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South Africa appeals ISO's OOXML decision

By   |  May 23, 2008

UPDATED: The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has filed an appeal against the ISO decision to accept Microsoft’s Office OpenXML (OOXML) as an international standard. South Africa is the first country to appeal the decision within the stipulated 60-day appeal period.

In a letter signed by CEO Martin Kuscus, SABS says it is appealing on the basis of flawed procedures in the ballot resolution meeting (BRM) held in February. SABS also says that it is concerned that there is an increasing trend of international organisations being able to circumvent the consensus-based decision making of the ISO and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission).

In the letter, titled “Appeal from the South African national body regarding the outcome of the fast-track processing of DIS 29500 Office open XML”, Kuscus writes:

“The national body of South Africa (SABS), a P member of JTC 1, hereby submits an appeal against the outcome of the fast track processing of DIS 29500 Office open XML. This is based on the procedures followed before and during the ballot resolution meeting (BRM) held from 25 to 29 February 2008 to discuss the comments submitted on the fast-tracked DIS 29500 and the proposed responses from Ecma.

“In addtion, South Africa wishes to register its deep concern over the increasing tendency of international organizations to use the JTC 1 processes to circumvent the consensus-building process that is the cornerstone of the success and international acceptance of the ISO and IEC standards. The ability of large multi-national organization to influence many national bodies, with the resultant block-voting over-riding legitimate issues raised by other countries, is also of concern.”

Reasons for appealing

The SABS puts forward three reasons for appealing the decision:

1 – The SABS says that while the JTC 1 rules state that any contradictions with other standards must be resolved before the procedure can be fast-tracked, the secretariat did not adequately address contradictions raised by national bodies. “We understand that after Ecma was afforded the chance to address the NB [national bodies] comments submitted regarding contradictions, the JTC 1 Chairman, Secretariat and ITTF staff decided that convening a meeting to discuss contradictions would not be productive and that the best way to proceed would be to issue the draft for ballot without delay. The other NBs were not informed of the alleged contradictions but only informed, in the HOD meeting immediately prior to the BRM, that any issues of contradictions raised during the BRM would be ruled out of order by the BRM chairman.

2 – The second issue raised is that in terms of the JTC 1 guidelines decisions in the ballot resolution meeting should, if at all possible, be resolved by consensus. SABS says that “since only 67 of 1027 responses by Ecma were discussed the processes used to ‘approve’ the remaining responses by voting were questionable and did nothing to promote consensus”.

3 – The third issue is that within a month of the ballot resolution meeting, the secretariat is obliged to distribute a final report and the final text of the standard to all parties. This has not yet happened, close to two months after the BRM meeting. The guidelines also allow just 60 days to lodge an appeal against the decision, yet the final copy of the documentation, on which most national bodies will base their final decision is not yet available. “There is no indication of when the final DIS text might be expected, but it has not been distributed within the one month period prescribed.”

The SABS says that it “challenges the validity of a final vote that we contend was based upon inadequate information resulting from a poorly conducted BRM.

A copy of the SABS letter can be read here.

Andrew Rens, Intellectual Property Fellow at the Shuttleworth Foundation, says that this is an important move by the SABS as it takes the leadership in opposing the flawed processes surrounding the OOXML decision. Rens says that it is not just that processes around the decision were not robust enough but that the procedures were simply not followed.

“Ram-rodding the process through means that you end up with a flawed standard,” says Rens.

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3 Responses to “South Africa appeals ISO's OOXML decision”

  1. Jacques SEOman
    May 29th, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

    Good old SABS standing up and not taking any nonsense from Microsoft. Fair is fair, and fast tracking a monopoly is really silly, so it is nice to see that our governing authority is standing its ground!

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    May 30th, 2008 @ 8:56 am

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