Poetry, copyright violation, and OOXML

Perhaps it is best to start with something high-minded, in view of what may follow.

Some people have asked me where I got the title of my previous blog ("There is no end, but addition") from. In truth I asked my wife. I had researched blog titles; I knew what was required, and so asked for something "a little bit poncey and up itself". Naturally, she suggested a T.S. Eliot quotation "There is no end, but addition". Now in continuance of that tradition I offer a new blog title from the same poem, part II of The Dry Salvages (pronounced sal-vay-jez), from Four Quartets.

 Where is there an end of it, the soundless wailing,
The silent withering of autumn flowers
Dropping their petals and remaining motionless;
Where is there and end to the drifting wreckage,
The prayer of the bone on the beach, the unprayable
Prayer at the calamitous annunciation?

    There is no end, but addition: the trailing
Consequence of further days and hours,
While emotion takes to itself the emotionless
Years of living among the breakage
Of what was believed in as the most reliable—
And therefore the fittest for renunciation.

Now, I have to be careful to limit the length of this quotation, as I know for a fact Faber & Faber scour the web looking for copyright violators. And (I did hint we might come down from being high-minded) talking of copyright violation I notice some of the dafter quarters of the web have published the ISO/IEC 29500:2008 (OOXML) text. Now, while not many people know for sure what ITTF do to a text when they prepare it for publication, one thing they do do for sure is to put a copyright statement on every page. So what we have witnessed is a brazen act of copyright violation. The boobies have even been so good as to boast about the bandwidth requirements their crimes have occasioned (no further questions, m'lud).

Even now, I can hear those Geneva lawyers licking their lips over this one ...

Comments (30) -

  • franco merletti

    10/7/2008 7:35:56 AM |

    "So what we have witnessed is a brazen act of copyright violation"

    i don't get it...  are you talking about the pile of paper called DIS 29500? who would like to copy such thing?  i believe that people have more important things to do than read Microsoft standardization jokes. Programmers only need the schema, and the authoritative semantic specification is called Office 2007/14 output.

  • Alex

    10/7/2008 1:56:13 PM |


    > the authoritative semantic specification is called Office 2007/14 output

    You may be happy to let the developers in Redmond decide the file format: I (in common with the majority of nations of this planet) would prefer to set the standard Internationally and then challenge MS (or others) to conform to it.

    That has rather been the point of this whole exercise.

  • Luc Bollen

    10/7/2008 5:33:31 PM |

    It will be interesting to see if ISO/IEC prefer to enforce their copyright or rather to keep a low profile on this.

    I can already imagine the headlines in case ISO insists to keep the OOXML specification under the hood ("secretive" as they say in other blogs).

    I'm quite sure that the Geneva lawyers will wait, licking their lips or not, at least until the text is officially published by ISO/IEC.

  • Luc Bollen

    10/7/2008 5:41:18 PM |

    And I'm also quite sure that the "boobies" will be very happy with the focus and "fame" they will receive in case ISO makes such a move.

  • Roy Schestowitz

    10/7/2008 8:04:01 PM |

    If ISO decides to launch a war against a Ph.D. *student*, they ask for nothing but very terrible publicity (they'll find no money). The heaps of abuse (documented and indexed in http://boycottnovell.com/ooxml-abuse-index/ ) let people know who the /bad/ guys are, and that's not me.

  • Alex

    10/7/2008 8:43:45 PM |


    It is highly likely that OOXML would (like ODF before it) be made available free-of-charge (though, in fact, a number of countries are unhappy about this - re-selling OOXML could be a nice revenue source for national bodies). Nevertheless, the document is still then made available under the terms of a licence which clearly states:

    You are about to download a document made available to you exclusively for standardization purposes and which is protected by copyright law in your country.

    The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal and may be punishable by criminal law.

    As you say it will be interesting to see what happens. As a publisher, ISO tends to take IP seriously. In the UK, copyright infringement can also entail criminal liability.

  • Alex

    10/7/2008 9:38:53 PM |


    *Shrug* - I personally have no interest in whether the OOXML text is available widely now or in a few weeks when it is published (if it meant people could contribute defect reports sooner, that would be useful; so far no luck).

    However, this is not a question of my opinion or your opinion but of law.

  • Jan Wildeboer

    10/7/2008 9:47:27 PM |

    Microsoft stated in 2004 wrt "EU public sector recommendation on open document formats":


    [...] The following elements of our program are the pillars of this approach:

    - The technical documentation is available on the internet for anyone to copy and read

    So IMHO Microsoft should have a vested interest in free access to OOXML. As a sidenote, ITTF is a bit more open with their ODF standard document:


    AFAIR it is SC34 that tells ITTF how to make the standard document available. So what did SC34 gave as policy for the distribution of '29500?


  • Alex

    10/7/2008 10:02:49 PM |


    You are correct, MS appear to want this standard published as rapidly as possible.

    When ISO/IEC 29500:2008 is published, Ecma will also publish their mirror version (which will be identical in substance). That will be freely available.

    I do not speak for SC 34, but my guess is that they will request for this standard to join the other freely-available ones, once it has been published.

    So practically speaking, this Standard will be freely available to all when it is published in a few weeks.

  • Benza Dialoa

    10/7/2008 10:05:58 PM |

    "As you say it will be interesting to see what happens. As a publisher, ISO tends to take IP seriously. In the UK, copyright infringement can also entail criminal liability."

    In France too, they have Sarkozy and other Vivendi's passing nasty laws on copyright infringements.

    It might be fun to see an OOXML pirate in jail Smile

  • Jan Wildeboer

    10/7/2008 10:31:26 PM |


    you said: "So practically speaking, this Standard will be freely available to all when it is published in a few weeks."

    Let's hope for the best. However - knowing that Microsoft propbably already has access to the specs - this *could* lead to the conclusion of a competitive advantage. So the sooner it is released, the better for everyone Wink


  • Alex

    10/7/2008 10:43:24 PM |


    Commercial entities with employees who participate in SC 34 (or its many national mirrors) would have gained access to the text at the same time.

    Of course, anybody who was really desperate to know what it was like in advance could have worked it out by applying the (openly available) BRM editing instructions to Ecma 376!

  • Alex

    10/7/2008 11:39:03 PM |


    I've deleted your comment as it might be taken the wrong way. I know Roy is a controversial figure even in the FOSS community, but even so ...

  • Gerad Cujar

    10/8/2008 12:04:57 AM |

    No problem.

  • Alex

    10/8/2008 12:18:22 AM |


    What you say maybe right - but I want to keep this blog from getting into overly-personal attacks (so sorry, comment deleted).

  • hAl

    10/8/2008 12:33:53 AM |

    It would have been nice if someone were to sue Roy.
    this self procliamed 'med student' has managed to rake up a mere 100.000 anti novell and anti-micrsoft usenet posts/forum reactions/digs in the last few years and still manages to fill a very active blog with anti novell and anti micrsoft news (and manages to pay for the traffic it generates) and apperantly selects newspicks on groklaw.

    Amazing stuff for a med student on his own.

  • easybeat

    10/8/2008 6:32:22 AM |

    There must be something wrong in this whole process! Otherwise it would not be a problem to publish this document for you. Or could you tell me why such a document should not be free for everyone?

    I can't understand and will never understand and must let you know that I'm totally against the ISO-Certification of OOXML because I'm 100% sure that something is wrong with it!

  • pcole

    10/8/2008 1:34:26 PM |

    This is really simple. Since MS, ecma, SC34, ISO/IEC have such wonderful feelings going up their legs regarding ooxml, then put all your butt heads together to fix ooxml and stay away from/leave ODF to OASIS where it's been doing a remarkable job on their own.

  • Marcel

    10/8/2008 2:36:01 PM |

    Well, for me, it seems that ISO act corrupt. So it seems being moaning of an criminal about another.

  • The Open Sourcerer

    10/8/2008 4:23:30 PM |


    "Amazing stuff for a med student on his own." And guess what? He probably doesn't even make it up himself! It is good there are people to shout about the anti-competitive practices of companies such as Microsoft.

    Or perhaps you prefer that we live in a closed world too Smile

    The way out is open!

  • Adam Smith

    10/8/2008 4:38:44 PM |

    You are so poor, Mr. Brown! Acting like a child which didn't get his favourite sweets.

    I have a dream that one day the copyright slavery ends!

  • zoobab

    10/9/2008 4:14:48 AM |

    ISO has been captured by Microsoft, see the recent news about an abnormal representation of the vendor in Korea, the dinner paid by Redmond, and the request to control ODF.

    I would be OASIS, I would send a nice letter back to ISO saying "clean your shit first".

    Despite the committee stuffing in several countries, ISO continues to play ping-pong between Geneva and the Members, but at the end of the day, the standardisation process is not yet good enough for the 21st Century.

    I don't think it is worthwhile to call for reform, because it would mean a cataclysm for the standardisation people.

    Continue to get ISO standards discussed behind closed doors with secret comments from people in suits paid by large corporations, your standards won't be of any value to our modern economy.

  • Alex

    10/9/2008 1:07:39 PM |


    I was in Korea and can give you the good news that MS does not control the 15 countries in attendance. I suggest you stop reading the trash sites and give the tinfoil hat a rest.

    I can also tell you that the NBs of those 15 countries have been rather surprised to find themselves implicitly accused (by IBM and others) of being under MS control. How to win friends and influence people, eh?

    > I don't think it is worthwhile to call for reform

    How constructive.

    > your standards won't be of any value to our modern economy.

    So I take it you will be repudiating the ISO/IEC standards that are the cornerstone of ODF, such as 10646 (Universl Character Sets) 8601 (date/time), and SC 34's very own 19757-2 (RELAX NG)?

    Oh, and I wasn't wearing a suit in Jeju: short-sleeve shirts, shorts and sandals were more the order of the day.

  • Obleix-it

    10/10/2008 3:42:54 PM |

    >> I was in Korea and can give you the good news that MS does not control the 15 countries in attendance.
    Well, you know you're not considered an independent source, don't you??

    >> I suggest you stop reading the trash sites
    Nice way to say "go away from here"...

  • hAl

    10/10/2008 5:37:15 PM |

    Zoobab can't stop reading the trash sites because he actually writes the trash himself being I think the webmaster of nooxml.

    In his paranopie view on the world anybody that ever voted approval for Office Open XML standardization is under the influence or control of Microsoft and cannot be trusted.
    In fact in such views everybody not agreeing with noooxml is under the spell of Microsoft.

    Discussing standards seriously with people that have such limited views on the world does not work anyways. Their views already prior to any standardization proces exclude certain the important objectivitity needed for that proces.

  • Alex

    10/10/2008 6:07:07 PM |


    Well, if I believe what I've read on the blogosphere just this morning I'm a Microsoft-employed Nazi Mastermind who lives in Geneva. So on that basis maybe you're wise to be skeptical of my words.

    Hope all is well in Italy,

    - Alex.

  • Andre

    10/21/2008 7:27:52 PM |

    "Well, if I believe what I've read on the blogosphere just this morning I'm a Microsoft-employed Nazi Mastermind who lives in Geneva. So on that basis maybe you're wise to be skeptical of my words."

    I thought you are based in the UK and self-employed?
    Source for the slander?

  • Alex

    10/21/2008 9:04:17 PM |


    I do live in the UK, and I am an employee of a small (three-person) limited company.

    I am conflating two bit of information - the first from heise.de (subsequently run by Andy Updegrove) stating: "In a first reaction from Geneva, Alex Brown, who masterminded the ISO's Office Open XML standardisation process ..."


    I don't really mind being called the OOXML mastermind - except it's simply not true!

    The nazi comment comes from a comment published by ZDNet Asia: "Brown - he has always been known as a Micro$oft nazi".


    But this kind of stuff goes with the territory ...

    - Alex.

  • Anon.

    10/23/2008 11:25:57 AM |

    While nobody in their right mind would want to read or use the so-called OOXML "standard", your reaction is pathetic.

    Copyright is not intended as a tool for censorship, and in fact in most countries it is illegal to use it as a tool to censor matters of public interest.  Standards are useless unless people can read them.  This particular "standard" has suffered from closed-door decision making, violation of ISO's own rules, and severe technical flaws.  It should obviously not have been published, ever.  However, ISO, by making the daft, self-destructive, decision, in violation of its own rules and all international practices, to declare this pile of garbage a "standard", has guaranteed that there is a compelling public interest in making it available to the public.

    Compelling public interest.  Ergo no copyright infrignment.

    When something you've been trying to keep secret -- with absolutely no stated justification -- is published, you have many possible reactions.  
    Crying "copyright violation" is the tool of censors and cowards.

  • Andre

    11/2/2008 7:49:16 AM |

    "...to declare this pile of garbage a "standard", has guaranteed that there is a compelling public interest in making it available to the public."

    @anon: Both sides of the debate are great fans of the "Have you read all 6000 pages" sticker.

    I personally believe that OOXML has no good fundamental design as opposed to the other format. Just as an illustration I had a talk with an embedded-Network software guru yesterday where everybody agreed with the horrible mess of hackish software written for internet routers and the need for longterm projects such as OpenWRT who attempt to get things right and consolidate the mess. So it happens in many areas of the computer industry, beauty does not sell, and most users say "works for me" while world class engineers are coughing and problems arise.

    The question here is whether OOXML needs a good fundamental design and what it means to competitors.

    What I do know is that far to easy flaws were found and not all of them have been fixed by the BRM due to lack of time. And after all Alex and others are betting on the main sponsor to adopt the international standard and actually adhere to it.

    Hypocrisy aside, both ISO formats have problems with the implementations and perfection is not often found in the computer industry. Of course behavioural aspects also count in, e.g. the lack of a good will and professional attitude in terms of true and fair technical views and the basic requirement to fix what is broken.

    The IT world is a pile of garbage code and documentation. OOXML is not the worst but of central importance in the office productivity sector which makes you "raise the bar".

Comments are closed