EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS


Food for Thought: How Proprietary Silverlight and OOXML Stifle or Eliminate Open Access

Posted in America, DRM, Europe, Finance, Formats, FUD, Microsoft, Open XML, Vista, Windows at 6:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Open access without open formats is no longer open access

Recently, several fiasco-level incidents were discussed which involve governments putting public assets and services in the hands of outsourced professionals, who then misuse their degree of power and seemingly-unrestricted budgets. Many possible dangers become more concrete if this route is actually taken. Data belonging to a nation can be warped to become partially controlled by private companies.

“While governments ought to ensure all documents are stored in the format that lasts, the same general principles should apply to delivery of information.”At risk of going further out of focus, consider the relationship between digital preservation, which shapes and serves (ODF's purposes (it is also ODF’s upper hand and among its raison d’être) and open access — an issue whose significance is better realised as the Internet continues to expand. While governments ought to ensure all documents are stored in the format that lasts, the same general principles should apply to delivery of information. In Greece, such things are already being demanded.

Greek citizens, but also citizens of other countries, we jointly sign this text on the occasion of ERT’s choice to distribute its audiovisual archive non-freely to the public. Our aim and ambition is to publicize our propositions so that they become the starting point of an open dialog among the Greek society, the European and global public audience and to signal the revision of backward policies and the creation of common political wealth.

Few days ago, the ERT administration presented the beginning of the availability, only via Internet streaming, of a part of its audiovisual archive. This move constitutes an important first step, which, however, in our opinion, is tarnished by the fact that the public availability of the archive is not made free, although the Greek and European citizens have paid their money to make the production and digitization of the archive feasible.

Here is another example of an invaluable national asset. It received some timely coverage in the New York Times last week [via Glyn Moody].

What is Magna Carta worth? Exactly $21,321,000. We know because that’s what it fetched in a fair public auction at Sotheby’s in New York just before Christmas. Twenty-one million is, by far, the most ever paid for a page of text, and therein lies a paradox: Information is now cheaper than ever and also more expensive.

OOXML is badThe price of information and the price of tools that enable access to this information are separate. The former is related to the open access debate and the latter — to open standards. By neglecting to consider one of the two, governments can essentially forbid rather than inhibit access to assets owned by people. This is — needless to say — rather absurd and even outrageous.

In the remainder of this item, many examples will be given with particular emphasis on English-speaking countries (the UK and the US actually), which will also be last to embrace Free software properly, due to solidarity perhaps.

I was once told by a reliable source about Gordon Brown allowing his nation to be locked down by SharePoint. This almost immediately led to loss of trust and brought back memories of the Prime Minister’s affiliations (he is one of those other Bilderbergers, along with Tony Blair). The British Library, BECTA, National Archives and the BBC, for instance, either have ‘Trojan horses’ (individuals from Microsoft) or they are quite close to that whole ecosystem. As actual examples, consider some of the following:

British Library

Looking at the past year, here is what one might find. Books are being digitised, but given the nature of this public library, why the branding?

Digitised publications will be accessible in two ways -initially through Microsoft’s Live Search Books and then via the Library’s website.

Now, watch this. [expired, from Associated Press]

Now the British Library is appealing to ordinary Britons for their e-mails, saying it wants to create a snapshot of British life in 2007.


The e-mails will be collated and indexed by Microsoft Corp., which has previously partnered with the library to digitize books from its archive, and they will be available to researchers before the year’s end.

Once again you have to wonder why the Library’s great financial resources are unable to facilitate independent thinking and implementation. Was Free software considered at all? Was there a tender? How was procurement — if any was needed at all — actually done?

What about the Library’s DRM concerns? Does it know about Microsoft’s DRM affinity?

In a manifesto released on Monday at the Labor Party Conference in Manchester, the United Kingdom’s national library warned that the country’s traditional copyright law needs to be extended to fully recognize digital content.

“Unless there is a serious updating of copyright law to recognize the changing technological environment, the law becomes an ass,” Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library, told ZDNet UK.

To make matters even worse, watch how the Library falls for a scam that is all about Windows Vista and XAML.

Microsoft and the British Library have digitised two of Leonardo da Vincis’ notebooks.


The British Library has created an updated version of its application called “Turning the Pages” which allows people to browse parts of its 150 million piece collection via a web browser. We heard how this works better using Vista.


This fiasco has actually been covered here on several occasions. The FSF focuses on just one aspect of the many problems in the BBC, which seems to have a dual commitment (to the public and to its close partners Siemens and Microsoft).

Today the BBC made it official — they have been corrupted by Microsoft. With today’s launch of the iPlayer, the BBC Trust has failed in its most basic of duties and handed over to Microsoft sole control of the on-line distribution of BBC programming. From today, you will need to own a Microsoft operating system to view BBC programming on the web. This is akin to saying you must own a Sony TV set to watch BBC TV. And you must accept the Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) that the iPlayer imposes. You simply cannot be allowed to be in control of your computer according to the BBC.

(Britain’s) National Archives

This is one of the most astonishing examples you will find. Adam Farquhar is the Head of eArchitecture at the British Library and he is also serving Microsoft's OOXML. Microsoft and National Archives even issue joint press releases. Are they really trying to hand people a smoking gun along with a pair of handcuffs? And check our their publicity stunt in the BBC. The whole charade seems to be circular.

She was speaking at the launch of a partnership with Microsoft to ensure the Archives could read old formats.

Here is what Mr. Newton (of Alfresco in the UK) has to say about some of this:

With OOXML and XPS, Microsoft has chosen to not work with existing standards, but to create new ones, as they have in their recent announcement on Web3S instead of working with the rest of the industry on the Atom Publishing Protocol. In the case of OOXML, this is a logical move on Microsoft’s part, since it is an evolution of Microsoft’s XML strategy started with the Microsoft Office 2003 version and ODF will be a technology diversion from that strategy. With Microsoft controlling 90% of the office productivity tools market and OOXML being the default file format for Microsoft Office 2007, OOXML is likely to be widely-used.

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS)

One interesting tale is the huge disaster that collaborations in the NHS have been. The contract (or lease) involving iSoft more or less makes the NHS dependent on Microsoft — by proxy.

To give you a rough idea of the scale of this disaster in a medium-sized nation, consider some financial figures:

NHS computer boss failed IT exams

Mary Granger is amazed that her son was put in charge of a £20bn project to transform the NHS’s computer system. She is less surprised that his ‘Connecting for Health’ project is over-budget, behind schedule and threatening to become the biggest IT disaster in history.

Another example:

After months of negotiations, Accenture handed contracts worth £2bn over to rival Computer Sciences Corporation after getting paid just £110m for spending a third of the allotted 10 years on the job. Its hand had been forced by losses of $450m it was set to make on the deal this year.

Now, watch who was partly behind this:

Microsoft is one of the key technology firms in the £6.2 billion NHS IT programme. It is working particularly closely with iSOFT…

Daringly enough, with Free software out there, some actually claim ‘savings’.

NHS National Services Scotland forecasts it will save up to £8m over three years from a new procurement deal with Microsoft

Needless to say, the whole project ended up as a total disaster of proportions even greater than that of the BBC’s media unit. They too started looking at alternatives (think about the BBC turning to Adobe Flash).

The government’s vision of an integrated computer system for the NHS is coming apart at the seams as NHS trusts are to start looking for alternative IT suppliers, The Guardian reports.

To make matters worse, with Microsoft software in healthcare, see what people ended up coping with (living with or dying with).

“Very often they are not major incidents as such, but could be caused when a patient administration system is running slow or there may be problems with the local network. The severity level is attributed by the user and this is subsequently very often down graded or amended.”

Many of the incidents that have been reported by CfH include failure of the systems used by surgeons to see X-ray pictures on a computer screen in wards and operating theatres. On some occasions the system is believed to have crashed during an operation, forcing surgeons to suspend the procedure while a hard copy of the X-ray is found.

Never bet your life on it.

Partners and AstroTurfing in Great Britain?

The OOXML game does not only come to government-funded establishments. It goes further and right into businesses. Watch the response to Microsoft’s attempt to use its partners as pro-OOXML pawns.

The petition is an attempt to make it appear that Open XML has “pseudo-grassroots” support, argues Mark Taylor, the founder of the Open Source Consortium.

At this later stage, one ought to recall those incidents of Microsoft bribery in Sweden and elsewhere. There is some more information about it here, in case context is missing from the above.

Microsoft is calling on the Great British public to join its campaign to get the XML Office format adopted as an international standard.


It is not clear if the UK is an opponent. However, a representative of fellow member the Bureau of Indian Standards recently reportedly complained to the IndiaTime.com over Microsoft’s decision to dump 6,000 pages of documentation on them.

Let’s move over to the States and find the same type of abuse, as observed last just 4 days ago.

Library of Congress and the United States

What on earth is this? [via Andy Updegrove]

Microsoft to provide virtual access to Library of Congress


Interactive presentation software for kiosks will run on Windows Vista and its Web equivalent, built using Microsoft Silverlight. The project will also use Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Web content management software.

“Web equivalent,” says this article. Does that sound like lock-in or what? It’s the ‘next-generation ActiveX’ for all it seems. It’s another attempt to exert power, but what makes this one rather obnoxious is the fact that public assets get misused in the process. They are being turned against the public.

For similar reasons, by the way, Microsoft is said to have given free facilities to store vital medical data. It is making people’s lives dependent on Microsoft’s success. This way, as Silicon Graphics and its bankruptcy protection have taught the industry, Microsoft might receive government support at times of trouble. Microsoft holds the key that enables access to data.

The World’s Publications

A few months ago, Elsevier said that the future is open.

Two senior publishers have departed Elsevier and joined rival Biomed Central, placing their bets on an open access future for scientific research.

One ought to worry, however, after last week’s large acquisition by Microsoft. Will there ever will open access at Elsevier? Will open standards be involved as well? A couple of days ago, Glyn Moody warned that Microsoft and Elsevier are now partners. He drew a prophetic comparison a year and a half beforehand. What will this all mean when it comes to formats?

Open Access and Free Software to the Rescue

The remainder of this long post ought to illustrate the importance of open access, which is worthless unless you have open standards like ODF and even PDF. Here is an article which explains the symbiotic relationship between Free software and Open Access.

Free and open source software (FOSS) has roots in the ideals of academic freedom and the unimpeded exchange of information. In the last five years, the concepts have come full circle, with FOSS serving as a model for Open Access (OA), a movement within academia to promote unrestricted access to scholarly material for both researchers and the general public.

It all comes to show and address some very serious issues. Consider the following two articles from the past two months. The first is about taxpayers being refused access to studies that they fund.

“Cancer patients seeking information on new treatments or parents searching for the latest on childhood development issues were often denied access to the research they indirectly fund through their taxes”

The second shows the very cheeky approach some publications have adopted.

The journal wishes to charge me 48 USD to:


The journal is therefore


I am lost for words…

This issue of permitting nothing to be free and attempting to charge money for anything conceivable is dissected in the following good writeup from Jeremy Alison (of Samba fame).

I was down there to give a talk on “Open Source Business Models” for a conference. Also represented were entertainment industry lawyers, “Big Telecom” management, and a smattering of software people. Microsoft was there of course. You can’t hold a church fete with “Open Source” on the banner these days without Microsoft turning up and requesting representation. At least we also had Bruce Perens on our side to help make up the balance. The venue eas an unbelievably expensive hotel. Even though I was on expenses I balked at asking the company to pay for a room there and found something cheaper (not by much) a few miles down the road.

Here Come the Dark Forces

Sharing of information is a wonderful thing, is it not? Who could possibly deny access to information that promotes increased productivity? Moreover, who would prevent those that wish to make their own information and art available for free? Some people would.

As I’ve noted before, I’m something of a connoisseur of FUD, and I really like coming across new examples. Here’s one, directed at the burgeoning open access movement, which wants to make publicly-paid for scientific papers freely available…

Let’s not forget the music industry, which fears the idea of (legally) free distribution of art.

The music industry has reacted with outrage to the government’s rejection of pleas to extend the period musicians get royalties from their tracks beyond the current 50 years.

Increasingly, the same goes for video and other forms of art.

Success Stories

Despite all these ills of society, the so-called ‘open access movement’ is gradually winning. It defeats those who try to bury it. Example wins from the last year:

1. Libraries Defend Open Access

In an open letter last month, Rockefeller University Press castigated the publishers’ sock-puppet outfit, PRISM, for using distorting rhetoric in a coordinated PR attack on open access. N

2. ‘The New York Times’ drops online subscription service

The New York Times has finally given up on the Web-subscription model, announcing Monday that the newspaper’s online site will no longer charge for any content.

3. News Corp undecided on making WSJ.com free

“It would be a very expensive thing to do in the short term,” Murdoch told analysts on a telephone conference call to discuss News Corp’s quarterly earnings. “In the long term, it may be a wonderful thing to do, but we’re looking at it very closely.”

4. A Quest to Get More Court Rulings Online, and Free

The domination of two legal research services over the publication of federal and state court decisions is being challenged by an Internet gadfly who has embarked on an ambitious project to make more than 10 million pages of case law available free online.

5. Announcing the Open Library

Early this year, when I left my job at Wired Digital, I thought I could look forward to months of lounging around San Francisco, reading books on the beach and drinking fine champagne and eating foie gras. Then I got a phone call. Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive was thinking of pursuing a project that I’d been trying to do literally for years.


So today I’m extraordinarily proud to announce the Open Library project. Our goal is to build the world’s greatest library,

6. Berkman Center and CALI Partner to Create New Legal Education Resource

“We are looking forward to renewing a fruitful relationship with Harvard Law School through the Legal Education Commons project, which will provide innovative tools and access to open-licensed course materials to our more than 200 member law schools” said CALI Executive Director John Mayer.

7. Wikipedia Founder Joins EC Open Access Campaign

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said he signed a petition calling on the European Commission to give the public open access to taxpayer-funded scientific research because it was “simple and obvious” that the public should have access to research they had funded. “Public money should result in public benefit,” he added.

8. Google Custom Search

Guha was able to help me understand the significance of the recent announcement with the Hewlett Foundation of the Open Educational Resources search portal.


For example, a MIT implementation of the OE Search portal could choose to boost mit.edu sites, providing higher visibility for MIT’s OpenCourseWare offerings.

9. Public access to NIH research made law

President Bush has signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2007 (H.R. 2764), which includes a provision directing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide the public with open online access to findings from its funded research. This is the first time the U.S. government has mandated public access to research funded by a major agency.

With open access seemingly inevitable, the things to combat are censorship, increased traffic shaping, closed formats, patent-encumbered formats, and platform-exclusive formats. DRM-laden information is another time bomb, especially lacking standards and interoperability, with which the principles of DRM are somewhat incompatible.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New

  1. Luxembourg Can Become a Hub of Patent Trolls If the EPO Carries on With Its 'Reforms', Even Without the UPC

    With or without the Unified Patent Court (UPC), which is the wet dream of patent trolls and their legal representatives, the EPO's terrible policies have landed a lot of low-quality patents on the hands of patent trolls (many of which operate through city-states that exist for tax evasion -- a fiscal environment ripe for shells)

  2. The Patent 'Printing Machine' of the EPO Will Spawn Many Lawsuits and Extortions (Threats of Lawsuits), in Effect Taxing Europe

    The money-obsessed, money-printing patent office, where the assembly line mentality has been adopted and patent-printing management is in charge, is devaluing or diluting the pool of European Patents, more so with restrictions (monetary barriers) to challenging bad patents

  3. Links 17/3/2018: Varnish 6, Wine 3.4

    Links for the day

  4. Deleted EPO Tweets and Promotion of Software Patents Amid Complaints About Abuse and Demise of Patent Quality

    Another ordinary day at the EPO with repressions of workforce, promotion of patents that aren't even allowed, and Team UPC failing to get its act together

  5. Guest Post: Suspected “Whitewashing” Operations by Željko Topić in Croatia

    Articles about EPO Vice-President Željko Topić are disappearing and sources indicate that it’s a result of yet more SLAPP from him

  6. Monumental Effort to Highlight Decline in Quality of European Patents (a Quarter of Examiners Sign Petition in Spite of Fear), Yet Barely Any Press Coverage

    he media in Europe continues to be largely apathetic towards the EPO crisis, instead relaying a bunch of press releases and doctored figures from the EPO; only blogs that closely follow EPO scandals bothered mentioning the new petition

  7. Careful Not to Conflate UPC Critics With AfD or Anti-EU Elements

    The tyrannical Unified Patent Court (UPC) is being spun as something that only fascists would oppose after the right-wing, anti-EU politicians in Germany express strong opposition to it

  8. Links 15/3/2018: Qt Creator 4.6 RC, Microsoft Openwashing

    Links for the day

  9. PTAB Continues to Increase Capacity Ahead of Oil States; Patent Maximalists Utterly Upset

    The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) sees the number of filings up to an almost all-time high and efforts to undermine PTAB are failing pretty badly -- a trend which will be further cemented quite soon when the US Supreme Court (quite likely) backs the processes of PTAB

  10. Patent Maximalists Are Still Trying to Create a Patent Bubble in India

    Litigation maximalists and patent zealots continue to taunt India, looking for an opportunity to sue over just about anything including abstract ideas because that's what they derive income from

  11. EPO Staff Has Just Warned the National Delegates That EPO's Decline (in Terms of Patent Quality and Staff Welfare) Would Be Beneficial to Patent Trolls

    The staff of the EPO increasingly recognises the grave dangers of low-quality patents -- an issue we've written about (also in relation to the EPO) for many years

  12. The EPO is a Mess Under Battistelli and Stakeholders Including Law Firms Will Suffer, Not Just EP Holders

    As one last 'gift' from Battistelli, appeals are becoming a lot more expensive -- the very opposite of what he does to applications, in effect ensuring a sharp increase in wrongly-granted patents

  13. The EPO Under Battistelli Has Become Like China Under Xi and CPC

    The EPO is trying very hard to silence not only the union but also staff representatives; it's evidently worried that the lies told by Team Battistelli will be refuted and morale be affected by reality

  14. Links 14/3/2018: IPFire 2.19 – Core Update 119, Tails 3.6

    Links for the day

  15. Links 13/3/2018: Qt Creator 4.5.2, Tails 3.6, Firefox 59

    Links for the day

  16. Willy Minnoye (EPO) Threatened Staff With Disabilities Said to Have Been Caused by the EPO Work Pressures

    Willy Minnoye, or Battistelli's 'deputy' at the EPO until last year, turns out to have misused powers (and immunity) to essentially bully vulnerable staff

  17. IAM and IBM Want Lots of Patent Litigation in India

    Having 'championed' lobbying for litigation Armageddon in China (where IBM's practicing business units have gone), patent maximalists set their eyes on India

  18. The Patent Trolls' Lobby (IAM) Already Pressures Andrei Iancu, Inciting a USPTO Director Against PTAB

    Suspicions that Iancu might destroy the integrity of the Office for the sake of the litigation ‘industry’ may be further reaffirmed by the approach towards patent maximalists from IAM, who also participated in the shaming of his predecessor, Michelle Lee, and promoted a disgraced judge (and friend of patent trolls) for her then-vacant role

  19. Patent Trolls in the United States Increasingly Target Small Businesses Which Cannot Challenge Their Likely-Invalid Software Patents

    South by Southwest (SXSW Conference/Festivals in Austin, Texas) has a presentation about patent trolls, whose general message may be reaffirmed by recent legal actions in Texas and outside Texas

  20. EPO Staff Union Organises Protest to Complain About Inability “of the Office to Recruit the Highly Qualified Staff it Needs.”

    Having already targeted union leaders and staff representatives, the EPO may soon be going after those whom they passionately represented and the staff union (SUEPO) wants the Administrative Council to be aware

  21. Battistelli Likes to Describe His Critics as 'Nazis', Team UPC Will Attempt the Same Thing Against UPC Critics

    Demonising one's opposition or framing it as "fascist" is a classic trick; to what degree will Team UPC exploit such tactics?

  22. Session in Bavaria to Discuss the Abuses of the European Patent Office Later Today

    The EPO shambles in Munich have gotten the attention of more Bavarian politicians, more so in light of the Constitutional complaint against the UPC (now dealt with by the German FCC, which saw merit in the complaint)

  23. Links 12/3/2018: Linux 4.16 RC5, KEXI 3.1, Karton 1.0, Netrunner 18.03, Debian 9.4

    Links for the day

  24. EPO Patent 'Growth' Not Achieved But Demanded/Mandated by Battistelli, by Lowering Quality of Patents/Services

    Targets at the EPO are not actually reached but are being imposed by overzealous management which dries up all the work in a hurry in order to make examiners redundant and many European Patents worthless

  25. Doubt Over Independence of Judges at the EPO Clouds Reason in Deciding Regarding Patents on Life

    With the growing prospect of a Board of Appeal (BoA) having to decide on patentability of CRISPR 'innovation' (more like explanation/discovery), questions linger or persist about judges' ability to rule as they see fit rather than what some lunatic wants

  26. Patent Academics and CAFC Make a Living Out of Patents, But Both Must Begrudgingly Learn to Accept That Patents Went Too Far

    A look at academic pundits' views on the patent system of the United States and where the Federal Circuit (a high patent court) stands on these matters after the US Supreme Court (highest possible court) lashed out at many of its decisions, especially those from the disgraced Rader years

  27. Patent Maximalists Cause a Crisis of Legitimacy for Patent Law

    The patent extremists who nowadays equate monopolies on mere ideas to "property" and "rights" gradually cause the public to lose respect for patents, more or less in the same way copyright maximalists (and copyright trolls) cause the population to seek alternatives (both legal and illegal)

  28. We Shall Soon Find Out Where Trump Appointees Such as Neil Gorsuch Stand on Patent Policies

    Staff shuffles at top-level roles will soon reveal what Donald Trump's changes mean to patent law and caselaw

  29. Trump's USPTO Changes Patent Designs, Changes Director/Deputy Director, and Anticipat 'Ranks' Patent Examiners Based on How They Deal With Section 101

    Today's USPTO isn't the same USPTO which was managed by Michelle Lee and anti-PTAB groups (proponents of software patents) have begun profiling examiners based on their stance on abstract/software patents -- a form of neo-McCarthyism

  30. Links 10/3/2018: Amarok 2.9.0, Debian 9.4, Sparky 5.3

    Links for the day


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time


Recent Posts