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U.S. Copyright Office to One out of Five Users: Drop Dead

Update, several hours later: I want to clarify my concerns here. The problem is not that the Copyright Office is saying that its site will only be compatible with IE. The Copyright Office is saying that its site will not be compatible with HTML standards. It is also saying it purchased a production tool that generates code that does not meet accessibility standards established by the government.

I appreciate some of the frustrations of browser vagaries, particularly some of the design issues, but in terms of accessibility, many of the tools developed to work with websites to make them available to disabled and challenged users require that the websites be written in fully valid HTML. Any site that validates to a reasonable current standard should be reasonably functional for a wide variety of users, including those with accessibility issues.

I admit, yes, I am not a designer. But in terms of the tool the Copyright Office is discussing, it sounds to me like something that could easily be developed according to current, accepted web design standards (and the handful of adroit workarounds and exceptions well known in the web design community).

(Original post follows)

The U.S. Copyright Office wants to know if it’s ok if its copyright preregistration form should be browser-specific. “Today’s notice seeks information as to whether persons filing the electronic-only preregistration form prescribed by the Copyright Office will experience difficulties if it is necessary to use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser in order to preregister a work.”

Off the cuff, I’d say, yes, persons will experience difficulties, if persons use browsers other than Internet Explorer, a figure that keeps rising. Much more up close and personal, I want to know what idiot decided to implement a browser-specific tool for a government website? What were they thinking? What standards were they (not) applying? How hard is it to make a form that can at least comply with international standards for website design?

I’d love to steal this line, but I won’t: on one list someone said, very tongue in cheek, “I do sympathize, however, with their observation that it is time-consuming and a cost factor to test against multiple browsers.” I had a vendor say that to me, once upon a time. That vendor is not doing work for me any more. (Shockingly, it’s a nonprofit, too.) As one friend wrote me, it can be argued that a site that is not written to the standard is not a website at all.

By the way, I get that title from MPOW’s web server statistics. Yes, Internet Explorer is still the predominant browser (just as Netscape was, ten years ago). But we have a significant number of users who either prefer to use other browsers, need to use other browsers, or don’t see why the government should be sidestepping international standards for code development to create a damn form.

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