UK Unix users seek funding to pursue OOXML fight

The UK Unix and Open Systems User Group has lost its legal challenge against the BSI regarding the OOXML format, but will appeal the decision

A group of UK open-source advocates is seeking donations so it can continue its fight against the approval of Microsoft's Office Open XML document format.

At the end of April, the UK Unix and Open Systems User Group (UKUUG) applied for a judicial review of the British Standards Institution's (BSI's) decision to vote 'yes' in an international vote on whether to standardise Office Open XML (OOXML). A High Court judge threw out the application on 5 June, but UKUUG is now set to appeal that decision, claiming that unresolved flaws in the OOXML specification threaten the long-term readability of documents created using the format. UKUUG also says OOXML is unnecessary, given the existence of the OpenDocument Format (ODF), another XML-based international standard format.

The international ballot took place at the end of March, under the auspices of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). OOXML won enough votes to be accepted as an ISO standard, but that process has now been stalled after four countries — South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela and India — appealed against the decision, claiming a flawed balloting process.

In a Thursday statement, UKUUG claimed Mr Justice David Lloyd Jones was wrong to reject its challenge to the BSI, and said it was seeking donations to help it appeal against Lloyd Jones's decision. The statement quotes Lloyd Jones as saying UKUUG's application "does not disclose any arguable breach of the procedures of BSI or of rules of procedural fairness", but it also quotes him as saying the application was "in any event… academic in light of the adoption of the new standard by ISO".

"UKUUG is disappointed that J Lloyd Jones appears to have overlooked UKUUG, stating that South Africa [and other countries] appealing had put OOXML into limbo," the statement read. "UKUUG is appealing [the] decision, since it believes that the judge was wrong in his reading of the papers. The matter will now be heard in open court." A date has yet to be set for this hearing.

According to UKUUG, the organisation faces a bill of £50,000 if the appeal is not successful. "All help, small or large, will be gratefully received," said UKUUG head Alain Williams, who directed any potential donors to UKUUG's legal fund web page.

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