Department of Education's stated goal in this NPRM.

The Free Software Foundation provides an overview of the dangers of proprietary JavaScript in particular, as well as the methods for freely licensing it, at

We would be happy to provide our comments in digital form if a mechanism were available that allowed submission of comments without the use of proprietary software. Please offer such a method in the future.


Joshua Gay & Donald Robertson, III
Free Software Foundation, Inc.
51 Franklin Street, Fifth Floor
Boston, MA 02110-1335

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