I could make a full time job of tearing down the "say anything we possibly can" approach to Open XML opposition. Seems like we're seeing a new level of arm-flailing and finger pointing, now that we are weeks away from the close of the post BRM period. I wanted to offer some comments about the SFLC's analysis of the OSP. This is an unfortunate report, these all represent issues that have been raised in a campaign that includes innuendo and supposition, leaving out inconvenient information and language and ignoring the same, similar, or less attractive, language that exists for ODF.
The big news in this is their admission/confirmation that the OSP is in fact compatible with the GPL. They say "The OSP cannot be relied upon by GPL developers for their implementations not because its provisions conflict with the GPL but because it does not provide the freedom that the GPL requires." They go on to identify that "freedom" being linked to the OSP being unsafe is because new versions of the specifications could be excluded from the OSP in the future.
It is unusual for promises like the OSP to automatically include every spec or all future versions (IBM's pledge is exactly like ours). The norm is for new versions to be added to them to be covered. In the case of Sun's statement new versions are automatically added only when they participate in the development of the new version to the extent that the OASIS IPR rules would then obligate them to provide patent rights under the OASIS IPR Policy. None of these promises include future versions of the specifications without any qualification.
Let's deal with the points one by one:
This section points out that the OSP only applies to listed versions of covered specifications. True, except that we have already committed to extending it to ISO/IEC DIS 29500 when it is approved in our filing with ISO/IEC. For ODF, IBM in their ISP takes the identical approach. Strange how things that seem appropriate for ODF are not appropriate for Open XML.
Not true. The OSP is a promise to not assert patents that are necessarily infringed by implementations of covered specifications. Like all similar patent non-asserts (including the Sun and IBM versions for ODF) the promise covers that part of a product that implements that specification (and not other parts that have nothing to do with the specification). While the Sun covenant is silent about conformance to the specification, the OSP allows implementers the freedom to implement any (or all) parts of a covered specification and to the extent they do implement those portions (also known as conform to those parts) they are covered by the promise for those parts. Contrast that to the IBM pledge that requires total conformance and so programming errors or absence of something required by the spec (but not by an implementer's product) means that the promise is totally void for that product.
Not true. As far as we are concerned we are happy to extend the OSP to implementers who distribute their code under any copyright license including the GPL. The FAQ cited just states what everyone knows and acknowledges, the GPL is a copyright license that is drafted in a way that leaves many issues (not just those related to patent rights) open to many interpretations. Any particular user or implementer should read the GPL carefully and make their own judgment about what it means and requires in accordance with their own circumstances. The FAQ states that Microsoft is not in a position to give blanket advice about the GPL to others. They missed these two FAQs for some reason...
"Q: Is the Open Specification Promise intended to apply to open source developers and users of open source developed software?
A: Yes. The OSP applies directly to all persons or entities that make, use, sell, offer for sale, imports and/or distributes an implementation of a Covered Specification. It is intended to enable open source implementations, and in fact several parties in the open source community have specifically stated that the OSP meets their needs. Moreover there are already a significant number of implementations of Covered Specifications that have been created and/or distributed under a variety of open source licenses as well as under proprietary software development models. Because open source software licenses can vary you may want to consult with your legal counsel to understand your particular legal environment.
Q: Is this Promise consistent with open source licensing, namely the GPL? And can anyone implement the specification(s) without any concerns about Microsoft patents?
A: The Open Specification Promise is a simple and clear way to assure that the broadest audience of developers and customers working with commercial or open source software can implement the covered specification(s). We leave it to those implementing these technologies to understand the legal environments in which they operate. This includes people operating in a GPL environment. Because the General Public License (GPL) is not universally interpreted the same way by everyone, we can't give anyone a legal opinion about how our language relates to the GPL or other OSS licenses, but based on feedback from the open source community we believe that a broad audience of developers can implement the specification(s)."
By the way;
The basic point I'm making is that, a garage programmer should not have to fear Microsoft for implementing his interpretation of the standard, or how his implementation is used, commercial or otherwise.
I have read all the comments, and sadly I am not sold on microsoft's goodwill.
Actions speak louder than words
( todate microsoft's actions show their words have little value)
Who holds the smoking gun
( It sits squarely on Microsofts's shoulders )
Only "honest" actions from microsoft and "time" will remedy their less than stellar reputation. Not one little OSP licence
Microsoft is a forest ( a dirty one at that ), and now you are saying, "Hey, we have this really nice tree". Well, when the rest of the forest looks like and behaves like the nice tree then microsoft starts to get some trust. Maybe your nice tree needs to be nicer. But....
Come On!!. Who are you trying to hoodwink, really???
Microsoft is all about money, and protecting it's monopoly. Now it's fighting pretty hard to maintain it. Thing's are just coming at it from all angles but at the end of the day Microsoft as a company with a duty to shareholders has to do one thing, maintain the stock value. And whatever game in towns lets them do that, then guess what. that is the game.
Today its play nice and interop, tomorrow it's whatever works.
When will I trust Microsoft??
-When it's down to 30-40% market share
-When it is inter-operating with Linux, Mac and others
-When it does not rule the day, but is ruled by the day.
-Then we can talk about OSP and the openess of OSP, not before
The OSP is just a pebble on a beach. Long way to go Microsoft.
You know, in this case the devil is not in the details of what the OSP is or is not. The devil is in the details of what microsoft is or is not.
I just came across this forum and the discussion in it. Some of the commentary made me laugh, but won no sympathy toward Microsoft's position.
Questions at hand:
Is the OSP good enough for everyone?
A- Obviously not. The fact that GPL protection, which has been requested repeatedly for years is considered 'Not our problem' tells me that it IS a problem for everyone else. You may have a lawyer on standby to make decisions like that, but I don't. A simple 'There are no known issues with GPL coverage' would have gone a lot further than this no comment approach that obviously keeps MS with the option to sue later.
Is the OOXML spec good for businesses?
A- For a Microsoft partner, maybe. Until Microsoft decides to eat that line of business. (As the company has done repeatedly in the past.) All the companies they decided not to eat are then shit out of luck. For a non-partner of Microsoft? It's less useful than the information on the binaries. The binaries take up less space and there already existed a host of libraries that had already reverse-engineered 90% of it.
Is it a good specification?
A- My opinion. No. I write specs professionally for a living. My company is a Microsoft Partner. I view the spec as confusing, obtuse, error-ridden, x86-centric, incomplete, and redundant. Microsoft sat on the board of ODF for _years_ without offering any help on the minor items ODF didn't provide that they wanted. Now that governments start pressing for permanent standards on document storage, MS throws out this half-baked item and expects a reward for good behavior. Maybe somebody on the board of directors at our company likes it, but the technical folks having to add more work are less than happy about this beast.
If they had to go with XML, couldn't they at least have allowed standard XML with attributes and the like instead of x86 specific, binary incompatible, past-version deprecating, standard-avoiding, crash on normal XML.. ... mess... that they have offered for consumption? Oh.. but wait, I'm sure the BRM fixed that in the week given. I'm sure the pretty version will show up any day now.
Are there any specs released directly under GPL?
If not, why not?
It's currently 9:00 PM PST and I have Guest.
But as part of what Scott said (I think), any implementation of this proposed standard, should not even hint that there might be a problem with a GPL implementation, from Microsoft's point of view.
[quote]The reason that GPL developers find it legally possible to work with Sun and IBM is that both companies have contributed directly to the development of GPL and LGPL code implementing the same standards that their covenants cover.[/quote]
Which is totally irrelevant.
The GPL is a first party license that hands down rights from contributors to a software product.
The OSP and CNS are third party licensing method that give additional rights from parties that have not contributed to the software.
GPL nor any other OSS license cannot pass on third party rights or any other rights that are not controlled by the first party contributors therefore GPL or any other OSS cannot sublicense the CNS promise by IBM, Sun, MS or the OSP by MS.
And why does the SFLC specifically mention that it object to patent rights not being availiable for future in the OSP but does not mention this in their analysis of the ODF licensing where the IBM CNS is limited in the exact way that the OSP does and the CNS by SUN is limited in a much more vague way by versions "in which development Sun participates to the point of incurring an obligation".
[quote]Microsoft sat on the board of ODF for _years_ without offering any help on the minor items ODF didn't provide that they wanted.[/quote]
That is a weird statement. Microsoft has never contributed to ODF or participated in any committee dealing directly with ODF nor can I find any message in the TC archives that MS has ever been asked to help with ongoing development in the OASIS TC.
Why are you making up stuff that has no factual basis.
>Well, Bruce, I don't think we have a "big rich >companies" section of the OSP, I think it applies >equally to big and small companies.
I do totally agree. The OSP give equal non existant protection to small and large companies. Like already told the large companies have protection from other sources so it is a minor problem for them.
You say that Microsoft will extend the OSP to the updated dis29500...fairly given, isn't it? Problem is just that Microsoft have not commited to acutally implement dis29500 or the future versions of that standard so the OSP covering dis29500 is pointless.
What is needed is:
*Microsoft must promise to implement the _full_ dis29500, including upcoming versions, if they should be trusted.
*Microsoft must extend the patent promise to exclude the right to sell the patents to patent trolls. As written only Microsoft itself is bound to not use the patents, and that is obviously not enough.
*Microsoft must craft a OSP so that the protection apply to the GPL and open source developers even if these are used for commercial purposes.
*Microsoft must publish all patents they have that concern dis29500. This includes the many patents that Microsoft have requested after OOXML approval process begun.
*Microsoft/Ecma should remove the nonsense requirement that syntactic compability is enough to claim conformance.
The past behavior of Microsoft is not the reason people don't trust Microsoft about OOXML...it is the current behavior that is the problem. Reject dis29500 is the only sane conclusion....
Unless Microsoft take the above actions the following results are very likely:
*The ISO label will be used by Microsoft to fool people into using Office since it "supports" an ISO standard
*Office 2007 will never faithfully implement dis29500 so all files produced will lack interoperability with producers that don't relie on the Microsoft DLL files.
*Microsoft will sell the patents to patent trolls to attack competitors.
*Microsoft will use all application-defined points and undefined points in the standard to break real compability.
Hmmm. The SFLC opinion was written by a lawyer (or two) - an expert in his field. You are... a Group Product Manager for Microsoft?
Now, who's views would I trust on matters of law?
> IBM's covenant does not have any language excluding
> later versions. Only the Microsoft covenant has
If you look at the IBM patent pledge guidance at http://www-03.ibm.com/linux/opensource/ispfaq.shtml you will find the text:
"How will IBM address additional specifications or new versions of specifications on the list?
IBM will evaluate new versions or additional specifications for inclusion based on their consistency with the objectives of this pledge which is to support widespread adoption of open specifications that enable software interoperability for our customers, and may, from time to time, make additional pledges."
This is basically a word-by-word replica of the intent of the text in Microsoft's OSP.
> Sun's covenant explicitly grants rights to
> later versions.
No it doesn't. If you insist on nit-picking the wording you must include the part of Sun's CNS where it says:
... "or of any subsequent version thereof ("OpenDocument Implementation") in which development Sun participates to the point of incurring an obligation, as defined by the rules of OASIS, to grant (or commit to grant) patent licenses or make equivalent non-assertion covenants."
Notice the part "in which development Sun participates".
Re: The FAQ states that Microsoft is not in a position to give blanket advice about the GPL to others.
As regards the OSP, Microsoft can give such advice, and is the only company able to do so. It could e.g. add something like the following to the OSP: "The OSP is compatable with GPL 3.0, any term which conflicts with GPL 3.0 is void, and all additional rights necessary to comply with GPL 3.0 are hereby granted".
If as you say the OSP is already compatible with the GPL then this would cost Microsoft literally nothing, it would merely confirm what is already the case. And it would end this controversy at a stroke.
Can you think of an ethical reason why Microsoft don't just make this assurance?
The FUD machine from the anti-Open XML camp has been running on the high-octane fuel of the Software
Depends on your point of view.
The GPL is expansive, well vetted by the industry in a process that would shame ISO even before the current problems (What about those newly joined nations that haven't voted on any other standard?), and it is a legal, not technical document.
The OSP came out of your EULA department which often includes clauses like "By using this software you agree not to say anything bad about it".
The GPL, for it's length is much simpler than the OSP. The length is to prevent loopholes where things can be further restricted. The OSP is just the opposite. It tries to navigate the vertex of the fence between letting people actually do something with OOXML without a threat, and making sure Microsoft can still play patent and other IP games with Office if one of these implementations goes too far.
But I'll call your bluff - Let Microsoft create a challenge for a GPL version of OOXML, and when it is complete give its full blessing for any derivatives. You won't do it because you want to keep the FUD. "Linux violates 245 patents" but you won't say which or where. You will probably say GPLOOXML violates a gazillion patents, we won't say which one, but we promise not to sue as long as you don't actually do anything the GPL gives you the right to do.
Or simply simplify the OSP. Be plain in grating the rights and protections. If it sounds like it was written by Mephistopheles for Faust, people will assume something is wrong with it. GPL - clauses explicitly open and preventing lock-in. OSP - clauses carefully and grudgingly allowing the narrowest set of rights possible to get something where I can type and save "Hello World".
There is a difference between being generous and merely less miserly. For that matter there is a difference between being prudent and merely less miserly. Open doesn't mean mostly closed, mostly encumbered, mostly restricted.
The difference is clear to the SFLC. And probably to you where you assume "Microsoft has done enough". Like with the EU and the other trials, some ongoing, Microsoft sees what it can get away with. And even spends far too much moral capital fighting when it is wrong. That is Microsoft Legal. Go ahead and keep fighting, exposing more memos showing your real intent - you will get a Pyrric victory if any. This is the context I have to look at the OSP.
Tell me why I should not assume the OSP is just another one of these minimal attempts at appearing to be compliant while changing nothing? Will we have to wait until someone gets sued or does sue in discovery to discover it is another sham like the certified "Vista Ready" computers that can barely do the home version?
Why should I believe the OSP any more than the "Vista Ready" certification?
The FAQ items you quote say, "you may want to consult with your legal counsel" and "we can't give anyone a legal opinion about how our language relates to the GPL".
The SFLC *is* my legal counsel. Your own advice is that I should rely upon what they have to say.
Gray Knowlton said:
"Watch out for the black helicopters Ray...
XML support in Office arrived 8 years ago (which means code was written 10 years ago). And while you're out looking for for the Open XML actions we're taking, you should dig up the history of binary format specification licensing we weren't doing since 2003, and dig up that long list of actions we've taken in addressing the thousands of applications that read and write the binary formats."
RE black helicopter's
In no particular order
Netscape, Dr-Dos, Sun Java,"Halloween Documents", OS2 to name a few.
RE XML support
since XML is simply text? Just because it was "supported", doesn't mean too much, without some sort of "control file" opening it with MS office would be the same as opening it with edit.exe or notepade.exe.
This whole issue is all about controlling the "control file" not whether or not MS office can parse an XML file or not!
RE a history of binary formats
The "binary" was there protection ( changing with every new release ).
With service pack 3 for MS Office 2003 you can't open the older binary files, rather than fix the "parser" they stop support for older versions, so anybody who had files from say "Word 6", After "upgrading" you can't open them!
Unless you download Open Office, they still seem to be able to open them
As for going after some one with a PAID license that wouldn't be to smart.
I believe open source is using legally reverse engineered specifications (done well before Microsoft "promised" not to hurt you if you use there specifications ).