Document Freedom Day – March 28

Among the stupid initiatives from corporate monopolists, we need good news once in a while from activists. One such initiative is Document Freedom Day, which aims to raise awareness around the harmfulness of data lock-in.

How harmful is data lock-in and proprietary file formats? Why is it a big deal? Vertical integration and data lock-in, when applied to the analog world, would mean such stupid things as:

  • When you change electricity providers, half of the electricity-powered items in your home stop working. You need to buy a new refrigerator just because you made a routine switch, or what should have been a routine switch.
  • You borrow a friend’s car, and find that it is unable to drive on the streets you usually take to work.
  • You change telephone companies, and can’t access your address book any more.

And yet, somehow we accept getting documents in proprietary, locked-in formats such as Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop, even when communicating with authorities in our empowered role as a citizen of our country.

Not only are these authorities in the wrong for sending us public civic data in a format that requires us to buy a specific product in order to read it, but there is a larger problem here – many of the civil servants don’t even understand why this is a serious problem. (By and large, it may be a generational issue, but waiting until one’s own death for something to possibly fix itself has a very bad aftertaste to it, not to mention one of passiveness.)

Enter Document Freedom Day. It is an initiative to educate the public sector about the importance of open standards and interoperability, coming up next week.

Document Freedom Day has been called for March 28, and the activists running the show have a nice education package to send to officials you suggest, notably including a pair of handcuffs symbolizing the lockdown of today’s unintentional carelessness.

For those of us close to Brussels, there’s a seminar in the European Parliament on the topic, taking place from 1630 to 1900 in the main European Parliament building, room 1G3. If you’re not on location, it’s being streamed here. (1G3 – that’s first floor, elevator shaft G, conference hall 3, in the Altiero Spinelli building.) Pre-registration required if you want to join in person and don’t have a Parliament badge.

For those of us who prefer doing something on our own, there’s tons of campaign artwork to use.

(As a final note, I must say that I like the logo of that particular Brussels event. That was my first reaction when hearing about the initiative. Turns out that it is a combo of the datalove logo with the DFD overall logo, a remix made by European activist Erik Josefsson.)

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. Markus Saers

    When I enrolled at the Swedish employment agency, I was tasked with making a resume that I could submit to employers. I made one in Word, but then I got to thinking that “hey, maybe I should convert this to pdf so that my future employer can read it in a free (as in zero monetary cost) application”. Bad thinking. The Swedish employment agency is perfectly capable of handling Word files, but thoroughly unable to handle pdfs. I tried to explain to them exactly how screwed up this was, but to no avail. They were convinced that I could not get a tech job unless I understood that Word was the application you wrote documents in…

    True story.

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