decoration decoration
Stories

GROKLAW
When you want to know more...
decoration
For layout only
Home
Archives
Site Map
Search
About Groklaw
Awards
Legal Research
Timelines
ApplevSamsung
ApplevSamsung p.2
ArchiveExplorer
Autozone
Bilski
Cases
Cast: Lawyers
Comes v. MS
Contracts/Documents
Courts
DRM
Gordon v MS
GPL
Grokdoc
HTML How To
IPI v RH
IV v. Google
Legal Docs
Lodsys
MS Litigations
MSvB&N
News Picks
Novell v. MS
Novell-MS Deal
ODF/OOXML
OOXML Appeals
OraclevGoogle
Patents
ProjectMonterey
Psystar
Quote Database
Red Hat v SCO
Salus Book
SCEA v Hotz
SCO Appeals
SCO Bankruptcy
SCO Financials
SCO Overview
SCO v IBM
SCO v Novell
SCO:Soup2Nuts
SCOsource
Sean Daly
Software Patents
Switch to Linux
Transcripts
Unix Books
Your contributions keep Groklaw going.
To donate to Groklaw 2.0:

Groklaw Gear

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


Contact PJ

Click here to email PJ. You won't find me on Facebook Donate Paypal


User Functions

Username:

Password:

Don't have an account yet? Sign up as a New User

No Legal Advice

The information on Groklaw is not intended to constitute legal advice. While Mark is a lawyer and he has asked other lawyers and law students to contribute articles, all of these articles are offered to help educate, not to provide specific legal advice. They are not your lawyers.

Here's Groklaw's comments policy.


What's New

STORIES
No new stories

COMMENTS last 48 hrs
No new comments


Sponsors

Hosting:
hosted by ibiblio

On servers donated to ibiblio by AMD.

Webmaster
MA Posts New Version of Open Formats - Requests Comments
Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 11:59 AM EST

Version 3 of the State of Massachusetts Information Technology Division's Enterprise Technical Reference Model is now posted online for public comment. Go to www.state.ma.us/itd and look for the story in the "Highlights" box. The deadline for such comments is April 1. Yes. April 1.

To refresh your memory, MA has defined open formats to mean this:

"Open Formats, as we're thinking about them, and we're trying to be precise with the language, because people use different English words for different technical terms, in our definition, 'Open Formats' are specifications for data file formats that are based on an underlying open standard, developed by an open community and affirmed by a standards body; or, de facto format standards controlled by other entities that are fully documented and available for public use under perpetual, royalty-free, and nondiscriminatory terms."

They have now accepted Microsoft XML as fitting that definition. Obviously, that means they must be defining "nondiscriminatory" as meaning making something available to all comers at the same price, or something like that. It can't be that they are using the word to mean that the format doesn't discriminate against GPL software, because Microsoft's license, the last one I saw, does exacly that.

In life, we always have a choice, to view things optimistically or pessimistically. I am inclined to think the best of people, and to give them all the respect I can, so I guess I'm more inclined to be an optimist, but I will now do both, view the new model both optimistically and pessimistically, and you can choose, according to your own inclinations.

First, pessimistically, it's depressing that they include Microsoft's XML as an "open format", because one can easily imagine what Microsoft, a company not renowned for its exalted ethics, will do with this. There simply is no way to describe anything Microsoft does as "open". Microsoft has been very diligently patenting their XML all over the world, from here to New Zealand. If they assert those patent rights, there won't even be an illusion of openness, not to mention other issues, like the license conflict with the GPL or the specification being in a binary format that can only be read on a Windows computer and things like that. I think that MS has made every effort to avoid any possible benefit that an open format might have produced. It isn't hard, therefore, to see this as a serious compromise, and that would be phrasing it delicately.

Most people won't distinguish between open standards and open formats, although there certainly is one, or know the difference, and folks may be bamboozled into staying with Microsoft, based on an illusion of "openness", without understanding the very limited purpose of the open format concept Massachusetts came up with or what it is for. Further, if you compare this with the EU stand, it's puzzling why Massachusetts doesn't try to at least match up with the EU, especially when the EU is doing all the heavy lifting. Probably their answer would be that open formats are solely for the purpose of making sure documents can be read way down the road. They are not trying to define an open standard for any other purpose.

The EU framework hammers into place a foundation built on four corners: Open Standards, Open Source, Open XML Technologies, and an Open service-oriented architecture, and on that foundation they then pound home open interfaces, open messaging and communications protocols, open run time engines, and portable open class libraries. Why, then, should any governmental body settle for less? I posit that Massachusetts is sincerely doing what it feels it can, and they may have reasons I can't see. I can't say I am surprised, but I am still disappointed.

Optimistically, they have responded to input, and they do now list the OpenDocument format. That is tremendous, and I applaud them for doing so and I wish to say thank you. The fact that Massachusetts did listen to input is encouraging, especially because the final version is not yet before us, and they are asking for comments again.

It's also encouraging because the real decisions come from the marketplace, and as long as folks have a choice, I'm happy. Here is an article that demonsrates what I mean, about a company that is switching to Firefox, and notice why:

When Bill Robertson decided last year to switch 450 workers and 100 desktops at De Bortoli Wines to the open source Firefox web browser, he had the company's future in mind.

In moving to the free Firefox, he did more than just install a web browser that rivals Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which comes for free with every PC running the Windows operating system. The CIO defined a radically new desktop interface for the company and forced his software suppliers to comply with his technology direction, which had a heavy emphasis on open standards so he would no longer be locked into any one vendor's products.

Firefox is a small and streamlined web browser created by the US-based charity The Mozilla Foundation from the bones of the Netscape and Mozilla browsers. It runs on all desktop computers and supports most languages.

Firefox is often paired with its open source sibling, Thunderbird, a free email client that competes with Microsoft's Outlook in the enterprise. . . .

"We are masters of our own destiny, and we can run a lean and efficient operation," says Mr Robertson. "Neutral standards support our decisions when we select free products and empower us in the marketplace when we buy."

When folks are given a choice, and they see a way to escape from "vendor lock-in", they take it. By vendor lock-in, they mostly mean Microsoft. I think it's safe to say that a lot of people in this world despise that company's business practices and don't much want to be a customer of a company that behaves as it does. I believe we will see that feeling expresssing itself more and more and more, as long as the marketplace offers them a choice.

Governmental agencies and standards bodies can be subverted. I'm not saying that is what happened here necessarily, but speaking in general, Microsoft's power and money are a factor. We've seen it. Remember the money that was given to the head of the organization that decided to pull out of the EU process and not pursue Microsoft there any more? But unless Microsoft decides to start paying customers to use their products, as long as there is a viable choice, customers will walk away from that company, unless there is a serious, radical shift in Microsoft's way of doing business. I view all efforts on their part to dominate the standards process and twist it to their advantage to try to exile GPL software from the mainstream, as in the SenderID performance, as proof positive that they haven't changed a bit and that I don't want to do business with a company that behaves that way. Their antiLinux FUD is profoundly offensive too. I know I am not alone in that feeling.

The remedy for all that is education. FUD only works when people don't know the truth. That is an abiding belief of mine, and I have witnessed its truth in the Groklaw story.

So, as you see, I'm inclined to be an optimist. You'd have to be, I guess, to do Groklaw at all. But while one could have said to me when I first started that the situation was hopeless -- I was a nobody, with no money, no PR, no influence, no numbers, no credentials, no support, just one small voice in the blogosphere when I began -- what would you say now? Is it possible? SCO had the backing of Microsoft, financially (circuitously) and FUDwise, and millions to spend on telling their story to the universe. But the community rallied, we seriously answered their FUD, and the rest is history. So, all I'm saying is this: don't overestimate Microsoft's power, because it will enervate you. And don't underestimate what a clear, concerted, sustained education campaign can do. That is exactly what Groklaw is for, and with your help, I believe we can be successful.

I have confidence that people have an innate sense of justice. And no one likes being forced in any particular direction. Microsoft's entire business model, as far as I can see, is based on injustice to its competition and monopoly-enforced lock-in for its customers. That appeals to no one but Microsoft. Why would it? So, our job is to help people see that they have viable options. That really is all we need to do. They will just naturally do the rest on their own. Furthermore, I believe it will happen.

I am saying all this to say that providing comments on the process, thoughtful, positive, but clear comments, has a value of its own, I believe, no matter what Massachusetts chooses in the end to do. And I by no means think that Massachusetts is trying to do less than its best here. Your comments are part of the cumulative educational process that we are embarked on.

If you do comment on the MA page, can you please also record your comments here? This site is for historians, too, among other things, and I'd like to have a permanent record here of everything we say.


  


MA Posts New Version of Open Formats - Requests Comments | 186 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections here please
Authored by: seanlynch on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 12:23 PM EST
Please post any corrections in this thread, please.

Thank you.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MA Posts New Version of Open Formats - Requests Comments
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 12:24 PM EST
Massachusetts will implement this with all of m$'s patents, then one day they
will wake up and notice that m$ want to sue them or they need to pay a big bill

for using someone else's implementation of XML that interfaces with a word
processor. Then they will change there law.

Sue a government once, shame on your,
Sue a government twice you will change the law.

(my theory anyway)

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT (Off Topic) here please
Authored by: WhiteFang on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 12:26 PM EST
OT threads go here please.

It makes it much easier when links are created like this:

<a href="http://www.example.com">your words here</a>

Also make sure your "post" method is "html"

(And this time I got the format right!)

[ Reply to This | # ]

MA Posts New Version of Open Formats - Requests Comments
Authored by: sofaSpud on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 12:33 PM EST
If it holds true that the purpose of government is to promote the common good,
it seems to me to be a great subversion of public service to bolster the narrow
interests of a monopoly that is so widely acknowledged to have trampled the
interests of the public at large so ruthlessly for so long.

We can only hope that somehow we will avoid being obligated to pay fees to such
a foe of the public in order to have access to government documents which are
created via taxpayer funding. Long live optimism!

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • No - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 23 2005 @ 06:13 PM EST
Would M$ attempts to monopolize XML come under anti-trust laws?
Authored by: wvhillbilly on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 12:46 PM EST
If M$ were to use patents in an attempt to shut out open source (and/or others)
from implementing or using XML, would this come under anti-trust laws for
anti-competitive behavior?

Also, was XML already in use before M$ applied for patents on it, and if so how
long? Seems if it was for any length of time that would invalidate any patents
on it.


---
What goes around comes around, and the slower it goes the bigger it grows.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MA Posts New Version of Open Formats - Requests Comments
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 12:46 PM EST
One problem with "open" document content description formats is that
there are countless ways to sneak in things that effectively bind documents to
particular applications. This can be done while sticking to the letter of the
specification.

The simplest example is the idea of a format that allows for subsections to be
identified as content that is to be rendered and/or managed by some particular
component. If such a facility is present in the specification, then it's easy
for any application to drop its content out in some proprietary "format
within a format", while the overall document still conforms to the
standard.

Whether the "open" Office XML format(s) include such loopholes I don't
know.

[ Reply to This | # ]

My notes on Mycrosoft XML patent licensing
Authored by: dyfet on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 12:49 PM EST
Here is what I originally wrote in complaint to the EU ministry of competition on this very license well over a year ago. I have not reviewed any recent changes, though this may still apply today:

...

I am writing in concern over a situation that has been created by the Danish government that I believe is a matter of direct interest to the Competition Directorate General. This situation concerns the Danish government's "InfoStructureBase" repository site, offered as part of a Danish e-government initiative. This site is intended, as stated, from "http:http://isb.oio.dk/info/about/overview/index.htm" as follows: "The target group of the site is technical and non-technical staff from international, national, regional, and local authorities and their providers of IT-solutions. Users include developers, information-architects, project managers, IT-architects and others."

I have reviewed the Danish ISB repository, which promises, "Microsoft Word Document ML schemas published in the Infostructurebase On Monday the 17th November the xml schemas for the Word Document ML along with documentation, was uploaded to the Infostructurebase (ISB)." And further states that "With the Word Document ML specification anybody can generate, view and process Microsoft word documents on any format. See the legal terms at "http://rep.oio.dk/Microsoft.com/officeschemas/LegalNotice.htm" attached at the end of this letter as amendment A.

I found this statement as both factually false and misleading. The actual terms that cover the documentation and use of the XML schema here defined are actually covered by a specific and restrictive license, as found at the referenced URL. The terms of this license further state "There is a separate patent license available to parties interested in implementing software programs that can read and write files that conform to the Specification. This patent license is available at: http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/ip/format/xmlpatentlicense.asp.", and attached as amendment B.

Both the existence and actual terms of this XML license patent claim in fact in effect both prevents end users from accessing or using any of the ISB repository except under the terms and conditions set by the original vendor, and prohibit commercial entities from supplying products and services related to the ISB except under the expressed and explicit terms permitted by this vendor.

Furthermore, regardless of the legal status of software patents within the European Union, those that sign this license are additionally subject to a clause whereby they surrender their right to appeal the license or terminate it even if the conditions are found to be unenforcable, in addition to their right to appeal many other legal matters related to this vendor. Finally, the terms of the license are neither fixed nor defined, as the vendor only permits licensees to use a url to state the terms of license at the time it is viewed, and this implies the terms can be changed at the sole discretion of the vendor. The license itself contains no fixed or defined terms that are expressed or implied to a licensee, and hence, this seems both inconsistent with the UN definition of contracts and licenses, and the idea of equal bargaining power, let alone the concepts behind contract law in most nations.

In particular, as a provider of commercial software services and solutions, including solutions to enable accessibility to e-government services for the blind, these conditions and licensing would restricted my ability to specify conditions of sale and use of my own products in conjunction with the ISB repository or with any other governmental or private institution that uses these file formats. Furthermore, the terms of this license explicitly prohibit commercial entities from offering specific terms or licenses for their commercial products, such as the GNU General Public License, and would prevent governments and private institutions from offering public solicitations on their own terms for goods and services.

Since these conditions restrict the terms of sales for both a soliciting authority, be it a government or private company, and the terms of sale that can be offered by a commercial provider, these conditions, I believe, both in part and in whole, constitute prior "restraint of trade", as defined by the European Union.

In particular, I refer to Articles 85 (1) of the Treaty of Rome, (and the latter article 81 of the European Community Treaty) which explicitly prohibits "agreements, concerted practices, and decisions of undertakings which may affect trade between Member States and which have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction, or distortion of competition.". While most complaints in regard to article 81 traditionally deal with setting of and disputes about unfair pricing, I believe this action constitutes the most severe infraction possible of article 81, in that this situation can specifically prevent and exclude specific commercial offerings regardless of price at the sole discretion of a single commercial vendor.

On the matter of standing, while I am not a citizen of an EU member state, I do note that 85 (1) and subsequent enabling legislation can be applied to and provide legal standing for extra-territorial entities who may be effected by restrictive market conditions created within or by a European Union member states. These same conditions certainly restrict the ability of commercial vendors to provide goods and services within the European Union as well. Article 85 (1) (and subsequent article 81) also empowered the European Union to intervene in conditions created by a member nation and an outside party, as well as commercial contracts wholly within the territory of the European Union itself.

Article 81, and subsequent enabling legislation does specify what actions the EU can take when it is breached. Specific exemptions that breach article 85 (81, and later enabling law) can be permitted under very specific and limited conditions. I do not believe any of these very special conditions exist or can be demonstrated in regard to the Danish ISB contract. Article 81 also empowers the EU to levy a fine in regard to said breach, and to void anti-competitive contracts and commercial agreements. I am requesting the European Competition commission to consider exercise it's latter powers in this respect.

In effect, through the ISB, by accepting and using patent encumbered document formats that restrict who may access and use their content, the Danish government has created a commercially restricted market in the public's own goods contrary to both European Community law and even the most basic government purpose of serving the public interest. Under the terms and conditions of use offered through the Danish government by Microsoft, even Denmark's own citizens could potentially be legally prohibited from accessing their own government publications unless using products and services specified and approved by the patent licenser holder. Clearly such a situation is morally and ethically reprehensible as well as fundamentally in violation of European Union competition law. As such I believe the Competition Commission has a fiduciary responsibility to intervene in this matter.

I originally sent copies of this complaint to what appropriate members of the Danish government and ITC that I could identify. My hope is that the Danish government will be able to resolve this matter on it's own and bring itself in compliance with European competition law. I would also be happy to visit the offices of the Competition Minister in Brussels if needed to provide expert testimony on this matter.

...

I do believe many of the same principle issues would apply to state (and federal) procurement law within the U.S.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MA Posts New Version of Open Formats - Requests Comments
Authored by: kawabago on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 12:57 PM EST
I don't believe Microsoft's XML format is patentable because it is not an
original invention. The inventive step was creating XML to provide a language
that can describe unknown data so any application that can read XML can access
that data. Microsoft is merely implementing XML, that is not an invention.

Without the patent, Microsoft's format is open in the sense that they would have
no way to prevent programmers from writing code that can access Word XML
documents. So those who care should focus on preventing that patent from ever
being issued.


---
Life is funnier from the far end.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Make backups just in case
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 01:04 PM EST
<BLOCKQUOTE>If you do comment on the MA page, can you please also record
your comments here? This site is for historians, too, among other things, and
I'd like to have a permanent record here of everything we
say.</BLOCKQUOTE>
<BR><BR>

Make backups just in case someone or some company decides to pull a fast one by
paying someone to delete everything, either by hacking or a physical "rm
-rf /" at the server location.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Wheres the beef? (Can you really patent an arbitrary organization of symbols?)
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 01:16 PM EST
Im just trying to work out how you can patent a document format.

I mean a document format is just a specification that certain symbols should
appear in certain order and the like. How is it possible to patent such a thing?
What technological advance does one particular ordering of bytes represent over
another particular ordering of bytes?

Frankly this particular issue is starting to look like a red-herring by MS to
make our community waste a lot of time and resources fighting something that
wont stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny.

Examples of prior art abound (just do a search on search.cpan.org for HTML and
XML parsers and youll find zillions) likewise early web browsers and the like.

So seriously where is the beef on this one?

[ Reply to This | # ]

New Version of Open Formats
Authored by: rsteinmetz70112 on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 01:33 PM EST
I have just looked at the MA document. It seems to simply reference the
Microsoft web pages which have a number of different parts. After reading them
I'm not clear on what the problem with their license is.

One issue is that they require a notice, and there is confusing, to me at least
language, about sale, sub licensing, distribution and end users. Why would
someone develop an applications and not distribute it?

Nothing seems to prohibit developing a free open source version of the the
programs although there may be a conflict with the GPL.

I would appreciate enlightenment.

---
Rsteinmetz

"I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."
Randy Newman - The Title Theme from Monk

[ Reply to This | # ]

Building the argument against MS XML and other "closed" open formats
Authored by: Tom Johnson on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 01:53 PM EST
As a resident of Massachusetts who is a software developer who does work for
various local town governments (mostly web app work) this issue is important for
me.

Given that it will to a certain degree set a precedent which may be followed
elsewhere in the US, its probably somewhat important to all of you.

What are the arguements against allowing something like MS XML to be considered
an "Open" format? I could pull together an argument myself...but its
likely to be better if it is a community effort.

If you post below this comment and grant me license I will assemble all of the
best arguments into a single document which will submit to the Commonwealth.
Maybe being from a local technology company it will have a bit more weight.
Results are what we are seeking. Right?

Thomas R. Johnson
President
Plymouth Rock Technology, Inc.
Plymouth, Massachusetts USA

[ Reply to This | # ]

MA Posts New Version of Open Formats - Requests Comments
Authored by: cinly on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 02:15 PM EST

"Open Formats, as we're thinking about them, and we're trying to be precise with the language, because people use different English words for different technical terms, in our definition, 'Open Formats' are specifications for data file formats that are based on an underlying open standard, developed by an open community and affirmed by a standards body; or, de facto format standards controlled by other entities that are fully documented and available for public use under perpetual, royalty-free, and nondiscriminatory terms."

They have now accepted Microsoft XML as fitting that definition. Obviously, that means they must be defining "nondiscriminatory" as meaning making something available to all comers at the same price, or something like that. It can't be that they are using the word to mean that the format doesn't discriminate against GPL software, because Microsoft's license, the last one I saw, does exacly that.

Sorry PJ, but while MS XML may pass the non-discriminatory provision, it definitely fails the royalty-free requirement.

---
All views expressed here are my own and do not reflect that of any institution I am affiliated to

[ Reply to This | # ]

    MA Posts New Version of Open Formats - Requests Comments
    Authored by: DL on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 02:31 PM EST

    This is what the US Navy is doing with open formats:

    ht tp://www.dt.navy.mil/tot-shi-sys/tec-inf-sys/gui-acq-con/index.html

    It's long, and the Navy-speak can melt your brain. It's worth it, though. Amazingly, someone got a clue.

    ---
    DL

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Government should use royalty and patent free formats if any are available.
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 02:46 PM EST
    It is wrong for the government to push any format which
    requires the public to pay money to a private compant to
    get hold of government information. Unless Microsoft
    offers Office free of charge to the public, or unless it's
    it's full XML filter is available free of royalties and
    free of patent encumberances (which allows strings to be
    attached) to third parties who want to use it (like the
    OpenDocument format, then MA should not use it.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    My comments to MA government
    Authored by: cinly on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 02:47 PM EST
    Dear Sir/Madam,

    Domain: Information
    Discipline: Data Formats
    Technology Area: Open Formats
    TECHNOLOGY SPECIFICATION: MS OFFICE XML DOCUMENT FORMATS

    While I applause your effort in getting Microsoft to agree that

    "... [E]nd users who merely open and read government documents that are
    saved as Office XML files within software programs will not violate the
    license" (http://www.microsoft.com/office/xml/janletter.mspx)

    I am afraid this solution is not a long term solution as it does not provide the
    rights for end users / developer to write to this format. Therefore I believe
    there should be a guarantee on the ability for end users to write and print any
    data formats, including in this case, MS Office XML.

    While it is true that the ability to read will satisfy almost 80% of current
    needs, the ability to write to this format will become increasingly important as
    organizations/government continue to move towards electronic means of submitting
    applications and making queries. By not guaranteeing end users the rights to
    write to the data format, the government of MA either unfairly penalize sections
    of citizens who cannot afford the cost of modifying the document before
    submitting them to you, or the government of MA will be force to provide an
    alternative means of electronic document submission. Without the means to write
    to this document for government-citizen transaction electronically, the
    government of MA cannot pass on the additional cost processing the document in
    formats other than this format to the users of government services. Providing
    multiple electronic means of serving users is of course, a waste of government
    resources.


    ---
    All views expressed here are my own and do not reflect that of any institution I
    am affiliated to

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    MA Posts New Version of Open Formats - Requests Comments
    Authored by: seanzig on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 03:03 PM EST
    One problem that I have with using a merely "non-descriminatory"
    format is that they can still be used to kill small competitors. Even if the
    royalties are the same for everyone, they can simply set the price high enough
    such that FOSS can't afford it easily. Think about it, who out there needs
    access to the format besides MS competitors; why shouldn't they set the
    royalties very high, for everyone?

    Although, I think I have an idea why MA is considering MS Office's formats. MS
    Office doesn't read/write OpenOffice files and probably never will. If MA cuts
    MS Office formats from the list, that effectively removes MS Office as a viable
    product for them.

    While most of us probably think that's a great idea, that's a scary proposition
    for non-technical types who've used MS products for years. That would elevate
    the debate from formats to actual products, bringing in the entire gamut of
    arguments such as total cost-of-ownership (TCO), training for state employees,
    etc. All those things that MS like to spread FUD about.

    If we're going to help MA go down this road, we need to start by de-FUD-ifying
    such issues so they can make fair evaluations.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    MA Posts New Version of Open Formats - Requests Comments
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 04:09 PM EST
    "Open Formats, as we're thinking about them, and we're trying to be precise with the language, because people use different English words for different technical terms, in our definition, 'Open Formats' are specifications for data file formats that are based on an underlying open standard, developed by an open community and affirmed by a standards body; or, ..."

    If this semi-literate mess is what they write when they're "trying to be precise with the language", I have no realistic hope that they'll ever write a satisfactory definition.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Defining what is an open format
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 04:43 PM EST
    Given the history of software companies, the definition of
    an open format needs to be very simple and free of loop
    holes.

    So for those of you able to effect this decision
    process I'd like to offer a simple suggestion.

    Define a open format as one publically documented, free
    or royalty obligations, copyright obligations and any form
    of restriction.

    The test of the openness of a file format is answered
    by the question: "Can any person read or write a file in
    the "open" format using only information publically
    available and a text or Hex editor?"
    And further "Can that same person write a converter
    for the file format without obligation to anyone?"

    I Guess I should make an account some day :P

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    'perpetual, royalty-free, and nondiscriminatory terms'
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 05:21 PM EST
    If Microsoft guarantee this and MA can get a document sighed that they can use
    to deal with Microsoft if Microsoft double cross, then the Microsoft patents (
    if they get awarded) are there only to protect this status (a positive thing).

    If MA can swing this then they are to be congratulated.

    Microsoft&#8217;s problem is that in business every one now assumes the
    worse when dealing with them, and they are no longer the only game in town.

    One is left with the strong impression Microsoft is being dragged towards open
    and free standards kicking a screaming.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

      MA Posts New Version of Open Formats - Requests Comments
      Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 08:03 PM EST
      Good point, two choice excerpts


      My land lord might or might not charge me rent this month (i am betting she
      will).

      Microsoft may have patents and/or patent applications that are necessary for
      you to license in order to make, sell, or distribute software programs that
      read or write files that comply with the Microsoft specifications for the Office

      Schemas.


      Punitive or special damages, like if they dont like the license you are using
      and would like to sue for patent infringement, wether they have a claim or
      not, just to stir FUD.

      MICROSOFT AND ITS AFFILIATES SHALL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES
      ARISING FROM OR RELATED TO THIS LICENSE, INCLUDING INDIRECT,
      INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, PUNITIVE OR SPECIAL DAMAGES EVEN IF
      MICROSOFT OR ITS AFFILIATES HAVE BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF
      SUCH DAMAGES IN ADVANCE.

      again, just theories, but sense when is M$ against propagating FUD ?

      [ Reply to This | # ]

      Don't make your software comply with the MS XML licenses.
      Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 08:48 PM EST
      Here's why: it sets a precedent and it gives them control. Years from now, it
      won't be the patented "Office 2003 XML Reference Schema" it will be
      the patented "Office 2009 XML Reference Schema", and the license for
      it will forbid you to implement open-source instances of programs that read from
      and write to the format.

      When open-sourcers rebel and go ahead and write compliant software, they will be
      sued. A history of complying with the "all you have to do is display this
      modest license notice in your source code, manuals, help files, and other
      documents" requirement will prove that you gave in to the idea of a
      patentable (patented) *file format*.

      Don't let Microsoft steer the debate! It's still a patent on a file format, and
      a very obvious and non-novel one at that! Don't give into to it. It still ain't
      open if it's patented, regardless of how generous they seem to be with their
      licenses.

      [ Reply to This | # ]

      A couple of things
      Authored by: inode_buddha on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 10:13 PM EST
      " They have now accepted Microsoft XML as fitting that definition. Obviously, that means they must be defining "nondiscriminatory" as meaning making something available to all comers at the same price, or something like that. It can't be that they are using the word to mean that the format doesn't discriminate against GPL software, because Microsoft's license, the last one I saw, does exacly that.

      In life, we always have a choice, to view things optimistically or pessimistically. I am inclined to think the best of people, and to give them all the respect I can, so I guess I'm more inclined to be an optimist, but I will now do both, view the new model both optimistically and pessimistically, and you can choose, according to your own inclinations."

      IMHO the question of discriminations is one of *how* does one discriminate? Is it legal, financial, or technical? Just because one has the technical ability does not mean it is legal nor economical. Either way, it is still discriminatory in a negative way, IMHO.

      Well, I'm still struggling to remain optimistic.
      Like Morpheus in "The Matrix", I say "Show me."

      ---
      -inode_buddha
      Copyright info in bio

      "When we speak of free software,
      we are referring to freedom, not price"
      -- Richard M. Stallman

      [ Reply to This | # ]

      Possible comment: Clarify - implementable by proprietary and the most popular OSS/FS licenses
      Authored by: dwheeler on Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 11:59 PM EST
      I think they ought to include a definition of "Open Format" that clarifies the meaning, like this: "To be an open format, it must be possible to implement the format in proprietary programs from any vendor and in software released using the most popular open source software licenses; this maximizes the possibility of competition."

      For example, since the GPL is by far the most common OSS/FS license, any specification that discriminates against GPL implementations is automatically discriminatory. It's much better if governments demand the use of formats that everyone can implement and use, and permit the creation of competition.

      [ Reply to This | # ]

        MA Posts New Version of Open Formats - Requests Comments
        Authored by: etmax on Wednesday, March 23 2005 @ 08:48 AM EST
        It implies that either the following words have been removed, or MS-XML is
        PERPETUALLY ROYALTY FREE.

        "that are fully documented and available for public use under perpetual,
        royalty-free, and nondiscriminatory terms."

        I wonder which one has changed???

        Does anybody know???

        ---
        Max - Melbourne Australia

        [ Reply to This | # ]

        MA Posts New Version of Open Formats - Requests Comments
        Authored by: philc on Wednesday, March 23 2005 @ 10:20 AM EST
        From a practical point of view, anyone should be legally licensed to take the
        specification, create software that implements the specification and distribute
        the software as they see fit and without restrictions set forth in the license.
        Further the license grant must be perpetual and royalty free.

        One should expect that the vendor implements software acording to the standard
        as well. There should be no hidden features that are not presented in the
        specification.

        IANAL, just my opinion.

        [ Reply to This | # ]

        MA Posts New Version of Open Formats - Requests Comments
        Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 23 2005 @ 07:03 PM EST
        I like this bit on Microsoft's formats I found at http://www.mass.gov/eoaf/open_formats_comments.html:
        "They have made representations to us recently they are planning to modify that license, and we believe, if they do so in the way that we understand that they have spoken about (we will leave it obviously to them to describe exactly what they are going to do), it is our expectation that the next iteration of the Open Format standard will include some Microsoft proprietary formats. These formats, like DOC files, will be deemed to be Open Formats because they will no longer have restrictions on their use."
        (my emphasis)

        I presume "no...restrictions" means just that - no restrictions, and anyone will be able to use the formats in any way, including writing a program that will be 100% compatible with MS formats.

        MS may have done a lot of bad things in the past in the name of retaining marketshare, but if they truly open up their document formats, they'll be getting a lot more respect around here.

        It's a big if, of course...

        [ Reply to This | # ]

        MS's patent license NOT compatible with any OSI-approved license
        Authored by: cmc on Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 01:01 AM EST
        Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but here's my take on the situation. Please excuse it's length, but it's necessary to provide all of the relevant information.


        Microsoft's Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas Frequently Asked Questions states:

        Q. How do I get a license?
        A. The license is available when you download the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas from the Microsoft Download Center.

        Q. Can I distribute a program that can read and/or write files that support the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas in source code form?
        A. Yes. You can distribute your program in source code form. But, note that the patent and copyright provisions in the license for the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas require you to include a notice of attribution in your program.


        Microsoft's Office 2003 XML Reference Schema Patent License states:

        If you distribute, license or sell a Licensed Implementation, this license is conditioned upon you requiring that the following notice be prominently displayed in all copies and derivative works of your source code and in copies of the documentation and licenses associated with your Licensed Implementation:

        "This product may incorporate intellectual property owned by Microsoft Corporation. The terms and conditions upon which Microsoft is licensing such intellectual property may be found at http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/odcXMLRef/html/odcXMLRefLegalNotice.asp. "

        By including the above notice in a Licensed Implementation, you will be deemed to have accepted the terms and conditions of this license. You are not licensed to distribute a Licensed Implementation under license terms and conditions that prohibit the terms and conditions of this license.

        You are not licensed to sublicense or transfer your rights.


        Microsoft's Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas download page offers the download only as an xsdref.msi file (Microsoft installer) with the system requirements listed as “Supported Operating Systems: Windows 2000 Service Pack 3, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP”. This means that only these three operating systems are capable of downloading the documentation and specifications for the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas, and only these three operating systems may be used to obtain the license. A note is shown below the system requirements saying “For non-Windows systems, see "Welcome to the Infostructurebase" in Related Resources”, which points us here. This is a download page with no information whatsoever about the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas. I decided to try to look for the specifications and license by using the provided search options to search for “Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas” in “All” of Microsoft. The only page found was the download page hosting the xsdref.msi file. Please note that this means that only Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows 2003 users (and only select users, at that) are able to download this file (according to the system requirements), and thus are the only users capable of obtaining a license.


        The GNU GPL states:

        2. You may modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion of it, thus forming a work based on the Program, and copy and distribute such modifications or work under the terms of Section 1 above, provided that you also meet all of these conditions:
        a) You must cause the modified files to carry prominent notices stating that you changed the files and the date of any change.
        b) You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License.
        c) If the modified program normally reads commands interactively when run, you must cause it, when started running for such interactive use in the most ordinary way, to print or display an announcement including an appropriate copyright notice and a notice that there is no warranty (or else, saying that you provide a warranty) and that users may redistribute the program under these conditions, and telling the user how to view a copy of this License. (Exception: if the Program itself is interactive but does not normally print such an announcement, your work based on the Program is not required to print an announcement.)


        And, finally, the OSI Open Source Definition states:

        7. Distribution of License
        The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.


        OK, now, still with me? We're almost done. So Microsoft is claiming that their license is available to open source developers, and is compatible with open source licenses.

        The GPL grants you the right to modify the code, which means you could remove the Microsoft-required attribution notice. It also requires you to automatically sublicense all derivative works. So the GPL is out.

        OSI's open source definition also claims that all derivative works must be automatically sublicensed. So, according to OSI's open source definition, all OSI-approved licenses are out.

        According to Microsoft, all users who want a license for the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas must obtain the license by downloading the xsdref.msi file from Microsoft's website, and no one is allowed to sublicense the file. That means that Microsoft's Office 2003 XML Reference Schema patent license is not compatible with the GPL or with any OSI-approved license. In other words, it's not compatible with open source.


        cmc

        [ Reply to This | # ]

        Groklaw © Copyright 2003-2013 Pamela Jones.
        All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners.
        Comments are owned by the individual posters.

        PJ's articles are licensed under a Creative Commons License. ( Details )