Linux News Model Letter to People of Influence Supporting ODF

Posted by tadelste on Jan 1, 2006 3:18 PM EDT; By Herschel Cohen
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It is time to get the "True facts out, in contrast to the imagery and illusions that are dispensed ubiquitously by the behemoth of Redmond. If you can identify individuals open to rational argument that are not already bought off by the latter, please feel free to employ any part of the model letter: ideas, text, citations to make your points. This has now become a necessity to get some sort of rational balance between citizen rights and currently overwhelming corporate power.


While written with a U.S. centric view, the ideas may be applicable in many locations. That is, if you choose your target audience with care.


Before using any text, issue, or citation, you must determine whom to target and whether your efforts could end up being counter productive. If your prospective recipient has shown no interest in citizen issues beyond campaign promises, you might be wiser to save yourself the effort even if you only intended to send an unaltered, complete copy. To do so might just help Microsoft by having political types soliciting to do that company's bidding. The cash involved is essentially chump change and it saves its lobbyists the effort of finding willing servants.

If you now believe that you have identified individuals that are likely to have some sympathy for the message, I would suggest speaking in your own voice using perhaps the issues identified as a context to compose your own message. Feel free to take any part of the text and the citations to create your own version, even if is a total copy and paste version. Here's hoping for success for us and the Open Document Format specification.

Model Letter

I would like to bring an issue to your attention that has not been explicitly brought before Congress, however, is likely to appear in the near future in some context. The issue is the inclusion of the option to retain user created data in an open data format that will assure permanent recovery no matter what changes are made to either software or hardware in the future.

One such proposed standard is the Open Document Format (ODF) (1). This format has the guarantee of being unencumbered by proprietary claims and is a specification open to all vendors to add to their products without restriction. That is, any software developer is free to add this data format specification option to their existing list of storage formats without the need to abandon any others they might favor. This is an eminently reasonable proposal, however, too many must be reminded of recent history. The software scene is littered with failed, discarded and abandoned storage media and data storage formats. When seeking a paperless entity, we cannot afford the continuance of the same errors.

In the United States, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had been reviewing (2 view of Information Technology Office, 3) this issue publicly for a considerable period of time. Moreover, that state's officials have kept a consortium of companies advised and fully informed of their intent to free government documents from any proprietary encumbrances. Microsoft was a member in good standing, which made the offer to use its version of a XML format that it had partial patent coverage as the new data format specification. That offer might have been accepted had Microsoft not refused to assure the state's officials that both the format would remain unaltered and access would be guaranteed to all (4, 5, 6)

Once the Massachusetts' decision was set Microsoft mounted a counter attack (7, 8):

1. The claim Open Document Format was not really a free specification.

2. Implementing the Open Document Format was both too complex and too expensive for Microsoft to add to its software product line.

3. Microsoft's offered specification was superior to the Open Document Format, because it would implement new, specialized features.

4. Opposition party members became interested in taking Microsoft's side, despite this was an executive function supposedly not answerable to the Legislature directly. More recently the Governor has expressed similar sentiments consistent with his assumed desire to seek the presidency.

5. Organizations that represent handicapped workers joined the protests due to the concern that those workers would suffer due to Microsoft's refusal to add ODF option to their office product.

Most of these claims and actions by Microsoft can be responded to succinctly as being either bogus or invalid arguments (9, 10):

1. The Open Document Format is open enough to have been adopted as a standard file format by the International Standards Organization (ISO). Moreover, many large computer related companies have adopted this standard.

2. Sun Microsystems has or soon will have added the ODF option to its Star Office Suite, Corel has stated this format will be added to the WordPerfect Suite, IBM is adopting the same format to its Lotus Office Suite, as have others. The most telling is that the Open Office organization (OO.o) has already implemented ODF into its version of Open Office version 2.0, which in a single stroke destroys the argument that the expensive to implement is excessive. They give their application away without charge.

3. Microsoft is known to add to or revising existing feature sets for the purpose of using the differences to lock users away from alternatives. Moreover, Microsoft has taken free software written by others completely and added alterations then refusing to divulge the changes made. I would suggest your investigating the Kerberos (Unix security) incident (11, 12) . If we were not speaking about computers and software, it would be very obvious that Microsoft is seeking no less than the ownership of every creation made with its software no matter what or whom expended the effort. In an authoritarian society that might be accepted, but it really should be unacceptable everywhere.

4. This is the most difficult to counter effectively as an individual, since it should be obvious that the first concern of a Legislature should be the best interests of its constituents not the temporary advantage of a large commercial entity.

5. While there is a bit of truth in the assertion that Windows has the "best" support for those with handicaps the impression is distorted (*). First that support does not originate with Microsoft. Moreover, any changes Microsoft has made has broken the code used by third party developers. Furthermore, not all representatives of the handicapped are unwilling to consider the ODF option (13). Finally, until a suitable, working additions are available on other software the handicapped workers for the state are not at risk to losing their employment.

I would hope this text convinces you that an individual's creative work does not belong to any entity just by the accidental use of its application. Accidental, because it was not a sure thing that Microsoft would enjoy monopoly status at this moment nor necessarily keep it in the future. It must be recognized the they are fighting by every means the loss of that comfortable, for them, position. This is not an issue of corporate rights but it should be seen only as a citizen rights.

Thank you.

* Cannot find link, however, two representatives spoke at the hearing and opposed ODF.

» Read more about: Story Type: LXer Features; Groups: Community, HP, IBM, LXer, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, Sun

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
American presidential politics jailbait 1 2,397 Jan 3, 2006 1:21 PM
ODF == OpenDocument Format Turbocapitalist 1 2,211 Dec 13, 2005 4:40 AM
Error in Letter Adam_Moore 1 2,283 Dec 12, 2005 9:37 AM
Political Apathy - Don't let the turkeys get you down. tadelste 9 2,762 Dec 9, 2005 4:59 PM

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