Redefining Openness (with lawyers)

Ah, there we go! The surprise of the day really comes from -would you have guessed it?- Microsoft. Just for your record and under the auspices of Rick “Talking-in-the-wind” Jelliffe, (no offense, Rick), I hereby declare that… OOXML is still unavailable ! (drums and trumpets follow).

But wait, there is more, and I really have to share this with you, as I think -bear on with me now- that the Microsoft folks I had the dubious privilege to sit around with at the Afnor, these good folks, well, I think -hold on a minute- I think they have not told us all the truth. Or rather, they have been fooled, tricked by some faceless, evil genius looking for trapping us all. Yeah, that’s it, they’ve been fooled , cheated on, and they are now the victims of a senseless “misrepresentation of the reality as we say when we wear suits, ties and all. No, that does not always work in Texas. But whatever.

So what did happen? Well, here’s the story: One of the editors of the website, Ben Henrion wanted to obtain a copy of the licensing of OOXML. It is actually a little known fact that there are several, (three) ways to obtain a license in order to use, implement and redistribute OOXML (ah, I got you confused there, I see. Wait, you ain’t see nothing yet. ). One of them is the OSP, the Open Specification Premise covering several Microsoft Technologies. It has been deemed widely insufficient by the SFLC, the legal branch of the FSF. In fact, some go as far as claiming that OSP has never granted anything. That’s why somebody like Ben went to look for the other ways to obtain a license for OOXML. What happened is that he wrote to the legal service at Microsoft and asked them a copy of the patent license, which is supposedly a RAND-Z license. Remember that despite its name, “reasonable and non-discriminatory” licenses do not play well with Free and Open Source Software. In fact, they don’t play at all, but that’s what some people would like you to forget. Anyway; Ben waited for the answer. None came. He wrote them a second time. And the answer he got that time was this: “You will have to go to your own legal counsel to receive the terms.

Now that’s an open standard of the open kind, open as in “open, but not open”; “open but actually quite closed” “open but get out of here”, open as in “open to the good old boys”, open as in “open to your money and to our profits”, open as in “open deception”. And of course, who thought OOXML could be that open? I’m sure the rest of my colleagues at the Afnor will be left in shock and awe when they learn the news. Everything they ever truly believed in , OOXML, was never thought in those terms. I can’t wait for XPS, guys, we’re going to have tons of fun, really. I am also waiting for Microsoft’s possible, albeit unlikely, explanation to this. I’m laughing so hard I’m about to roll on the floor.

I will keep you updated with more details as they surface and hopefully with the whole email thread soon. Meanwhile, we, the ODF authors, are thinking about charging 15 Euro cents per ODF document written, formatted and exchanged over the Internet. For the rest, such as implementing the ODF standard, just let us know. We’ll know how to find you and make the necessary… arrangements. Hell, innovation does have a price after all.

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