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OpenXML: Back to basis…

March 13th, 2008

Any action or terror movie (even the “trash” ones) teaches us all an important lesson since we are children:

Never leave “supposed dead” back, as they arise and attack you again…

Amazingly, there are people that never learned this lesson. The facts:

At the beginning of the discussion process of OpenXML at ISO, two issues appears of most debates:

1 - OpenXML overlaps ODF (ISO/IEC 26300) ?

2 - What about the IPR (Intellectual Property) issues of the specification? Is this really solved?

During the initial period of submission of contradictory, the two issues were submitted and answered (badly) by ECMA, and the six-month period for review and vote was open. The outcome of the vote, a resounding NO to OpenXML also presented us with some questions about the overlap and on IPR as comments of the votes.

Again, ECMA responded to it (again very badly) and to divert the debate, managed to eliminate these two issues of BRM (after all, explain the inexplicable is annoying even…).

My previous post, clearly shows that OpenXML is an enormous overlap with the ODF. If a member of ECMA assumes that the entity does not have the mapping of legacy and that simply “developed the new XML schema,” indirectly assumes that they never examined this issue in depth. When he says “ask it to Microsoft,” still assumes that they really rely on Microsoft and they did not have nor asked them to furnish proof of support legacy (same for deprecated or now trasitional features).

In short, without the mapping and with the confession of member of ECMA, the OpenXML is simply an overlap with ODF. If you want to understand that, read here.

If we look carefully to the BRM FAQ, we will see a very interesting answer that explains the why IPR issues could not be discussed at the BRM:

4.1 Will IPR issues be discussed at the BRM?

No. IPR issues in this process are the exclusive preserve of the ITTF. IPR decisions have previously been delegated by all the ISO and IEC members (NBs) to the CEOs of IEC and ISO, and they in turn have examined them and found no outstanding problems. NBs seeking reassurance in such matters must pursue them through other avenues than the BRM.

I think now that the ITTF should give us all a good explanation (btw, to people that was at BRM, Mr. Barta now will really need to talk with journalists !!!).

The issues of intellectual property could not be discussed in BRM and were not even discussed in many countries because the ITTF and the CEOs of ISO and IEC evaluated that and have not found any problems (and of course, they have credibility).

What happens is that the Software Freedom Law Center, an entity that provides legal support to the advancement of free software, made an analysis of the Open Specification Promisse (OSP) on the Microsoft’s OpenXML and found something very interesting:

“OpenXML cannot be safely used by any Free Software.”

Their detailed report is available here, and several comments about it can be found here.

What intrigue me most is the type of analysis that was made by the ITTF, and this is why I leave here two suggestions for questions to the ITTF:

1 - Why the ITTF did not found this “outstandig problem”?

2 - Where is the report with a formal analysis of the ITTF on the subject? (I assume that this report exists, since the BRM’s FAQ says that the ITTF performed the analysis).

Moreover, I have a third question to all NBs:

1 - Your NB lawyers and experts in intellectual property analyzed this problem? The OSP is legally valid in your country?

It may seem funny, but now in the straight final evaluation of OpenXML we are all being forced to examine what we look at the first on this standard, the overlap with the ODF and IPR issues.

Before closing, I would just like to write one more lesson learned in the movies of terror and action, and it involves speed:

“When you want to “run over” to kill, don’t forget to go back and make sure that it is dead…”

They did a “run over” on those two issues at the beginning and now are being persecuted by ZOMBIES!

And look, “ZOMBIES AT ISO” is a good name for a horror movie (even for a “trash” one).

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4 Responses to “OpenXML: Back to basis…”

  1. Andy

    The purpose of the BRM is to fix the text. Of course patent issues are not discussed there as you cannot resolve them by changes to the specification.

    The point is that the BRM was unable to fix the text but approved the ECMA proposed dispositions for the rest that is not fixed yet. The whole spec needs more review.

    The usual purpose of a BRM would be to fix remaining editorial bugs a 30-155 pages document within 5 days.

    Now, these guys forced ISO members into a 5 days meeting to discuss 3500 comments of a 6000 pages document. You get what that means. The result of the BRM is far from ready and everyone knew that would happen in advance.

  2. hAl

    What is interesting is that the SFLC statment on the OSP only applying to exisiting versions actually also applies to the IBM interoperability specification pledge for open document which applies only to current versiosn ODF v1.0 en ODF v1.1
    and that any problem for GPL software with the limited scope of the OSP (it applies only to covered specifications) also apply to that same intereroperability specification plegde of IBM and also to Suns Open document patent promise (as submitted to OASIS) which only covers OpenDocument implementations.

    So effectivly Eben Moglens SFLC now by discussing the OSP has effectivly declared OpenDocument licensing inconsistent with GPL.

  3. Jomar Silva

    Mr. hAl

    About ODF and GPL, please read this: http://www.softwarefreedom.org/resources/2006/OpenDocument.html

    On the next comment, please use your REAL name and REAL e-mail address… cheers to Germany !!!

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