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
Massachusetts' Public Records Law and Universal Access
Monday, November 28 2005 @ 01:33 AM EST

I was thinking about public access to government documents. The disabled have a statutory right of access, but what about the rest of us? Let's think about Massachusetts. Do I have such a right, if I live in Massachusetts? If so, do I, as a non-Microsoft user, have a right to access digital records using my operating system of choice? Or can the government make choices that force me to buy Microsoft products in order to gain access to those records?

To find an answer to that question, I went digging, and I came upon Massachusetts' Public Records Law [PDF], and I also found a Guide [PDF] explaining the law in plain English that Secretary of the Commonwealth, Public Records Division, William Galvin provides on his department's website.

Now, I'm not a lawyer, but I note the Guide says *every* person has "an absolute right of access to public information". That sounds like it would mean me, even if I do use a GNU/Linux operating system. And you, if you do too. And all the citizenry in the Commonwealth and beyond.

I see it also says that there is no distinction in the law between paper and digital records in terms of right of access. Hmm. That sounds to these non-lawyer ears like I have a right of digital access. So wouldn't that mean they'd have to make records available to me and all of us who use the GNU/Linux operating system, if that is what we use? Otherwise, it's a right with no meaning. I have to be able to read the records once they provide them. Or can the state in effect force us to buy a certain favored vendor's product in order to access our records? For that matter, can they favor just one vendor and tell those of us who don't use that vendor's products that we don't count? The statute seems to be saying otherwise.

I wonder how many GNU/Linux users there are in Massachusetts? I don't know, but there are certainly many, many citizens who don't use Microsoft products living in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. If there are MA LUGs out there, do you have any idea about numbers?

Please let me show you some excerpts from the guide, beginning on page 11, so you can see what I mean.

I've put other page numbers in brackets, so you can verify:

The Massachusetts Public Records Law provides that every person has an absolute right of access to public information. This right of access includes the right to inspect, copy or have copies of records provided upon the payment of a reasonable fee.

Overview of the Massachusetts Public Records Law.

The Massachusetts General Laws broadly define “public records” to include all documentary materials or data, regardless of physical form or characteristics, which are made or received by any officer or employee of any Massachusetts governmental entity. As a result, all photographs, papers and electronic storage media including electronic mail of which a governmental employee is the “custodian” constitute “public records.”...

Does the Public Records Law apply to computer records? [p. 9]

Yes. The term “public records” is defined by statute to include all documentary materials or data, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by any officer or employee of any municipality or agency of the Commonwealth, unless falling within a statutory exemption. Therefore, the Public Records Law clearly applies to government records generated, received, or maintained electronically, including computer records, electronic mail, video and audio tapes.

Computer Records [p. 27]

The Public Records Law was drafted at a time when legislators could not have envisioned the impact computers would have on the government’s ability to collect, store, compile and disseminate information. The legal principles embodied in the Public Records Law, however, may be readily transposed into legal principles governing access to information maintained in an automated system.

The statutory definition of “public records” does not distinguish between traditional paper records and records stored in the computer medium. Rather, it provides that all information made or received by a public entity, regardless of the manner in which it exists, constitutes “public records.” Computer cards, tapes or diskettes are all independent public records that are subject to the same requirements of the Public Records Law as are paper records. Therefore, a custodian is obliged to furnish copies of non-exempt portions of computerized information at the cost of reproduction unless otherwise provided by law.

It should be noted, however, that just as a custodian is not required to create a paper record in response to a request for information, a custodian is not required to create a computer record in response to a request for information. Conceptually, a computer is like a large filing cabinet. The “files” in the cabinet consist of any compilations of information contained on a tape or a diskette which can be independently retrieved through the use of existing computer programs.

A custodian is only obliged to provide access to the existing “files” of a cabinet. Therefore, a custodian is not required to create a new computer program to provide a requester with computerized information in a desired format. There is, however, an exception to this general rule when the reprogramming is needed to comply with the segregation provision of the law.

For example, suppose a request is made for a computer diskette which references all woman homeowners who also own dogs. The custodian, however, does not have a computer program which allows him to combine his dog license information with the assessor files to select the desired information. Providing the requested information in the desired format requires the creation of a new program. In this situation, the custodian is only obliged to notify the requester that there is no specific record which is responsive to his request. The custodian should also advise the requester of the available formats and let the requester determine which of the existing formats or “files” is best suited for his needs.

It should be noted there is nothing which prevents a custodian from creating a program which will generate requested information in the desired format. In fact, the custodian can benefit from such an arrangement. Since the creation of records, including the honoring of prospective requests are not governed by the Public Records Law, including its maximum fee limitations, the custodian is free to negotiate all terms of the arrangement. Consequently, when a requester is willing to pay for the creation of a program, the custodian is able to add a new program to his library without any expense to the government. Once that program is created, future requests for the same information would fall within the fees set by regulation.

I read this to be saying that if there is a paper document, you can't insist that they create a digital one. Maybe one might argue that preexisting digital records kept in MS' proprietary formats might be acceptable, without change (although they'd probably have to provide the record as paper or in some other fashion make them available) on legacy materials, when it comes to deciding on what standard to adopt *going forward*, universal access would be required.

If my understanding is correct, then no wonder Massachusetts chose ODF. Under this statute, would they have any choice? The goal is universal access. Can Microsoft provide it? If Massachusetts were to adopt a digital standard that in practice penalized or excluded GNU/Linux users, which Microsoft's previous license did, especially when there is an open standard, ODF, that is universally usable by everyone, would that be legal under this statute? I don't see how. Maybe some of you lawyers out there can see something I don't.

I suppose Microsoft could get some friends to rewrite the law just for them, but other than that, I think the beautiful Commonwealth of Massachusetts is stuck with ODF. Or, now that Microsoft is making not-yet fulfilled promises of greater openness, another hilarious possibility: if Microsoft can open its XML enough that it is universally usable by all, with no display degradation, no interoperability issues, and no DRM or patent minefields penalizing GNU/Linux users, then I think it could qualify under this statute, but if they were to play the kinds of games we've come to associate with Microsoft, with negative results for GNU/Linux users, I think they'd exclude themselves under the statute. Or they could just throw in the towel and support ODF.

How delightful. Microsoft forced to be really open, or else. Should that true openness happen, I'd like to be the first to greet them and say, Welcome to the Free World.

No chair throwing, though. We have standards here.


  


Massachusetts' Public Records Law and Universal Access | 164 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Correction(s)
Authored by: blokey on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 02:00 AM EST
Please put your corrections here,

10th Paragraph 'offi cer' --> 'officer'

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft's easy workaround to free access requirement
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 02:20 AM EST
Microsoft could divert attention away from this requirement by providing simple "display only" software for a selection of operating systems (including Linux!) which would let you display a MS format file, but nothing else. The Masachusetts law promises access to files, but it does NOT require easy manipulation, cut and paste, or editing of those files.

Microsoft does this now for Powerpoint at least, providing a free "Powerpoint Viewer".

[ Reply to This | # ]

Massachusetts' Public Records Law and Universal Access
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 02:21 AM EST
A quick comment. My impression is, it is a naive law. What if I have an old Zuse
computer. An old mainframe. No MS Word on it, no openoffice.org. How can I then
access Massachussett's government documents digitally, even if they are
in ODF? In other words, what _is_ digital access? How about if my machine
doesn't like ASCII, or is a 4-bit machine, with 1KB of RAM and a 40KB floppy
disk drive?

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT Here
Authored by: LosD on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 02:40 AM EST
Clickables please

[ Reply to This | # ]

Public Records and Universal Access
Authored by: Nonad on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 02:49 AM EST
Conceptually, a computer is like a large filing cabinet. The “files” in the cabinet consist of any compilations of information contained on a tape or a diskette which can be independently retrieved through the use of existing computer programs.

A custodian is only obliged to provide access to the existing “files” of a cabinet. Therefore, a custodian is not required to create a new computer program to provide a requester with computerized information in a desired format.

I could, of course, be totally wrong, but it seems the above could be very easily interpreted to say if the state wanted to store data in ANY format that is convenient to them - even if it is from a $3000 a copy GID program for their maps - and have no need to convert it to any other format.

For example, my city stores all it's maps using a proprietary mapping program that has no equivalent in Mac OS or Linux systems. They will provide me with digital or printed output, but they will not transform it to some other format so I can use it.

While it would be convenient for ME to have them in another format, I doubt it would be convenient for them - nor would it be cost effective.


In a similar vein, though, my state's laws (RCWs and WACs) are available on line in a universal format understood by all standard browsers. Those laws are available in individual sections, or as larger chunks compiled from those individual sections.

It used to be that I, a Mac user, could only get the individual sections one-at-a-time because the access to multiple sections at once was via a freely provided program the state distributed on-line - that program was a ".exe"...

I wrote to the legislative document folks complaining a few years ago, and within a few weeks they had apologized and corrected the problem by moving the compilation overhead onto their servers rather than requiring a Microsoft Windows based system at the user's location.

Every time I run into a state, county, or city document that I need that is in a proprietary format (.doc, for example) I complain, and usually within a reasonable time the publicly available information is changed to a more universal format.

Locally I am seeing a LOT less proprietary formats from my governments.

Nonad the Nomad

[ Reply to This | # ]

U.S. and Massachusetts State Constitutions also have a say
Authored by: AllParadox on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 02:53 AM EST
There is some merit in the position that the State of Massachusetts cannot
maintain public records in a form that requires ordinary residents to submit to
a contract with a particular party (Microsoft), in order to access the State
records.

Paying a small service, or access, fee, to cover the reasonable costs of
maintaining the service, is not unreasonable.

Giving up all rights contemplated in the Microsoft EULA is wholly unreasonable.

I think pointed questions to the Massachusetts respresentative, with specifics
taken directly from the EULA, would embarass that gentleman. It would not sound
very nice to the voters.

---
PJ deletes insult posts, not differences of opinion.

AllParadox; retired lawyer and chief Groklaw iconoclast. No legal opinions,
just my opinion.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Insightful! - Authored by: PolR on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 09:57 AM EST
Teach me to read
Authored by: BbMaj7 on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 03:17 AM EST
Universal access is closely tied to the education system. What good is a piece
of printed paper if I don't know how to read the language written on it.

For any language (eg. English) to be specified as an acceptible mechanism for
universal access is must be taught to the society that uses it. Once taught it
cannot be revoked so it's continuity is assured for the life of the society. To
be a functioning member of society we are expected to be able to read and write
the common language.

A proprietary format is a gatekeeper blocking access to information. The clergy
were once the most powerful members of society because they controlled access to
information. Worse was that when they manipulated it for their own ends none
could oppose them.

History repeats.

[ Reply to This | # ]

DoJ vs. Microsoft, Anyone?
Authored by: sproggit on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 03:48 AM EST
How many of us remember the details of the court case between the Department of
Justice and Microsoft? I seem to recall that when Microsoft brought
documentation to the court, they did so in the form of Powerpoint slides that
had been carefully produced to make it difficult and arduous for others to use
and manipulate that information. In fact, their conduct was so deliberately
non-cooperative and such an example of stretching a directive to the limits that
it only served to underpin arguments made by those who felt that Microsoft were
an irresponsible monopoly.

Curious, isn't it, that we're here, now, considering the right of free citizens
to access the information that they have paid for. Oh yes, they have paid for
it. They pay their taxes. They don't have the luxury of routing their income
through tax havens and "friendly" countries, unlike some large
corporations...


Seriously, whilst I strongly applaud the Commonwealth for all that they are
trying to do in their commitment to Open Standards, I don't think that this goes
far enough.

Put simply, any body or organisation that receives monies from the "public
purse" [in any nation] should guarantee to make that information [or such
of it that can be viewed by the public] available to all.

If they cannot do that, then a reasonable person who be bound to ask exactly who
that publicly funded organisation was working for, if not the people.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OpenOffice.org excuse ?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 04:02 AM EST
I've read in Ch.22 of M. Salus book that Microsoft used a RedHat box to show
that they were not a monopolist.

Could they use OpenOffice.org (or Star Office or anything else) to show that
Word/Excel/PowerPoint documents can be freely read or modified under whatever OS
you'd like ? Since OO.o is so readily available, publishing anything in MS
proprietary format (excluding MS XML formats, at least for now) does not prevent
anybody from reading and/or modifying them.

As for simply reading the files, it could be that the free readers that
Microsoft provide work under Wine so that you're not even required to pay
anything to read them with native MS tools (at least on a PC computer (yes that
does not resolve the problem for Mac users, at least until the new x86 Macs)).

Just a thought

Loďc

[ Reply to This | # ]

Universal Access
Authored by: sproggit on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 04:10 AM EST
If I wanted to telephone an official of the Commonwealth, would I have to use a
telephone handset made by a specific manufacturer? No. Would I have to use a
telephone network maintained by a specific service provider? No.

If I wanted to send or receive a facsimile to officials of the Commonwealth,
would I have to use a machine provided by a specific manufacturer, or running
specific software? No. Would I have to use a specific network? No.

If I wanted to send or receive a letter or parcel in correspondence with the
Commonwealth, would I have to use a specific postal service? No.

If I wanted to send or receive an email, would I have to use a particular email
client program? Would I have to use a specific operating system? Would I have to
use a particular version of the internet? That would be no, no, and no, I
believe.

If I wanted to go and visit an officer of the Commonwealth, would I have to use
a particular vehicle? Would it have to run on a particular type of fuel? Would I
have to use specific roads to get there? Again, the answer is no.

In short, from what I can see, a free citizen can use pretty much any form or
means at their disposal to communicate with the officials of the Commonwealth.
Right up to the point where we start to discuss computer files and computer
information.

Then, at that point, you have two groups with different points of view. One one
side, you have a group who say, "Hey, Open Standards are the way to go.
Look - it worked for telephones, fax machines, roads, emails, the postal
service, the works... Let's do the same for electronic files and documents.
Let's have an open standard that we all share, with no single owner."

And you have another group who say, "No - you don't want to do that. That
would be unAmerican, and unConstitutional, and too expensive, and unfair on the
disabled and stuff. What you should do is use this closed and proprietary format
that we own. That would be best."

So it seems to me [and regulars will know I'm not a US citizen] that this second
group are actually proposing something that would be like having a telephone
system that only allowed you to speak to certain people, or fax machines that
could only call certain numbers. It would be like having a private version of
the internet so that you could not interact with the whole world, just the
subset of the world that your supplier, a vendor, was willing to let you access.
[Think Tunisia and the UN Summit, folks. Think censorship]. It would be like
having a vehicle and told that certain roads are closed to you, or that because
your vehicle used the wrong gas you could not get to your destination.



These may seem, on the surface, like trivial or stupid comparisons to draw with
the decisions faced by the CoM at the moment. They are not. They are exactly the
same.

One side of the debate really does believe in access for all, for free. The
other side certainly believes in access, would love for that access to be by
"all", but would you just put your access toll charge in here pretty,
please?

It isn't hard to figure out which side is which in this debate.


[ Reply to This | # ]

"reasonable fee".
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 04:39 AM EST
"The Massachusetts Public Records Law provides that every person has an
absolute right of access to public information. This right of access includes
the right to inspect, copy or have copies of records provided upon the payment
of a reasonable fee."

Can MA charge different fees for different systems or does the same data have to
be charged at the same rate whatever the system.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What about metadata, and programs?
Authored by: JRR on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 05:00 AM EST
It would appear Massachusetts is only obliged to provide data in the format it
is stored in. However, in order to be useful, surely the requester must also be
provided with the metadata, to enable the data to be interpreted.

For example, if some Massachusetts employee wrote a program which stored data in
some non-obvious format, the requester should be given (for at most a reasonable
copying fee) a description of that format, to enable the data to be
interpreted.

If the data were stored in a proprietary format, wouldn't the requester be
entitled to receive the specifications for that format as well?

If data was stored in a format for which there are no specifications available,
but the state has a program (which is after all just another computer file)
which is capable of reading the data, would the requester be entitled to a copy
of that program for at most a reasonable copying fee?

The logical (albeit facetious) conclusion of this line of argument is that a
Massachusetts citizen could request (and expect to get) a Microsoft Word
document, an Excel spreadsheet, a Powerpoint presentation, and a copy of
Microsoft Office to read them with...

If it could be shown that there is any valididty to this sort of argument, such
that Massachusetts were obliged to provide details of proprietary data formats
or software, I think Microsoft would lose its enthusiasm for having
Massachusetts adopt Microsoft formats.

[ Reply to This | # ]

You do have a right of access
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 05:39 AM EST
And here's exactly what you'll get in a Microsoft Word file:

EC A5 C1 00 5B 20 09 04 00 00 F8 12 BF 00 00 00 ...

Although I know a lot of people fine it easier to read in binary.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Therefore, I Should Have Access to the MS Office Source Code
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 06:10 AM EST
The whole point of the public access laws is to ensure that nothing is being
kept secret from the public.

But the MS Office file formats are undocumented and secret. Who knows what is
being stored in those files?

In fact, some people have gotten into trouble, in the past, because there was
information being kept in their MS Office files that they didn't know was
there.

Given all the documents that are already stored in MS Office formats, the only
way we can ensure our (the public's) right to know is to have access to
Micrsoft's source code.

This will also be true of MS Office 12, if it is used for government documents,
and there are any undocumented tags or binary areas in the file formats.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A simple solution to all of Galvin/Pachero's objections.
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 06:26 AM EST
Wouldn't a simple solution to all of Galvin's and Pachero's objections be to
simply provide free OpenOffice downloads from the Massachusetts web site, and
offer to mail an OpenOffice CD free or at a nominal charge to every
Massachusetts who wants one?

OpenOffice can convert to and from MS-Office doc format, so all MS Office users
including can access Massachusetts data without having to pay anything. Also
nobody will have to pay for a new wordprocessor they don't want in order to
access Massachusetts documents since OpenOffice is a free office suite.

I can't see how anyone can object to Massachusetts providing a free
accessibility application to read and convert Massachusetts documents.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Massachusetts' Public Records Law and Universal Access
Authored by: Steve Martin on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 07:20 AM EST

I wonder how many GNU/Linux users there are in Massachusetts?

Well, let's see: linux.org lists nine separate Linux / Unix users' groups in Massachusetts, so I'd say there are at least a few. Incidentally, one of these users groups is at University of MA at Amherst, which happens to be a state-supported institution.

---
"When I say something, I put my name next to it." -- Isaac Jaffee, "Sports Night"

[ Reply to This | # ]

Define "Access"
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 07:32 AM EST
Why not look at this using the closest analog in the current system? The
exceprt from the guide says nothing about being able to actually read or
interpret the documents. So a non-English speaker (of which there are many in
MA), has the same access to documents as all other citizens, yet those documents
are unreadable. I didn't read the full guide, but my guess is that the state is
under no obligation to translate any document into any language.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Massachusetts' Public Records Law and Universal Access
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 07:49 AM EST
"[P]rovided upon the payment of a reasonable fee."

Hence it is not a right. It is merely a priviledge.

krp

[ Reply to This | # ]

How come?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 07:55 AM EST
Devils advocate type question:

"when it comes to deciding on what standard to adopt *going forward*,
universal access would be required."

How come? That is, what bit of the quoted section or linked material indicates
that universal access is required.

The word "universal" does not appear in either of the PDFs.

SJG, not logged in

[ Reply to This | # ]

What about other states laws
Authored by: mcorbett on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 08:00 AM EST
I live in the state of Florida, and am wondering how I would go about checking
the access laws in my state.

Any ideas?

I know the fire started in MA, but I wouldn't mind helping it spread down here.

Mike

---
Mike

[ Reply to This | # ]

Massachusetts' Public Records Law and Universal Access
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 08:04 AM EST
I think that it is unreasonable to require anyone to provide all information
only in formats that everyone can access. In England, reasonableness is an
important part of the legal system. The important thing is that everyone can be
provided with all information in a form that they can access. Thus, a deaf
person may require a transcript of an audio file, a blind person may want a
print-out in Braille.

What format the authorities use internally is quite irrelevant as far as the
service user is concerned. For a non-disabled user requesting information, the
options are probably:

Its a paper document. Scan or photocopy? Fax, e-mail, or post?

Its a file. Print to paper, print to PDF, or do you want the raw file (XYZ
photo-typesetting machine format)? The absolute last resort would be: print to
paper, scan, save as PDF.

The only contentious thing that I have written so far is the use of a particular
format, PDF. But I ask you: is there any other format that you could reasonably
use apart from printed paper and the original file format?

I would imagine that anyone who has a collection of documents from the last 20
years in electronic form would have realised by now that they are in deep
trouble and digging hard. It is the keepers of the archives who are in trouble,
not the public.

Really, the problem is in two parts: existing records, and, future records.
Conversion to PDF is probably the only way out from the first part; either on an
‘as needed’ basis or in bulk. The second part is where there is scope for
avoiding the problem at source. There are two choices: specify an open format,
or, do not specify a format at all. I think that formally specifying a Microsoft
format would produce incredible legal difficulties in the US, and not a few
practical ones too.

If you do do specify a format, then you are going to have to be prepared to
accept documents in any reasonable format. This is equivalent to keeping on
digging. The best hope is to convert everything to PDF as soon as it comes in
while you can still do it. But then it would be better to say, send your
documents in PDF format. Thus we keep coming back to a standard format, PDF.
Although this format is fine for most purposes, how would you convert it to
Braille? What about records that need to be updated? Imagine having to re-survey
a map because someone has removed the steeple from their church tower?

Thus I would conclude that an opponent of open standards could easily counter
PJ’s argument. What really matters is that a system that does not require that
open standards be used, is going to become increasingly unmanageable and, as
users exercise their legal rights to access information, it will become more and
more of a drain on the public purse to fulfil the authority’s obligations.

Alan(UK)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Format wars
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 08:48 AM EST
It seems to me that any format other than plain-text is going to restrict
someone's access. If ODF is used a great many MS users will be left out and if
MS XML is used the rest are left out. Just my 2 cents.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Wrong! - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 09:10 AM EST
    • Wrong! - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 09:23 AM EST
      • Wrong! - Authored by: DannyB on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 09:29 AM EST
  • ODF will not deny access to MS users - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 09:26 AM EST
  • Format wars - Authored by: Stumbles on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 09:52 AM EST
Wine plus Wordview is free
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 09:19 AM EST

You can use wine for free.

You can download and use the word viewer for free.

This assumes you have an x86 type box to run linux on, I guess you are sol if
you are linux on powerpc or something more crazy.

I still support ODF, but there are free ways to view word docs out there for
those without Word.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Repeatedly striking below the belt is very acceptable to some...
Authored by: Groklaw Lurker on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 10:39 AM EST
Sadly, the scenes playing out in Massachusetts are really not that surprising.
Billy G. and his cronies well know how much of their future fortunes are at
stake here and they tend to believe that virtually any means is justified if it
permits them to attain their goals.

It is, I think, likely that the anti-ODF cabal is unsure of the outcome in
Massachusetts. However, I believe that even if they were quite confident that
they could force Massachusetts to reverse it's decision, they would still employ
the 'dirty tricks' we have been seeing them use there.

Why...? Intimidation, of course. What could be their
greatest fear? It must be that other states might consider following in the foot
steps of Massachusetts. What official, Government or Corporate, doesn't have
some tiny peccadillo to hide somewhere in his or her past? By playing as 'dirty'
as they think they can get away with, I feel that they believe they will
increase the hesitancy of other states that might have otherwise considered
following Massachusetts in the utterly sensible and fiscally responsible
adoption of ODF.

Of course, I don't think they'll get away with it in the long run, but they must
surely feel that they have to try - and I'll bet that they are so arrogant that
they even feel that both destiny and Providence are on their side, feeling this
ensures their eventual success.

While the FOSS community as a whole may be very accepting and willing to forgive
the members of this cabal, some, such as myself, will take much longer to
forgive and forget the personal insult I read into their actions. I assert that
I do have the right to choose which software I wish to use, that I do have the
right to modify and distribute code under the GPL. Attempts to restrict my
freedom of choice insult me deeply and will not be easily forgiven nor
forgotten. Many of us, including myself, influence the software and platform
decisions made for thousands upon thousands of users in our organizations.
Offending us is unwise.

It is this lack of vision that is, ultimately, so injurious to these folks. Yet
their arrogance is so great that they cannot see how greatly they are offending
an ever increasing number of the very folks and organizations they rely upon for
their continued existance. In the end, it may be too late if every bridge in
sight is a smoking ruin...



---
(GL) Groklaw Lurker
End the tyranny, abolish software patents.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Massachusetts' Public Records Law and Universal Access
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 12:27 PM EST
If you are not disabled, any Massachusetts government office can be in
compliance with the public records law by giving you a paper copy of the
requested records, and can charge you a reasonable fee for the labor and
supplies used to get the copies for you.

There is no requirement that they give a digital copy of the requested records.

Some offices will even require you to fill out a seperate form for each page of
info you request.

Same old game.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS-MS-XML excludes the poorer half of society.
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 01:51 PM EST
The proprietary MS-XML format will exclude OpenOffice and
other free office suites, while ODF will allow every
vendor to compete on a level playing field, including
Microsoft.

Microsoft has cynically tried to use people with
disabilities as a pawn to try to block ODF. MS-XML's
license is specifically worded among other things to lock
out OpenOffice, and Microsoft's control of licenses and
control of the MS-XML standard will effectively allow
Microsoft to lock out of any other serious competition
that Microsoft doesn't want. OpenOffice with 14.3% of the
market is of course the only serious competitor to
Microsoft at the moment.

Has anybody considered that
mandating MS-XML will prevent millions who cannot
afford the $400 to buy or upgrade to MS Office 12 access
to Massachusetts documents, while mandating ODF will allow
everyone rich and poor to access Massachusetts documents
at no cost? The poor can use the free OpenDocument.
Those who can afford it can use free ODF converters for MS
Office which will be available soon from third parties,
or the free OpenDocument office suite can be used as a
converter.

What is the downside here? Would Massachusetts choice of
ODF format distort the market? No not unless you consider
removal of monopoly vendor lock-in a distortion of the
market. This decision only affects those who wish to
access documents which Massachusetts has a duty to make
freely available to the public. OpenOffice is a freely
downloadable by anyone anyway. How does affect the market
other than by maybe by making OpenOffice more widely
known? Does Massuchetts have a duty to keep knowledge of
a certain free office suite secret just to help a felon
convicted of anti-trust crimes to perpertare more of same
crimes?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Mass. warms to Microsoft Office standard
Authored by: BigTex on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 02:27 PM EST
Click Here

[ Reply to This | # ]

Re: Universal Access
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 03:12 PM EST

``The goal is universal access. Can Microsoft provide it?''

Well, that's their goal isn't it? If it weren't for those goldarned nonconforming OSS users persistently throwing roadblocks in their way...      :-D

--
RT

[ Reply to This | # ]

Massachusetts' Public Records Law and Universal Access
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 07:57 PM EST
I don't think you understood my point. I'm not saying that all public records
should be forced into a single language. I'm saying that there's no guarantee
that the public records are in any usable format to the recipient. The public
access law simply guarantees access to the data, not access to data in a usable
format. In fact, that is what the law explicitly says:

"A custodian is only obliged to provide access to the existing “files” of a
cabinet. Therefore, a custodian is not required to create a new computer program
to provide a requester with computerized information in a desired format. There
is, however, an exception to this general rule when the reprogramming is needed
to comply with the segregation provision of the law."

Additionally, computerized records are available as printouts for a fee, just
like photocopies of paper documents. There is nothing in this law that would
advocate the use of ODF over any other format.

[ 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 )