Brazil appeals ISO ratification of OOXML

The country has joined South Africa in appealing the ISO decision to ratify Office Open XML as ISO/IEC DIS 29500
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Brazil is to appeal the International Organization for Standardization decision to ratify Microsoft Office Open XML, now known as ISO/IEC DIS 29500.

In a letter to ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 on Thursday, Associação Brasileira de Normas Técnicas (ABNT), the ISO national body representing Brazil, filed an appeal against the approval of Office Open XML (OOXML) as an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard.

"ABNT, as a P member of ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC34, would like to present to ISO/IEC/JTC1 and ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC34 this appeal for reconsideration of the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 final result," wrote Marcia Cristina de Oliveira, the ABNT standardisation processes manager.

The letter, published by open-source expert Andrew Updegrove on standards blog ConsortiumInfo.org, revealed that ABNT was appealing to ISO on the grounds that the ISO ballot resolution meeting (BRM) in April was inconclusive.

According to ABNT, the total number of responses to OOXML from national bodies that was addressed at the BRM was 189 out of 1,027, or 18 percent. The 1,027 responses included recommendations to alter OOXML, which were supposed to have been resolved before OOXML could have been ratified. ABNT added that 838, or 82 percent, of those responses were not considered at the BRM, but rushed through in block votes.

The Brazilian national body said that it had not been given enough time at the BRM to present a proposal regarding legacy binary mapping, in breach of ISO rules. ABNT also said it had decided to appeal as the final text of DIS 29500 had not been made available to national bodies, even though ISO regulations state that no more than a month should pass between ratification of a standard and a final text being made available.

However, even the road that led to Brazil appealing seems to have been rocky. Jomar Silva, director general of the ODF Alliance Brasil and a member of the ABNT group that voted on OOXML, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday that OOXML supporters in ABNT had tried to block Brazil's appeal from within, by refusing to engage in discussions when the group was deciding whether to appeal. Silva claimed he presented a number of arguments as to why Brazil should appeal, but OOXML supporters continued to attempt to derail the process.

"The OOXML supporters [were] tied to [the] fragile and indecent argument [of] 'we're not prepared to discuss', saying that, in this way, Brazil could not make the protest against the whole process by 'lack of consensus'," wrote Silva. "Just to clarify, [in] the ISO directives 'Consensus is the absence of reasoned opposition'."

According to Silva, the discussions descended into farce, with the OOXML supporters even refusing to allow the ABNT representative to speak. "For the first time, I almost saw a real fight inside a meeting," wrote Silva.

ABNT is the second national body to appeal the ISO's decision on OOXML. On Thursday, it was revealed that the South African ISO national body, the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), was also appealing, on the grounds of a "poorly conducted" BRM.

"South Africa challenges the validity of a final vote that we contend was based upon inadequate information resulting from a poorly conducted BRM," wrote Martin Kuscus, chief executive of SABS.

Kuscus added: "Moreover, we challenge the validity of a process that, from beginning to end, required all parties involved to analyse far too much information in far too little time, and involved a BRM that did not remotely provide enough time to perform the appointed purpose of that procedure, and for which an arbitrary time limitation was imposed to discuss and resolve a significant number of substantial responses, despite [ISO] directives not requiring any such limitation as to duration."

An ISO spokesperson declined to comment as to what effect the appeals would have on ISO/IEC DIS 29500.

"The ISO Technical Management Board is meeting next week," wrote the spokesperson in an email exchange. "We will communicate after this meeting on what appeals have been received, how we will process them and what impact this may have on the publication of the standard."

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