Groklaw has been following Microsoft’s scandalous behavior surrounding the impending ISO decision on whether the company’s OOXML file format will be accepted.

Groklaw details how Brazilian representative Jomar Silva has taken the bold step of disclosing information about Redmond’s arm-twisting and semi-covert manipulation of the inter-governmental standards process. Microsoft has done everything from stack the meetings with company reps and clients, to rigging the possible decisions available to representatives, to engaging in behind-the-scenes lobbying pressure to overturn  individual nation’s no-votes.

The fact that Microsoft can make such a mockery of a supposedly democratic decision-making body like ISO suggests that the folks at OSI and individual state organizations that manage standards need to get their act together and build a better resistance strategy. This kind of decision will prolong the process by which the world’s computers escape lock-in to Mircosoft’s incompatible, closed-source, insecure data standards. It would seem obvious that the opposition to Microsoft would have world-wide traction, since the creation of truly open standards would benefit powerful corporations (like IBM and Sun), powerful states, and the sustainable expansion of global IT markets.

The mainstream IT press has picked up the story, but let’s see if anybody over at the big US and Europan papers gives this any ink. At this point, Microsoft’s actions should be sufficient to invoke the ire of free market-minded editors at the WSJ, the Economist, and the FT. I’m not holding my breath, though.

For portuguese readers, you can also follow this story via Ada Lemos’ excellent blog, adadigital. Check out her most recent post on the OOXML debacle here.

It’s about time somebody told James Carville to cool it. Who better than Bill Richardson?

Last week, IP Justice appears to have announced a new campaign against the proposed “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement” (ACTA) on their website (hat tip to Manon Ress). The campaign page has some great resources, including a white paper on ACTA and links to most of the publicly available information disclosed by the governments currently involved in the negotiations. IP Justice has also created an email list for those who want to be involved in future discussions and responses to ACTA – you can sign up here.

Congratulations to Robin Gross and the rest of the IP Justice crowd for this work! I hope I can get involved.

An article over at Science Progress examines how state and local government in Virginia has stepped up to the problem of broadband market failures. I loved this story because it’s a great example of what a little public sector creativity can do to in the face of the current broadband duopoly in the US. According to the story, the money for these projects have been cobbled together from federal funds, a large Tobacco industry settlement with the state, city improvement projects, and even a few small time start-ups. It sounds like there’s still a ways to go in terms of integrating the network across the state as a whole, but that’s a wonderful problem to have when you’re looking at places that relied on dial up until recently. Here’s hoping the current state government can step in a fill that gap too.Perhaps more importantly from a national perspective, Virginia has provided a perfect test case for the sort of reforms the Democratic congress ought to implement in the next two years. Such initiatives would almost certainly  help the Dems reclaim/hold culturally conservative, rural, economically depressed regions of the country.  (H/T to Manon Ress of KEI for passing this story along the A2K grapevine) 

Jamie Love has a great little chart at HuffPo that spells out some of the very basic reasons why compulsory licensing of pharmaceuticals makes sense.

I enjoyed the title too.

 Use ODF Today!

Liberate your documents today for Document Freedom Day. It’s a great time to make the switch away from software that only saves your files in proprietary formats. After all, you never know when that next software update might suddenly render all your old work “incompatible” with that shiny new word processor you just got.

Instead of risking the high costs and wasted time of converting those old files to the new proprietary format (that will probably screw up their formatting anyway), take the chance to learn about document formats that embrace open standards like ODF.

I liberated my own documents about two years ago and never looked back. These days, I use a combination of NeoOffice, TextEdit, and Google Docs to meet all of my office productivity needs.

The LA Times runs a story by Tracy Wilkinson examining an impending shortage of global food aid likely to impact the world’s poor over the upcoming year. The UN’s World Food Program anticipates that, due to rising costs, it will lack sufficient funds to meet the needs of millions of people with unstable food supplies around the world. About half way in, the author makes the following direct statement in an attempt to explain the immediate sources of the crisis:

Food commodities are becoming more expensive because of rising demand in developing countries, natural disasters and climate change, and the shift of millions of tons of grains to the production of biofuels.

This is an admirably direct comment, however, she has left a few key factors out of the picture. The most important of them has to do with the structural relations of the global political economy:

Over the past thrity years or so, wealthy nation’s agro-subsidies coupled with the manipulation of commodity futures markets by corporate food producers have artificially depressed food commodity prices, thereby undermining productivity in poor countries. Now, at a time when commodity prices are rising, poor farmers and poor countries have been locked out of agricultural production by the subsidized (multinational) competition. As a result, they do not benefit from a business cycle, but instead face life-threatening shortages.

A stable global food supply will not come about through increased donations to the UN alone. It also requires a more fundamental transformation of the practices and rules of global trade.

This discussion paper on the proposed “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement” (ACTA) had been taken down by the new government.

I looked for it last week, but got a 404 error from the server. It appears to have returned.

ACTA comments round-up

March 24, 2008

A few other critical comments on the USTR’s proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement trickled in via email lists over the weekend. I thought I would provide a full listing of those I’ve hear about so far. Here they are in alphabetical order with links:

If anyone knows about others, let me know in the comments or via email (see my profile) and I’ll add them to this list.

Nate Anderson at Ars Technica files an entertaining story on Israel’s public comment in response to the International Intellectual Property Association’s (IIPA) “Special 301” recommendations.

Basically, the IIPA is an corporate lobbying group that wields a great deal of influence over what the USTR eventually puts into the Special 301 reports. It also has a disproportionate say over which countries do or don’t wind up on the notorious “Watch List.” It doesn’t take a lot to wind up on the IIPA sh*t list: anything short of bending to every demand of the group’s corporate membership just about guarantees the the IIPA will tattle to the US Trade Reps.

In response, Israeli officials appear to have concluded that the IIPA (and by extension the USTR) have a tenuous grasp on reality.

Now there’s a surprise.