FYI: Call for letters to ISO re: OpenXML

Georg C. F. Greve greve at
Thu Jan 25 15:32:04 UTC 2007

[ ]

Call for letters to ISO re: OpenXML

   Thursday 25 January 2007

   Following up on the articles "[24]Novells 'Danaergeschenk'",
   "[25]Is OpenXML now a standard?", "[26]OpenXML wrap-up after D12K"
   and "[27]Why criticise OpenXML now?" I would like to make sure that
   everyone has had a look at the Groklaw article "[28]Deadline Looms
   to Express Concerns about ECMA 376 Office Open XML."

   Microsoft is currently trying to push its Ecma 367 OpenXML format
   through the "fast track" procedure in the [29]International
   Organization for Standardization (ISO) to give it false credibility
   as a standard. The Groklaw article explains many of the problems,
   why the OpenXML format should never be accepted by ISO and also
   highlights the urgency of the issue as the fast track procedure
   allows only for a 30 day evaluation period, so time is of the

   If you want an overview and reference of the many problems with the
   OpenXML format, here is an [30]overview on Grokdok. But since that
   list is very long, I think it might be more useful for most people
   to have some examples of formal objections to the ISO. Here is an
   excellent one that has been [31]posted to the discussion mailing
   list of [32]IFSO, [33]FSFE's Irish associate organisation:

     Re: Objections to JTC-1 Fast-Track Processing of the ECMA-376

     To whom it may concern,

     I, Gareth Eason, write on behalf of the committee and members of
     the Irish Linux User Group to voice our collective concern
     regarding the Fast-Track Processing of the ECMA 376 Specification
     by the ISO JTC-1 committee.

     As more and more of our critical paperwork gets stored in
     electronic form, the ISO body recognise the requirement for an open
     standard for storing this data -- one with which multiple software
     vendors may comply. This avoids a monopoly situation emerging
     whereby a single supplier may control access to information simply
     because only they can understand the format it is stored in. This
     is particularly true for legacy documents -- old documents produced
     and 'saved' by an older version of software.

     As a predominantly technical body of people within Ireland, we feel
     it important to highlight our concerns to the fast-track processing
     of this proposed standard for the following reasons:
     * The ECMA specification runs to some 6,000 pages, impossible to
       review in any meaningful fashion within the 30 days permitted.
     * The concept of the standard potentially conflicts with the ISO
       body's own stated goal of "one standard, one test, and one
       conformity assessment procedure accepted everywhere." ECMA has
       been publicly slated as an alternative to an already existing and
       ratified open document standard, ISO/IEC 26300:2006.
     * There appears to be internal inconsistencies within the proposed
       standard and significant conflicts with existing ratified ISO
       standards, including ISO8601 (Representation of Dates and Times),
       ISO639 (Codes for the representation of Names and Languages),
       ISO/IEC 8632 (Computer Graphics Metafiles) and more.
     * There are numerous references to proprietary applications and
       behaviours which may be impossible to reproduce without
       potentially infringing patents granted to, in particular,
       Microsoft. No documentation as to proprietary behaviours is
       offered in many cases and no legal indemnification appears to be
       granted for either reverse engineering or re-implementation of
       these behaviours. This renders it legally and technically
       impossible for any organisation other that Microsoft to implement
       this standard, essentially prohibiting competition -- the
       antithesis of ISO standards.

     We would suggest that it is inappropriate to fast-track the
     processing of this proposed ECMA 376 standard and that it should be
     diverted from its present fast-track processing and should be
     remanded to Ecma International for: (i) harmonization with ISO/IEC
     26300:2006, the OpenDocument standard; and numerous other standards
     that it contradicts; (ii) development of more suitable intellectual
     property documents that actually grant rights to implement the

     More information on this proposal, and an analysis to date of the
     document can be found at

     Yours faithfully,

     Gareth Eason B.Eng, MIET, (Chairperson) , for an on behalf of the
     Irish Linux User Group.

   There are probably other good letters out there and [34]FSFE is also
   working on a letter of its own right now, but this example is very
   good for various reasons, including the right tone, the right style
   and some of the strongest arguments. Please consider writing a letter
   yourself, with your company or organisation. If you do, I recommend
   including the following arguments:

     * OpenXML violates various ISO standards

       A list of the standards violated can be found at

     * There is already an ISO standard for office documents

       The usefulness of ISO is largely based on its [36]stated principle
       of "one standard, one test and one conformity assessment procedure
       accepted everywhere." By accepting the OpenXML format, ISO would
       violate its own principles and undermine itself.

     * OpenXML depends on undocumented, proprietary information

       As [37]documented here, Ecma 376 OpenXML depends on undisclosed,
       proprietary information of Microsoft.

     * 6000 pages in 30 days

       It is absolutely impossible to parse 200 pages of technical
       documentation per day with the diligence necessary for an
       organisation such as ISO.

   The first three are very strong to explain why ISO should never
   approve OpenXML and instead give the format back to Ecma to be
   harmonised with the real and approved standard ISO/IEC 26300:2006,
   also known as Open Document Format (ODF). The last point shows that
   even if ISO is not willing to make this decision immediately, it
   should at least not be fast-tracked.

   Microsoft is currently working very hard on many groups and
   organisations to bring just that about and make ISO accept OpenXML as
   an ISO standard through the fast-track. It is up to all groups and
   companies that value Open Standards to object to this now.

   So please [38]check this page for more information, advice on how to
   get in touch, and contact details of the various parties that need to
   be informed about the objections.

   Spread the word!

   Creative Commons License 
   This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
   Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.


Georg C. F. Greve                                 <greve at>
Free Software Foundation Europe	                 (
Join the Fellowship and protect your freedom!     (
What everyone should know about DRM                   (
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