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And Oregon Makes Five for ODF - With a Twist

OpenDocument and OOXML
In what is beginning to seem like a legislative drumbeat, Oregon has become the fourth US state this year to see an open document format bill introduced in its legislature (the others, in order of bill introduction, are Minnesota, Texas and California). Taken together with pioneer Massachusetts, which led the way with an administrative rule adopted in 2005, this means that individual legislators in10% of all US States have thus far taken steps to require that governments must be responsible stewards of public records. The text of the bill is here. As usual, I am also including the complete text of the bill, in its current form, at the end of this entry for long term-archival reference and ease of word-search based research using this site.
 
While the Oregon bill falls into a current trend, it is in some ways less similar to the bills introduced earlier this year than they are to each other. Most notably, it would establish a clear preference for open formats that are deployed in the greatest variety of programs and services that are available as "free ware," which it defines as " computer software made available or distributed to the public for use free of charge for an unlimited time." Through this and other provisions, it is clear that only ODF, and not OOXML, would pass muster for the foreseeable future in Oregon. The bill was introduced by State Representative Peter Buckley as House Bill 2920.  
 

Looking first to the central definition of an "open format," we see that the Oregon definition is more detailed than that which is found in most of the other bills. For example, while the California formulation is very high level and would provide more flexibility in interpretation, the Oregon text is more precise, and often provides examples of what would be required in order to comply with the bill. Here is a direct comparison of the definitions found in these two bills:

Oregon: (A) Free of legal or technical restrictions on the specification's use for encoding, displaying, reading, printing or storing information or data in electronic form

California: (1) Interoperable among diverse internal and external platforms and applications

Oregon: (B) Free from a requirement to pay royalties or other forms of compensation for use of the specification

California:(2) Fully published and available royalty-free

Oregon: (C) Developed or updated by more than one independent software provider in a well-defined, inclusive process

California: (3) Implemented by multiple vendors

Oregon: (D) Controlled or guided by the specification's author or a standards organization including, but not limited to, the American National Standards Institute, the International Organization for Standardization and the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards.

California: (4) Controlled by an open industry organization with a well-defined inclusive process for evolution of the standard.

Unlike the other bills, the Oregon bill does not mention XML anywhere in its text.  In contrast, the California bill, in contrast, specifically states that "...documents...shall be created, exchanged, and preserved in an open extensible markup language-based, XML-based file format, as specified by the department."  

As noted above, the portions of the Oregon bill that relate to freeware would even more conclusively, as compared to the other bills already introduced, require use of ODF(for which there are multiple compliant freeware versions available), and prohibit the use of OOXML-compliant products, none of which currently exist in freeware versions (and may never)[That statement was poorly crafted, as noted in a comment.  I should have stated this as follows:] require, as a practical matter, the use of products that are natively compliant with ODF.  A Novell productivity suite based on OpenOffice, and which is capable of saving to either ODF or OOXML, would presumably qualify under the Oregon bill. 

The actual text on this subject is interesting, and is presumably intended to acknowledge the existence of ODF-compliant Web based applications, as well as those that reside locally. Under this section, a state agency must:

(a) Disclose or make copies of the record available in an open format for which freeware is available or for which another method exists by means of which the person requesting the record may display, read, print, manipulate or otherwise interact with the information embodied in the record free of charge.

(b) Disclose or make copies of the record available in a proprietary format only if no open format exists for the record that provides equivalent capabilities for displaying, reading, printing, manipulating or otherwise interacting with the information or data embodied in the record.

The coverage of the bill is more typical of the other bills, requiring every state agency (as defined) to "disclose" all public records in an open format if the agency "originally made, received, filed or recorded the record in electronic form" or "captured the record in or converted the record to electronic form." But there is a twist to the coverage requirements that the other bills do not share as well, because Oregon apparently utilizes (or, under the bill, in the future would utilize) its library system as a vehicle to make public documents available to its citizens. Under this section of the bill, not only the State Library, but all public libraries would be required to:

…install and maintain freeware on computers designated for use by the public so that members of the public may view, print and save copies of public documents available in electronic form…[but] only if in doing so the [library] does not incur additional administrative or operational expense.

There are a variety of other interesting terms as well, including tight time frames for making open format document copies available on request. Finally, the bill also would give the Secretary of State to:

...set standards and preferences for the use of open formats to encourage uniformity among state agencies and, where different open formats exist that serve the same purpose, shall prefer the open format for which the widest selection of freeware is available for use by the public.

Happily, while the Oregon bill is far more detailed than the legislative drafts introduced in the other states, it still lies within the same general boundaries. In consequence, if all bills were adopted as currently drafted, it would not be unduly difficult for both commercial vendors as well as open source projects to provide products and services that would be acceptable in each of these jurisdictions.

When available, I will supply a link to the Oregon site at which you can track the further progress of this bill.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

74th OREGON LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY--2007 Regular Session

NOTE: Matter within { + braces and plus signs + } in an amended section is new. Matter within { - braces and minus signs - } is existing law to be omitted. New sections are within { + braces and plus signs + } .LC 1609House Bill 2920Sponsored by Representative BUCKLEY

SUMMARY

The following summary is not prepared by the sponsors of the measure and is not a part of the body thereof subject to consideration by the Legislative Assembly. It is an editor's brief statement of the essential features of the measure as introduced.

Requires state agencies to disclose public records in electronic form in certain circumstances and, when practicable, in open formats for which freeware is available.    Requires State Library, depository libraries and public libraries to install and maintain freeware so that members of public can view, print and make copies of public documents, if in doing so library does not incur additional administrative or operational expense.

A BILL FOR AN ACT

Relating to public records; creating new provisions; and amending ORS 357.100 and 357.105.

Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon:

SECTION 1. { + Section 2 of this 2007 Act is added to and made a part of ORS chapter 192. + }

SECTION 2. { + (1) As used in this section:

   (a) 'Electronic form' means a record stored or embodied digitally and in such a way that a computer or another electronic device of a similar or related nature is required to display, read, print, store, manipulate or otherwise interact with the record.

  (b) 'Freeware' means computer software made available or distributed to the public for use free of charge for an unlimited time.

  (c) 'Open format' means a specification published or otherwise made available that is:

(A) Free of legal or technical restrictions on the specification's use for encoding, displaying, reading, printing or storing information or data in electronic form;

(B) Free from a requirement to pay royalties or other forms of compensation for use of the specification;

(C) Developed or updated by more than one independent software provider in a well-defined, inclusive process; and

(D) Controlled or guided by the specification's author or a standards organization including, but not limited to, the American National Standards Institute, the International Organization for Standardization and the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards.

   (d) 'Proprietary format' means a specification subject to legal or technical restrictions on the specification's use for encoding, displaying, reading, printing or storing information or data in electronic form.

   (e) 'Public record' has the meaning given that term in ORS 192.410.

   (f) 'State agency' has the meaning given that term in ORS 192.410.

(2) A state agency shall disclose a public record under ORS 192.410 to 192.505 in electronic form if:

   (a) The state agency originally made, received, filed or recorded the record in electronic form; or

   (b) The state agency, in accordance with ORS 192.050, captured the record in or converted the record to electronic form.

(3) A state agency, in disclosing or making available copies of public records in accordance with subsection (2) of this section, shall to the extent practicable and in accordance with rules that the Secretary of State adopts:

   (a) Disclose or make copies of the record available in an open format for which freeware is available or for which another method exists by means of which the person requesting the record may display, read, print, manipulate or otherwise interact with the information embodied in the record free of charge.

   (b) Disclose or make copies of the record available in a proprietary format only if no open format exists for the record that provides equivalent capabilities for displaying, reading, printing, manipulating or otherwise interacting with the information or data embodied in the record.

(4) A state agency that captures or converts a public record to electronic form in response to a request for disclosure of or a copy of the record in electronic form shall perform the capture or conversion within five business days. Thereafter the state agency shall maintain the public record in electronic form alongside or in lieu of the record in the record's previous form.

(5) The Secretary of State, in the secretary's capacity as public records administrator, shall encourage and, where practicable, by rule require state agencies to store, maintain and make available copies of public records in electronic form using open formats. The secretary by rule may set standards and preferences for the use of open formats to encourage uniformity among state agencies and, where different open formats exist that serve the same purpose, shall prefer the open format for which the widest selection of freeware is available for use by the public. + }

SECTION 3. ORS 357.100 is amended to read:   357.100.

(1) The State Library shall be the agency responsible for receiving copies of public documents and making them available to depository libraries.

(2) The State Librarian shall periodically assess the performance of depository libraries and report the results of these assessments to the Trustees of the State Library.

(3) The State Library shall ensure permanent public access to public documents, regardless of the format of the document.

   { + (4)(a) The State Library shall install and maintain freeware on computers designated for use by the public so that members of the public may view, print and save copies of public documents available in electronic form.

   (b) The State Library must comply with paragraph (a) of this subsection only if in doing so the State Library does not incur additional administrative or operational expense.

   (c) For purposes of this section, 'freeware' has the meaning given that term in section 1 of this 2007 Act. + }

SECTION 4. ORS 357.105 is amended to read:

357.105. { + (1) + } Depository libraries shall make available for free access by all persons the public documents made available to them by the State Librarian under ORS 357.090 to 357.100.

   { + (2)(a) Depository libraries shall install and maintain freeware on computers designated for use by the public so that members of the public may view, print and save copies of public dcuments available in electronic form.

   (b) A depository library must comply with paragraph (a) of this sbsection only if in doing so the depository library does not incur additional administrative or operational expense.

   (c) For purposes of this section, 'freeware' has the meaninggiven that term in section 1 of this 2007 Act. + }

SECTION 5. { + Section 6 of this 2007 Act is added to and made a part of ORS 357.400 to 357.621. + }

SECTION 6. { + (1) A public library operating under authority ganted under ORS 357.400 to 357.621 shall install and maintain freeware on computers designated for use by the public so that members of the public may view, print and save copies of public documents available in electronic form.

(2) A public library must comply with subsection (1) of this section only if in doing so the public library does not incur additional administrative or operational expense.

(3) For purposes of this section, 'public document' has the meaning given that term in ORS 357.004 and 'freeware' has the meaning given that term in section 1 of this 2007 Act. + }

SECTION 7. { + Sections 2 and 6 of this 2007 Act and the amendments to ORS 357.100 and 357.105 by sections 3 and 4 of this 2007 Act apply to all state agencies, the State Library, all depository libraries, all public libraries operating under authority of ORS 357.400 to 357.621 and all disclosures or copies of public records made on or after the effective date of this2007 Act. +  

For further blog entries on ODF and OOXML, click here

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And Oregon Makes Five for ODF - With a Twist | 9 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
And Oregon Makes Five for ODF - With a Twist
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 05:49 AM CDT
"would be unduly difficult" - would or wouldn't? The context seems to indicate that "wouldn't" was intended...

η
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And Oregon Makes Five for ODF - With a Twist
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 07:44 AM CDT

Oregon's Bill 9290 ( text taken from consortium standards blog post ) reads:

"[SECTION 3 (4)(a) ...] The State Library shall install and maintain freeware on computers designated for use by the public so that members of the public may view, print and save copies of public documents available in electronic form."

'View, print and save' ... this sounds like a "file viewer" software task ... is there any ODF "conformant" viewer ? ( StarOffice/OpenOffice anyone? ). If the answer is no, it would *very* important to have one.

[ # ]
And Oregon Makes Five for ODF - With a Twist
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 12:38 PM CDT

Thanks for the informative article. One quibble:

As noted above, the portions of the Oregon bill that relate to freeware would even more conclusively ... prohibit the use of OOXML-compliant products, none of which currently exist in freeware versions (and may never).

Isn't it likely that OpenOffice.org will soon support OOXML? It already supports (to a reasonable extent) the mess that is Office's existing binary format, and that support is touted as a major strength. Wouldn't it make sense that it should also support OOXML as soon as possible?

[ # ]
And Oregon Makes Five for ODF - With a Twist
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 01:05 PM CDT
As a Brit, I would be more impressed if Washington (where is situated Seatlle I believe) was on the list.

Still, we can all live in hope.

Pete Woods
[ # ]
And Oregon Makes Five for ODF - With a Twist
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, June 07 2007 @ 09:10 AM CDT
Hi Andy - What's your take on what I understand to be MS' lobbying efforts against the five State bills.  My understanding is that they have been successful.  What does this mean? 
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