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What Will and Won't Be Discussed at February's BRM on MSOOXML
Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 06:24 AM EST

Alex Brown has now written up a FAQ on the ballot resolution meeting scheduled for February over MSOOXML, "Frequently Asked Questions regarding DIS-29500 Ballot Resolution Meeting", over which he will preside. The FAQ informs us that National Bodies need to send in their list of delegates by December 11, or they likely won't be let in to the February meeting. That is today, folks. Here's what will and won't be discussed:
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.

4.2 Will questions of policy and “contradiction” be discussed at the BRM?

4.3 What will be discussed at the BRM?
The BRM is a technical meeting which will address the comments made by NBs in their 2 September ballot returns, and Ecma’s responses to them. Since the meeting will emit a sequence of editorial instructions to the DIS 29500 project editor, any deliberations which cannot result in such instructions are out of order.

So if you had concerns about Microsoft's patent policy, forgeddaboudit.

It's been magically erased, and any comments are out of order. If they only allowed technical comments, they probably should have mentioned that to the National Bodies participating, I would think. And if "the CEOs of IEC and ISO" as he says "have examined them and found no outstanding problems", perhaps there is some rationale or explanation as to why there are no outstanding problems?

The FAQ says this is what to do if you have questions:

The rules governing the Ballot Resolution Process for DIS 29500 are published in the ISO/IEC JTC 1 Directives. This document is an informative guide to the process, intended to clarify the procedures and supply additional supporting information. Any queries on this document in particular, or the ballot resolution process in general, should be addressed to the ISO/IEC JTC 1 SC 34 Secretariat, who administers the procedure.

You should probably not wait for February, as you will be out of order. Oh, and it's all done in perfect secrecy, no press or observers allowed:

No, press and observers may not attend, and the meeting may not be recorded or broadcast in any way.

They have chosen a room that can seat only 120 people for reasons unknown, so there may not be room for all the delegates. Let me guess. The head of the delegation is a Microsoft guy, and the ones who can't fit in the room are the ones who have issues with the proposed format? You think? Hey, some of us remember the games that were played already over rooms too small for IBM and Sun.

This is starting to look really, really bad. At a minimum, you have to say this is the very opposite of an open process. I can't help but notice too that Brown lists Rick Jelliffe's as one of the "cool blogs" he recommends on Brown's blog. I think that is what novelists would call foreshadowing.

I was curious to see how many countries made comments regarding patents or other IPR concerns. I visited and went down the list. There are a lot of comments, so I may have missed some, but I count 14 countries that included that issue in their comments. Here's a sampling of some of those concerns:

ISO and IEC need to ensure all appropriate intellectual property declarations are followed and that any material referenced in the document is appropriately available to users of the document.

To be ensured/guaranteed non-alignment and independence of ISO/IEC 29500 from the corporative patents and licenses

1. Patents and Patent policy.

We do not think that comments should address only the text of the Standard itself. This important document will be given to end-users and implementers and they may find themselves tied to various patents, and property rights owned by the company that proposes this Standard.

While Microsoft, the originator of the document, has promised not to sue implementers of the specification (and this may reflect a good intention of the originator), a large fraction of it is nevertheless covered by patents owned by Microsoft. Since Microsoft still holds these patents and has not done anything to make them legally invalid for Open Source use, it is unclear whether this promise is trustworthy. It is at least not trustworthy enough to build a business on. More than that, Microsoft made its promise on the OOXML version 1.0, leaving anything possible for any future version that may follow in a short time.

Proposal: Following the patents policy of ISO, together with the expressed intention of Microsoft, a full and clear statement must be issued by Microsoft, according to the ISO procedures, infringing on the affected patents, or even the entire OOXML implementation, under a free reusable license, such as the Lesser GPL (LGPL). This gives implementers the irrevocable right to implement the OOXML specification. As an alternative, Microsoft should offer officially, through ISO, a patent promise, that unambiguously permits open source use, and unambiguously covers the present and all future versions of OOXML.

Need more clarity on the Open Specification Promise of Microsoft which claims it wont assert patent claims against those implementing OOXML.

New Zealand:
All issues relating to IP, patents and access shall be examined in depth and irrevocable agreement obtained from Microsoft that all required access to information will be provided without monetary consideration, potential treat of legal action or issues relating to copyright. The provision of such information shall not be delayed or withheld.

OpenXML includes references to Windows functions that can be protected by intellectual propriety of Microsoft, for example reference to EMF and WMF (windows formats), but does not include references to PNG (Open standard format) used in Linux.

Possible IPR infringes

Include at beginning of specification a list of all Microsoft and non-Microsoft CNS's or OSP's that might help clarifying the legal background for implementing the specification and that will help ensuring full protection for the implementer, mentioning any issues regarding patents, royalties and copyrights whenever necessary.

Consider replacing the promise-not-to-sue approach by a patent grant, which translates better to the existing legislation.

As pointed out in the previous item, and as per the MOSP (Microsoft Open Specification Promise), only the Specifications included in that promise (Covered Specifications) are covered. It is therefore of the essence to add after the previous item that any future revisions of the original specification are equally included in that promise.

South Africa:
Even for a highly technical document the proposed standard is extraordinarily convoluted, idiosyncratic and lengthy, making any attempt at compliance difficult. Failure to comply by a developer may however expose the developer to an intellectual property infringement claim.

Microsoft should publish a stronger “open specification promise” which is not limited to only the “required” portions of covered specifications.... Richard Stallman, the author of the GPL and LGPL licenses, has publicly stated that relying on Microsoft's promise (this presumes accepting Microsoft's patents as valid) would violate the GPL (see,1759,1829728,00.asp ).

Stallman's remarks apply equally to the LGPL, the relevant provisions of which are identical to those in the GPL. Microsoft's website addresses the question of the GPL compatibility of the “Open Specification Promise” by refusing to take position on this question, stating only that the GPL “is not universally interpreted the same way by everyone” and “based on feedback from the open source community we believe that a broad audience of developers can implement the specification(s).” While it is certainly true that free software and open source licenses exist which are compati-ble with Microsoft's promise, the primary question is whether DIS 29500 can be implemented in derivative works of the LGPL-licensed OpenOffice software. It is not fair if only Microsoft can implement the standard directly in their office software while competitors have to use a different format internally and must rely on document format conversion utilities. ... Microsoft should, in addition to the “open specification promise”, make any relevant patents it controls available under a license which is clearly compatible with GPL and LGPL.

The use of proprietary file formats within the Office Open XML standard appears to cause potential intellectual property ownership concerns.

Three other countries listed it as an item of concern, Colombia, Denmark, and Iran. Iran raised another issue that I assume will also be deemed "out of order", and it was echoed by South Korea:

The values defined for elements is for use on Windows or Mac OS platforms and they are not usable for Linux or any other operating system.

South Korea:
Platform dependency: DIS 29500 lacks supports for other platforms and browsers. It restricts the use of Linux platform and browsers such as FireFox, Opera and Safari


What Will and Won't Be Discussed at February's BRM on MSOOXML | 157 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Authored by: grouch on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 06:33 AM EST
Corrections here, please.

Thank you.

-- grouch

"People aren't as dumb as Microsoft needs them to be."
--PJ, May 2007

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic thread
Authored by: grouch on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 06:35 AM EST
Put your off-topic commentary here, please.


-- grouch

"People aren't as dumb as Microsoft needs them to be."
--PJ, May 2007

[ Reply to This | # ]

NewsPicks comments
Authored by: grouch on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 06:38 AM EST
NewsPicks commentary in this thread, please. It's helpful to include the title or link to the story being referenced.

Thank you.

-- grouch

"People aren't as dumb as Microsoft needs them to be."
--PJ, May 2007

[ Reply to This | # ]

That's why we need
Authored by: nb on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 06:54 AM EST
PJ has it exactly right. Mr Brown considers it his duty to run the BRM is such a way that the chances of adoption of OOXML as an ISO/IEC standard are maximized, hence he's of course prioritizing and only interested in facilitating the discussion of comments for which there's a chance that Microsoft might agree to the requested changes.

However the national ISO/IEC member bodies are free to change their vote after the BRM, i.e. if after comparing the results of the BRM with the problem report on OOXML they come to the conclusion that the main problems have not been addressed, those who have voted "yes" can change their vote to "no", without being required to provide reasons for this decision. (This applies only in the case that the BRM decides to make at least one change to the specification, but that's almost 100% certain.)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Okay, but one incontrovertible fact remains, at least
Authored by: billyskank on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 07:06 AM EST
The only way this standard can proceed is for enough P members to change their
votes to approval.

Now all those new P members are out of the picture - they already voted to
approve. They can't change their votes to "approve even more!!" ;)

So the focus is on all the members who voted to disapprove. If they don't change
their votes in sufficient numbers then MS-XML is going nowhere. Microsoft could
stack the room with its supporters if they wanted, but what would that avail

It's not the software that's free; it's you.

[ Reply to This | # ]

How to
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 08:04 AM EST
This reads like a how to, as in how to make ISO irrelevant.
If this turns out the way you fear, I give them 3 to 5 years - inertia - until
disbanded. Not sure if that's a good thing, but all standards bodies are there
the grace of the industry and others because there are more gains than
disadvantages for all concerned.
If that ends, well...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft's marketing department is everywhere (like the storm troopers, they even got spies).
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 08:09 AM EST
Microsoft's Office 2007 and .NET's lock-in's marketing department(s) are
everywhere (like the bad old storm troopers in the movies, or even with
governments of the 1900's, MS, I bet that they even got spies). I a surreal
world, one has to also wonder what messages that they have hidden in the
software at schools that your kids use (hmmm, does MS employ any brainwashing
consultants)? You gotta wonder, with all the money that MS has, what monopoly
evil(s) they are thinking of next?

Don't you feel, if you support ODF, like you are being watched by someone? Is
this science fiction or what?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Couldn't vote NO then , can't vote NO now?
Authored by: kh on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 08:12 AM EST
4.5 What if there is not time in the meeting to satisfy NBs’ concerns? If NBs find the outcome of the BRM inadequate then their recourse is to disapprove the DIS.
The sad thing is that in the first ballot, I understand that a plain "No" or in other words, I assume, "disapproval" was not a valid vote option. Is it still? That wasn't answered in the "FAQ" but I assume a straight "No" is still not on offer.

[ Reply to This | # ]

When Microsoft goes bankrupt - What Will and Won't Be Discussed at February's BRM on MSOOXML
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 08:28 AM EST
Who will enforce Microsoft's promise not to sue when they go bankrupt, and the
patents are sold to the highest bidder?

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm getting a really bad vibe....
Authored by: designerfx on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 08:41 AM EST
Umm, I have a big issue here. What if the countries that elect to participate
that are not Microsoft friendly, this Microsoft-organizer guy decides to just
"not get their emails/letters" stating that they are bringing
delegates? I can forsee some bad happenings if that comes around.

Is there any way that there would be recourse for such wanton discrimination
against those who disagree with Microsoft? Please tell e there is.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Keep in mind the purpose of the BRM
Authored by: rcweir on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 09:41 AM EST
The BRM is not deciding whether OOXML is a good standard, a sufficient standard
or whether or not it should be approved. Instead a BRM is focused on the text
of the standard -- the words on the page -- and considers applying textual
changes -- editorial and technical -- to address concerns raised by NB's in the
Sept 2nd ballot.

The outcome of the BRM will be a list of approved changes to the text of DIS
29500, and it is this revised text on which NB's will then have 30 days to
determine a position -- Should they maintain their position from Sept 2nd? Or
should they change their vote? Note that at this point all issues are still on
the table. Contradictions, IP, proprietary formats,etc. These are all
legitimate issues that could inform an NB's position. However, since they have
not been expressed by NB's as textual criticisms on Sept 2nd., they cannot be
addressed by the BRM. All the BRM can do is edit the text.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I think you don't give Mr. Brown enough credit
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 11:15 AM EST
He has been handed the task of chairing this meeting, and he knows exactly what
it is (and is not) about. The meeting has one purpose only: discussing - and if
possible resolving - technical disagreements. That's it.

He is clearly aware that this is a political issue, and is just as clearly
determined to keep his meeting pointed towards its purpose. The technical
problems with the particular standard probably cannot be resolved - that doesn't
change the procedure, or the purpose of the meeting.

In other words: give the guy a break! He doesn't write the rules - he just has
to see to it that they are met. It looks to me like he is doing the best he can,
given the situation he's in.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Stop The World, I Want To Get Off
Authored by: TheBlueSkyRanger on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 11:43 AM EST
Hey, everybody!

When we are younger, we see nothing but a world of possibilities. We set our
goals because, based on what we know of the world, we are not guaranteed to
succeed, but we have a good shot at making it.

And then you start learning that all these elements are susceptible to
collusion. My first indication was my locale grocery store. I found out that
companies will pay a little kickback to stores to feature their product more
prominently, freezing out the less exciting alternatives if they were stocked.
The market was free, but there were subtle ways of ensuring mindshare. In
short, it looked fair, but was actually stacking the deck.

It's the same feeling I get looking at all this nonsense in the tech world and
television and politics and the music world and the home video world...there's
these companies that have been in charge by dint of a system largely unchanged.
They don't see any reason to change (for a long time, movie studios transported
their film to theaters by train instead of cheaper alternatives and refused to
change it). Then, along comes people who are giving the crowd what they want.
And the old guard doesn't want to give up its position. So they try to co-opt
it or, if it gives away too much of what they want to keep, they have to stop it
somehow. And they do this by manipulating the very things that are supposed to
grant fairness.

This leaves the crowd stunned, as groups like ISO that they believed were
looking out for their best interest reveal themselves to being perfectly open to
being gamed. I mean, if ISO didn't like this, wouldn't they have done something
about those sudden memberships? They are complaining that, because they aren't
voting, a number of new standards have been held up due to lack of quorum. But
they aren't doing anything about it. They aren't even trying. Which means the
current line-up will be in place when the next vote comes up.

I wonder what kind of victory M$ will get out of this. So they get a group to
declare themselves an international standard. That's nothing. I can get people
to back up my assertion that I'm King Of The Universe like the Gorgs on Fraggle
Rock. The trick is, getting others to honor my self-proclamation.

We already see places bailing in favor of ODF. Places like state agencies
insisting on including UhOhXML aren't letting the lack of ISO label stop them.
And if UhOhXML does become a standard, I don't see places that have embraced ODF
suddenly abandoning their positions and switching. M$ has its label, but if
anything, their actions will make even more people abandon. After all, how can
anyone take this international standard seriously? They see the practical
effects of ODF, and that carries more weight than an ISO standard.

I firmly believe UhOhXML will become a standard. M$ wants it too badly to ever
give up. The real question is, who is actually waiting for it to get that
approval before implementing it? ISO seems to be the only battleground, the
"hearts and minds" part seems to be a totally lost cause.

Dobre utka,
The Blue Sky Ranger

[ Reply to This | # ]

How could MS get its way?
Authored by: mtew on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 12:12 PM EST
First, if the meeting is packed with Microsoft supporters, no votes will
change in their favor and they will NOT have the standard they want. That
implies that the opponents will get into the meeting since that satisfying them
is the only way that MS can get what it wants.

If anybody is to be excluded, it would be the ones that voted yes and are
likely to change their votes to no. In other words, the ones who voted yes with
comments are the ones that are most likely to have trouble finding seats.

Finally, there might be some dirty tricks. Something that would take the
opposinng delagates out of action, leaving only pro-Microsoft deligates on a
National Board with a result that the board changes its vote to yes.


[ Reply to This | # ]

What Will and Won't Be Discussed at February's BRM on MSOOXML
Authored by: driftwolf on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 01:06 PM EST
Did anyone really expect anything different from what has become a totally
corrupt process run by a corrupt organization?

The ISO is supposed to be an objective, technically driven organization.
Instead, this particular process has been hijacked by financial and political
interests intent on pushing Microsoft's OOXML at all costs - even if it costs
the ISO their integrity.

Frankly, at this point I don't think they can be stopped unless the opposition
is willing to fight just as dirty. Unfortunately, those in opposition are too
ethical (and in some cases far too naive) to do that. This means that yet again
Microsoft, aided and abetted by its bought-and-paid-for American government
representatives, has led the way in showing the rest of us that corruption and
money yet again beats honesty, ethics and technical know-how.

Once Microsoft gets their pile of pigslop adopted by the ISO, they can continue
pressuring governments to lock themselves into MS products - because, after all,
it's a "standard", albeit one that only Microsoft controls thanks to
the patents, copyrights, and trade secrets required to implement the MS OOXML

I'm currently quite disgusted with the ISO for letting it get this far, and I
for one will no longer consider that organization as any kind of leader in
technical standards. Not when they have shown their utter contempt for their own
processes and their own standards.

[ Reply to This | # ]

NBs Don't Vote on the Standard At the BRM
Authored by: star-dot-h on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 02:51 PM EST
It is worth noting that your NBs have 30 days *after* the BRM to notify ISO of
any change in vote. My understanding is also that yes / abstains can be changed
to noes. The will (well, should) only be voting on technical changes to the spec
proposed by ECMA.

Given the space constraints, fast track, late ECMA responses etc., etc., it is
imperative that NBs consult local stakeholders after the BRM. If you are dealing
with your NB that is the point you should be making and issues such as patents,
the process, the standard in its entirety *can* and should be discussed.


Free software on every PC on every desk

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: overshoot on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 02:59 PM EST
Help me understand this, please.

In the "contradictions" phase, some 20 of 32 members raised issues. The Secretariat held that this was not a bar and that the contradictions could be addressed in the 5-month ballot phase.

During the balloting phase, quite a few of the 10,000 comments addressed contradictions with, for instance, other ISO standards (e.g. country codes.)

Now, the convenor of the the BRM has declared those issues off the table.

What I want to know is this: If contradictions weren't on the table for the one-month review, and contradictions aren't on the table at the BRM that supposedly resolves the objections during the 5-month ballot, just when will the contradictions be on the table?

[ Reply to This | # ]

What Will and Won't Be Discussed at February's BRM on MSOOXML
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 12 2007 @ 07:28 AM EST
so lets get this straight:

the majority of comments are that they see problems with the standard being in
control of one company and that it can assert the patents if it wants to because
it has a vague patent promise.

but now those issues are not on the table because these CEO's of IEC and ISO
have decided it is okay with them and that there no is need to talk about the IP

wow - sounds like the microsoft alternate reality has kicked in.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What Will and Won't Be Discussed at February's BRM on MSOOXML
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 12 2007 @ 01:19 PM EST
Reading the comments, it seems to me that the complaint might be summarized as
"MS are shooting themselves in the foot with *our* bullet!"

Let's suppose that the odious MSOOXML is accepted with many cheers. In about
three years we will be seriously living with the consequences.

Governments will be beginning to think "that didn't work out the way we
thought" and another round of ISO stuff will occur. That's when the long
memory of bureaucrats (as opposed to the short memory of politicians) will kick

After all, who's going to be blamed? Surely not the innocent politicians.
Misquoting the Nast cartoon of the Tweed ring, "Who messed up the document
format standard? Do tell! 'Twas him!"

"Thou shalt not be blamed; is even stronger than MS.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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