Make that Three [now Four]: India [and Venezuela] Appeal Adoption of OOXML

Update:  This is an overdue update to this blog entry, noting that a late appeal from Venezuela was received and accepted after the deadline recognized by ISO/IEC.  I had thought I would write a separate entry on it, but as it is now old news, I am updating this entry so as not to leave a misleading impression that the final count was only three.

Last night was the deadline for filing appeals to the adoption of OOXML by ISO/IEC JTC 1.  This morning, a spokesman for the IEC acknowledged the receipt of a total of three appeals by the deadline, with the third and final appeal being filed by India, as reported by Peter Sayers, of the IDG News Service.  I have no news as yet whether the fourth country that planned to file an appeal has decided not to do so, missed the deadline, or sent its letter only to ISO (Peter reports that an ISO spokesman declined to confirm how many appeals it has received at this time.  The deadline date is a matter of some confusion, as some National Bodies were under the impression that the deadline was June 2, so it remains possible that a fourth appeal will (or already has been) received. 

In other technicality news, the IEC spokesman noted that the Brazil letter had been improperly addressed - duplicate copies should have been sent to the CEOs of both the IEC and ISO - but that this technical irregularity would be waived [Jonathan Buck, the IEC spokesman, inaccurately stated to Peter that the Indian appeal, rather than the Brazilian appeal, had been improperly addressed; the IDG story will be corrected shortly]

More substantively, what happens next?  Ironically, "what happens next" is described in the same general and sometimes vague Directives that have caused ongoing dissent in the process to date, and figure prominently in the South African and Brazilian appeals themselves.  

According to Jonathan Buck, the IEC spokesman, the CEOs of the two organizations are charged with trying to reach a solution with each of the National Bodies that have filed appeals.  If that fails after one month of effort, then the issue is transferred to two committees, one in each of the two sponsoring organization of Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC 1).  They are the Technical Management Board (at ISO) and the Standards Management Board (at the IEC). 

Here’s how the  actual rules under the Directives for handling appeals describe the process:

11.2.2 Upon receipt, the JTC 1 Secretariat shall advise all its P-members of the appeal, and take immediate action, by correspondence or at a meeting, to consider and decide on the appeal, consulting the Secretaries-General in the process.

"Upon receipt" appears to have been interpreted as "after the deadline has passed."  Presumably the three NBs involved will now be contacted.

11.2.3  If JTC 1 supports the SC, the P-member who initiated the appeal may either
•  Accept the JTC 1 decision, or
•  Appeal against it.

"Supports the SC" here presumably means that if the Secretaries-General (the "CEOs" referred to by the IEC spokesman) are of the opinion that the appeals do not justify the action(s) requested in the appeals.  Given that there have been three appeals, two of which only partially overlap in their objections, and the third of which has not yet been disclosed, there are a variety of possible permutations which may occur entering and exiting this step.

11.3.3 The Secretaries-General shall, following whatever consultations they deem appropriate, refer the appeal together with their comments to the TMB/SMB within one month after receipt of the appeal.

This is in alignment with the spokesman’s comments, as quoted in the IDG story.

11.3.4 The TMB/SMB shall decide whether an appeal shall be further processed or not. If the decision is in favour of proceeding, the Chairmen of the TMB/SMB shall form a conciliation panel (see 9.2).  The conciliation panel shall hear the appeal and attempt to resolve the difference of opinion as soon as practicable. If the conciliation panel is unsuccessful in its endeavours, it shall so report within three months to the Secretaries-General, giving its recommendations on how the matter should be settled.

As with the other rules that have been at issue in the OOXML Fast Track process thus far, those that will apply here are superficially rational – but also superficial, when it comes to detail.  As has consistently been the case to date, that means that a great deal is left to the discretion to those in the ISO/IEC hierarchy.  What this means is that ultimate control of the resolution remains in the hands of the same individuals, and their colleagues, that made or approved, the decisions in the first instance upon which the appeals are based. 

As a result, we can expect that any poorly justified rejection of these appeals will be met with the as much disagreement and emotion as virtually ever other  judgment made under the same Directives along this long and winding road.

I will update this post later as necessary, and also add the text of the Indian appeal when and if it becomes available.

For further blog entries on ODF and OOXML, click here

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Comments (32)

  1. As we’ve been discussing lately, the Directives don’t specify any "otherwise" to all of those "shalls."  Thus, as Rick reminds us, the "shall this" and "shall that" Directives regarding the BRM are really advisory and all that counts is the final NB vote.

    Well, in the same regard the NB vote is in so why should the "shalls" that  you quote have any more force than the ones regarding the BRM itself?  What happens if the ISO Secretariat just round-files these protests?

    • No, I didn’t say they were advisory, just that the Secretaries-General (of ISO and IEC) could consent to them being varied (presumably in some exigency) according to JTC1 Directives s1.2. 

      For example, say the Geneva power supply was unavailable for a month, computers were down, and this delayed progress of some standard. Obviously deadlines would be adjusted accordingly. You don’t win or lose on a technicality at JTC1: it is the national body votes that count.

      Rick Jelliffe

      • Call it "recommendation" or anything else.  My point is that saying "you shall do X" takes dramatically different meanings when there is no consequent language.  "Shall" with no consequence for "did not" is indistinguishable from "should."

        There’s been a lot of words over the dam on the idea that standards language is a precise dialect and that the Directives are written in standards language so that terms in the Directives have the same meaning as terms in the standards themselves.

        I therefore present the thought experiment: as you have observed, there is not and should not be any practical difference if the "shall" clauses governing the BRM are not met.  In the spirit of uniform interpretation, then, what is to be said of a proposed instantiation of DIS-29500 that doesn’t always close tags?

      • For a start, the XML well-formed rules are intended for parsing, not as a method of organizational procedures. A human review for the XML rules is ludicrous. So your example is bogus.

        But if the spec for W3C XML did  say

        "A well-formed document shall accord to the syntax rules in this recommendation unless specifically deemed well-formed by the Director"

        then it would not in any way dilute "shall" because both are absolute requirements.

        Rick Jelliffe

  2. I was  under the impression that the word "shall" has a very specific and important legal meaning of  "you shall not do otherwise".  In such a context much of what has been done against the directions is wrong and actionable.

    • What I believe “overshoot” is hinting at is that without anything in their rules stating what will happen if they don’t comply with all those “shall”, saying it’s “actionable” is meaningless: The rules don’t create any kind of punishment or corrective action that can be taken to either get rid of those involved or force them to do what they are required to.

      The only hope if they choose to ignore their own rules would be to get the general assembly of ISO to act, but that would presumably mean getting a majority of the national bodies of member countries to consider this serious enough to take any real action against the people involved.

      Given the lessons from the OOXML fiasco that would presumably be a major uphill battle (in other words: even more votes that can be “influenced”, from parties that presumably largely don’t care).


      • India, Brazil, and South Africa can also take ISO to the international courts to get a verdict on whether ISO broke its mandates, as this would be ISO corruption involving a trade issue.

      • This is an extraordinary claim. What is is its basis in law? 

        A trade treaty is one between nation states. ISO is a voluntary organization of standards bodies, one per country. It is no more accountable to International Courts than Rotary (the service club) is: which is not to say that there could not be national action (or delegated national action, as in the EU case.)

        Rick Jelliffe

      • Rick is right on this.  I cannot think of a way in which this could be taken to any international court of which I am familiar.

        However, I can think of one not at all inconceivable way in which the connection could be made.  Under the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, a country cannot use a requirement to use a home-grown standard when a global standard exists, or needless conformance testing requirement, to keep foreign goods out of its market.  If China, for example, were to require that all office suites should be compatible with its own UOF XML format standard and Microsoft  were to try to get the US government to contest the action through an action under the TBTA through the World Trade Organization because (by then) OOXML had received final approval, one could imagine that China might contest the validity of OOXML, leaving it free to ignore OOXML and require UOF compliance.

        This isn’t a totally real world example, since ODF is out there as well, so I offer it only to show that there can be a nexus between ISO/IEC approval and international trade disputes under treaties that can be taken  before appropriate international tribunals. 

          –  Andy

      • Yes. And  for the various National Bodies that are actually government departments the connection might be closer.

        But it is not "taking ISO to the International Courts"!

        Rick Jelliffe

      • I suspect the EU would also consider at least *SOME* of this corruption to be due to MIcrosoft’s influence since this whole thing is blowing up over Microsoft’s standard.

        That could be bad for Microsoft and possibly very embarrassing for many Microsoft supporters both within the NBs and in positions of higher authority.

        It could also go some way toward converting Microsoft into a truly viral and toxic political bedfellow – world-wide.

      • In this case, if JTC1/SC34 did not follow their own rules, it would seem to be sufficient to simply nullify any action where the rules were not followed:

        For example, if the BRM did not follow the appropriate voting rules, the BRM votes are declared invalid.  The BRM is declared a failure at not having reached any consensus on OOXML and OOXML fails.  The appeals are vidicated, the remedies requested are satisfied, everyone wins (Even Microsoft who is now using ODF and has abandoned ISO OOXML anyway).

        I think it’s reasonable to argue that rules that specify "SHALL" are accompanied by the implied action that whatever the "SHALL" was in support of would not be valid unless the "SHALL" was satisfied.

        In that vein, failure to distribute the final text within one month of the BRM (a ‘SHALL’ rule) would result in the revised text being invalid simply because the ‘SHALL’ was not followed and the distribution of the final DIS29500 was not given any exception during the 1-month window.

        Therefore, because the distribution of DIS29500 was not accomplished, the distribution failed.  Because the distribution of the draft was a required step in the approval of DIS29500 (the ‘SHALL’ word again), DIS29500 approval failed.

        Simple really.  I fail to understand how so many MS supporters fail to comprehend simple English.

      • For example, if the BRM did not follow the appropriate voting rules, the BRM votes are declared invalid.  The BRM is declared a failure at not having reached any consensus on OOXML and OOXML fails.  The appeals are vidicated, the remedies requested are satisfied, everyone wins (Even Microsoft who is now using ODF and has abandoned ISO OOXML anyway).

        That’s exactly what Rick and I are going around about.  His position is that no matter what happens at the BRM, the final vote of the NBs is sovereign.

        If so, I point out that there is no practical difference between "shall" and "should" or "may."

      • I would point out that if the BRM did not follow it’s rules, it’s outcome is nullified and there never was a ‘document’ for the NBs to vote on in the first place.

        If the BRM is nullified, then the NBs voted on the wrong document and they would either need to vote over, or their vote would also be nullified.

        Rick can say what he likes, but if the NBs voted on the wrong document or on an invalid document (because of the BRM being invalid in not following its own rules), then the approval for some non-existent verion of DIS29500 that the NBs thought they voted on may or may not have been valid (it doesn’t really matter), but the actual DIS29500 (unmodified by the BRM) would never have had a vote other than the ‘no’ from September.

        Therefore, I don’t see where Rick has an argument other than promoting an agenda.

  3. In the PC World article, one can read:

    "By the deadline last night, we had received three appeals, from Brazil, India and South Africa," said Jonathan Buck, spokesman for IEC.

    They are late delivering the final text by one month. If they fail to implement the proposed changes from the BRM, and the deadline for appeals is already over, how can the NB appeal !?

    I’m confused! Shouldn’t the deadline for appeals be extended by as much time as the delay in delivering the final text?

    This seems highly irregular since you can not appeal based on technical issues remaining on the standard! Right?

    • "They are late delivering the final text by one month"
      If fact, they are already late delivering the final text by 2 months.  The deadline was one month after the BRM (ended on 29-Feb), so it was 29-Mar.  We are now on 30-May, i.e. 2 months after the deadline.
      Luc Bollen

        Resolution 8: Distribution of Final text of DIS 29500″

        “SC 34 requests the ITTF and the SC34 secretariat to distribute the already received final text of DIS 29500 to the SC 34 members in accordance with JTC 1 directives section 13.12 as soon as possible, but not later than May 1st 2008. Access to this document is important for the success of various ISO/IEC 29500 maintenance activities.”

        JTC1-directives, Section 13.13:

        “13.12 (…)
        • In not more than one month after the ballot resolution group meeting the SC Secretariat shall
        distribute the final report of the meeting and final DIS text in case of acceptance.”

      • I don’t know if the parent was an attempt to argue that May 1 was some sort of official deadline, but in any case, that’s not how I read that. I think that was just a request. I think the text was already late by the SC34 meeting and that frustration at the lateness was what prompted that motion.


      • Yes, it was an attempt to say it was 1st of May. Thanks for the explanation! Now it makes sense…

      • That’s a separate unrelated deadline to do with SC34 asking ITTF for the text. ITTF did not comply with the request.

      • "That’s a separate unrelated deadline" ok… but the question is, if the text was already released, couldn’t the appeals also be based on problems in the final text?

      • It seems not possible to appeal on the content of the final text in this case – which is a direct result of the directives not being properly followed.

        It strikes me that there is some relationship between the final text being made available to the NB’s within 30 days of the close of the BRM, and those same NB’s having 30 days from the end of the BRM to reconsider their vote. 

        Bob Jolliffe

      • Yeah: a odd coincidence? I think not. At least to me it doesn’t make sense to vote on something that is not finished.

      • It strikes me that there is some relationship between the final text being made available to the NB’s within 30 days of the close of the BRM, and those same NB’s having 30 days from the end of the BRM to reconsider their vote.

        Only at first blush.

        The problem is that a final version that arrives the same day as (or day before) the deadline isn’t really any better for thoughtful consideration, meeting, consensus, etc. than one that arrives a day after the deadline.

        On the other hand, the deadline for appeals and the final version have a lot more to do with each other.  NBs can reasonably vote for reconsideration based on the results of the BRM [1] and then if the draft comes back substantially different from what they were led to believe they were voting on they can appeal on the grounds that either the text is wrong or their vote was based on them being misled.

        [1] Remember, this process assumes a typical ISO document of only a few pages.

      • I think any NB can appeal about almost any *action* they consider untoward at any time: JTC1 Directives 11.1.2.  

        The appeals on *decisions* have the two month deadline 11.1.1.  So appeals based on decisions on the BRM could be clocked, but an appeal based on something in the endorsed text of the standard would be entirely possible even after the deadline (if the text is only available after the post-BRM deadline appeal) as an "action".   Again, I don’t see that there is a "poison fruit" doctrine operation: you would expect remedies to be ones which would help the issue be fixed, rather than overturning the ballot.   And I expect that delaying appeals reduces their power.

        I don’t know anyone who thinks that it is preferable to vote without having the endorsed text; nor do I know anyone who wants to sign up for JTC1 duties to try to get the Directives changed.

        Rick Jelliffe

        (As with a lot of standards and laws, trying to interpret them independently of training in their meaning is unfortunately fraught with difficulty. That is unfortunately a property of language and a thorn. It will be interesting to see if the ITTF or JTC1 people say that JTC1 intended to set up a distinction between actions and decisions, or whether it is just a phantom in the text. )

  4. Quote: "… this technical irregularity would be waived."

    Rules are waived, technical irregularities are overlooked  😉


    • Slashdot has an article called, Denmark Becomes Fourth Nation To Protest OOXML. It’s based on a article on Groklaw called: Now an OOXML Protest from Denmark’s OSL. If that is an official appeal, it would make five, including Venezuela.

      I don’t know from reading Groklaw’s article if it is an official appeal, though. The letter is from "Open Source Leverandørforeningen", which doesn’t sound like something that would be authorized to represent Denmark in an appeal. I assume only the national standard bodies can appeal.


      • Yes, it is not official.

        It is interesting that they are complaining that they didn’t have the endorsed text for their final meeting March 26, when the normal deadline for a final text would be a month after the finish of the BRM which finished Feb 29. It is reasonable to ask for the reason that an expected text was not ready after a deadline, but stretching it a little to complain that it was not available before the deadline, no?  Grasping at straws.

        Rick jelliffe

      • oh please…

        > It is interesting that they are complaining that they didn’t have the endorsed text for their final meeting March 26, when the normal deadline for a final text would be a month after the finish of the BRM which finished Feb 29.

        these are two separate complaints wrapped into one sentence…

        1) the schedule was so f*cked up that the final meeting was placed before the delivery of the final text

        2) even the latter deadline was missed

        I fail to see how this relates to grasping at straws as both complaints are reasonable, but in your version of the reality it may be a good idea to decide on a text you can’t read…

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