Thread Subject: Re: more on the "closed"issue
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From: Robinson, Norman B - Washington, DC
Date: Thu, Apr 26 2007 10:25 AM
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After reading your post from Thursday, April 26th, I couldn't
help but comment.
Based on my own experiences, considering the goal of
accessibility includes considering social impact on the technical and
legal standards, I'd say we would do well to ensure fair use and reverse
engineering are clearly allowed for accessibility. Can we do that?
I've pulled a few of your talking points:
1. Jim wrote "The problem is, when one entity makes both the
"OS" and the "app", and holds the technical details close, defining the
boundary between the OS and the app can be tricky. Do we want to get
into those definitions?"
I'd say, no, we don't want to determine this as it would never
be absolute and always subject to interpretation. However if you
eliminate your labels, and simply agree that "OS" is composed of
software and "apps" are composed of software, then I would hope our
Section 508 standards for software would apply equally.
2. Jim wrote "..one original impetus for defining a product as
"closed" was that it was a public device (e.g. ATM) to which no hardware
could be attached or software loaded for security reasons...508 was not
going to require that a user could come along and install AT onto it."
I've stated before, having a specific class or label for
"closed" is useless for us or at the least weakens the technical
standards. There is nothing in the generic sections for "software (web
being a specific type software in my book)" or "hardware (255 or
Telecomm and desktop hardware and what is today self-contained hardware
standards)" that are can't be applied. Call it closed (by design,
policy, strategy), personal use, impersonal, back office, etc,; it
doesn't matter as they all should have the technical standards (for
software and hardware) apply.
3. Jim wrote "We have been able to rely on AT only when the
product has been more or less open, and when the company has shared
information about its technologies with developers."
Well, I'd have to change that "and" to an "or" but think we may
disagree. Certainly as an open source advocate I would say it is easier
for more people to gain access and increase the chances assistive
technology will be developed and work on "open" products. But there are
plenty of closed products that work fine because the assistive
technology vendor was able to gain inside developer knowledge or reverse
engineer another vendor's product.
4. Jim wrote "..accessibility. Do we want to create policy that,
by ratifying Company A's rights to define products as closed, limits
Company B's ability to innovate?".
No, I don't think that we would want that. But I also don't
think Section 508 can do anything about trademark and copyright or
digital rights management (DRM) issues directly. I'd certainly support
that no matter what mechanism a vendor uses for DRM it should be legal
to eliminate that DRM if there is no free way to gain access. I think
companies have a right to produce a product and be ignorant and selfish
and demand their rights are more important than their users - bad
business and I wouldn't want to do business with them, but they should
be free to do so. What I don't want is that _for the government_ to
purchase a product for purposes that the end-users have to accept and
the companies still try to establish their rights are more important
that the basic right to gain access. In a more perfect world, the
end-user would have the right to gain access and use no matter what the
legal hurdles, including if that put the vendor's desires at risk. I am
talking about basic requirement for access, not ignoring licensing or
negotiated pricing the same as would be expected of any use of their
5. Jim wrote "..this does not always void all parts of the
warranty, especially when the.."
Well, certainly I don't expect Section 508 to address the legal
issues over what the vendor will cover by warranty. I don't think
Section 508 would be the place to state that 3rd party add-ons or
modifications by an external vendor wouldn't void your warranty. Any
vendor to accept that would be foolish. A smart vendor would define an
interface and the consumer would purchase their product expecting
third-party vendors (or the users themselves) can interface without fear
of the underlying software failing. Of course a public, open interface
would be most beneficial to society and the end-users.
So if we can't consider this in the Section 508 technical
standards themselves (because it *may* not belong in the _technical_
standards) then these ideas should be captured and remembered for
updates or other related laws to support this kind of thinking.
Thanks for a lively post,
Norman B. Robinson
Section 508 Coordinator
IT Governance, US Postal Service
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