The European Union has removed advertisements promoting proprietary PDF readers on its websites, a month after an organisation that promotes free software complained at the practice..

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) found that the main EU portal and the European Patent Office both promoted proprietary software. Other sites doing that included national ministries, parliaments and law enforcement agencies. "Several institutions replied stating that they agree with our concerns and that they will modify their websites," said campaign manager Matthias Kirschner.

The PDF file format, originally developed by Adobe Systems, has now been adopted by the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) as an international standard. Adobe Reader remains proprietary, but the file format can be read or written by a number of other software applications, some proprietary, some of them open source or free software.

Most versions of the PDF file reader are open standards and free, but FSFE has received reports of 2,286 public sector institutions that advertise non-free PDF readers on their websites across 41 countries. The FSFE believes that by promoting proprietary software, "the public sector becomes a marketing channel for that company and its products, making it harder for free PDF readers to gain market share."

"By advertising non-free software, they're doing citizens a disservice," said Karsten Gerloff, president of FSFE. "Democratic governments are supposed to give us freedom, not to drive us into dependence on a single software vendor."

Of those that agreed to change their sites following the FSFE campaign, almost all reported institutions in Croatia deleted the advertisement. Half of those contacted in Russia and Slovenia also fulfilled FSFE's request.