The OOXML fight continues: here's one way you can help

The fight against the adoption of OOXML as an ISO standard is continuing in many countries. In the UK the UK Unix & Open Systems User Group (UKUUG) unsuccessfully, sought a judicial review of the British Standards Institute's decision to vote yes. UKUUG are now seeking to appeal against that rejection of a review and you can help them.

Rumours and questions

Following the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) decision to fast track acceptance of Microsoft's OOXML as a standard in March, many people (not just those in the FOSS community) were up in arms. I won't go into the debacle of the ISO process and the vote on fast tracking itself here. You can read more about that on this site[1] and on countless other blogs across the web. Suffice to say that many citizens of several countries were very unhappy about the way their country voted. In Britain the vote was made by the BSI and it too was followed by questions over the process taken.

The UKUUG officially voiced many of the objections that were flying around at the time (and still are):

  • The BSI approved fast tracking OOXML in the absence of a revised draft despite over 1000 comments to the original draft.
  • Doing so undermines wider faith in the standards bodies themselves.
  • Fast tracking approval in the absence of a single implementation of the format--even from Microsoft--is hard to justify.
  • Rejection of the fast track is not rejection of the standard which should be given greater consideration before approval.
  • Fast tracking a proposed standard requires a high level of consensus. Something distinctly lacking with regards OOXML.

So, in a nutshell, the UKUUG was asking a judge to require the BSI to better explain it's reasons for voting in favour of the decision to fast track OOXML.

The judge turned their request down saying:

"The application does not disclose any arguable breech of the procedures of BSI or of rules of procedural fairness."


"In any event the application is academic in light of the adoption of the new standard by ISO."

There will be no review, the BSI vote will stand and that will be that. By the way the judge is wrong on the last point. Formal objections to the ISO fast track decision from several countries South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela and India. The ISO process has thus been put on ice while those objections are heard. Aside from that it is seemingly ridiculous for the judge to say the ISO acceptance makes a review academic when a successful review would force the BSI to reverse its decision and subsequently cause the ISO to start the process again.

The appeal

UKUUG have been described as a "venerable organisation of men with long grey beards". Well I've not met them in person so I can't comment on the length of their beards. I am on some mailing lists that some of them frequent and my experience of them is that they are not prone to this kind of radical action. So for them to take these steps proves it is important to them--as it should be to all of us. As a group though, it seems that once stirred though they are as determined as any. They are now appealing against the High Court decision not to hold a judicial review. The matter will now be heard in open court.

How we can help

As admirable as this process is, the problem is that--should they lose--UKUUG will be liable for legal costs. The BSI is currently estimating their lawyer's bill at around £25,000. UKUUG are asking for our help in this. You can make donations to the fighting fund or become a member. Companies can become Sponsoring members.

I'll leave the final comment to Alain Williams, Chairman of UKUUG:

"We are concerned about future generations being able to access today's electronic documents. That can only happen with fully disclosed document formats. To ensure continued profits, Microsoft prevents effective competition in word processors by keeping file formats secret. Adopting OOXML would be like setting to sea in a sieve, Lear's Jumblies might make sense of it, but I can't."

References {#references}

[1] Further reading on OOXML at Free Software Magazine

Other information on OOXML

Other than that Google for "ISO OXML decision" and you'll find a plethora of sites to choose from.


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