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Microsoft Word Document ML Schemas Published 439

Posted by timothy
from the danish-means-more-than-a-snack dept.
Lars Munch writes "On Monday the 17th November the xml schemas for the Word Document ML along with documentation, was uploaded to the Infostructurebase (ISB). With the Word Document ML specification anybody can generate, view and process Microsoft word documents on any format." (Here are the legal terms under which the schemas can be used.) "The Word Document ML is based on the W3C specification eXtensible Markup Language (XML), there by providing documents that are easy to integrate into a large variety of systems. The Danish Government Infostructurebase is the first schema repository to make the schemas accessible to the public. The Microsoft Office Document ML schemas and documentation can now be downloaded from the ISB Repository." There are more links on this page.
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Microsoft Word Document ML Schemas Published

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  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:18PM (#7493323) Homepage Journal
    I was struck by Microsoft's about-face on proprietary data formats when I attended their "Microsoft Office System Launch" (details here [officesystemlaunch.com]) earlier this month.

    On the "Development" track, I was hoping to get some information on interfacing Office tools as objects in an existing (very large) VB application. Well, I didn't get that, but I did get to see how Microsoft is using XML to cut off one of Open Source software's big draws: open file formats. As mentioned, one of the big selling points was that you no longer have to install an app like Word on your server. You can instead use any XML-generating program to create fully compliant Word/Excel/Whatever files.

    So if the PHB [dilbert.com] was almost talked into Open Source by the security issues of installing a virus portal like Word on a trusted system behind the firewall, Microsoft just cut your legs off.

    An interesting case of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, *then* beat 'em."

    By the way, I bailed out of the "Development" track at lunch. The presentation didn't get into code at all... it was just a demo of how new features in Word will now allow anyone to create XML Schemas and "Solutions" (groups of schemae), and thereby call themselves a "programmer". Just what we need, another way to quickly generate bloated, write-only code.
    • There is no 'about-face' but it seems clever.

      Put XML support on the pro version of the software, so it looks open, but because it's not on all versions, people will have to use the non-open for sending to people in case they don't have Pro.

      I can't see any other reason for not including it in Pro.

      You still won't be able to run Word as a server app either.

      • Yup -- I tossed an article onto Slashdot about a year ago pointing this out.

        I'm not familiar enough with Word internals to know how useful the schema would be in translating documents losslessly between formats (and am very dubious that it would be particularly easy), but it isn't even necessary to go that far -- the point is that the non-Pro copies of Word don't support XML format export.

        Microsoft isn't going to give up the golden strength of a file format lock-in any time soon, even if they let companie
        • by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:55PM (#7494848) Homepage Journal

          Microsoft isn't going to give up the golden strength of a file format lock-in any time soon, even if they let companies use custom indexing tools on their store of documents (which is really what this whole XML business is about).

          Unless I'm missing something, I think this does break the lock-in, in large part. With a published, standardized format, non-Microsoft tools can implement support for it, and users can expect it to work reliably. Openoffice.org, for example, can probably support the new MS format simply by adding a pair of XSLT stylesheets (though they may want to take a different approach for performance).

          This means that users of non-MS tools will be able to create documents, confident that MS Office users will be able to read them. There are still limitations going the other way, but that still means that non-MS tools only have to write import filters for the old Office formats, halving the work, and that is really won't be an issue in the business world, where Office Pro is the norm anyway.

          I think think this move will prove painful for MS, but probably less painful than sticking with completely closed formats, given the way they've been getting beat up about it.

      • by superyooser (100462) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:45PM (#7494107) Homepage Journal
        Slight clarification: Only the Pro edition can create XML Office documents, but any edition of Office 2003 can read them.
    • by conner_bw (120497) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:32PM (#7493478) Homepage Journal
      An interesting case of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, *then* beat 'em."

      I think the issue here is that they have already won [essential.org].

      Since their Office suite has %95+ of the Windows and Macintosh market share, why not open the specs up?

      This leads to other apps copying the MS specs and PHB's to conclude that since all documents are now MS Office documents, why not buy the brand most compatible with the format? I.E. Microsoft.

      --
      Tired of spammers? Kill them all [si20.com]! Let the irony of this sig sort 'em out.
      • by Slime-dogg (120473) on Monday November 17, 2003 @03:05PM (#7494933) Journal

        why not buy the brand most compatible with the format?

        That's an easy one to answer. You've got 300-400 machines that require an office application suite, but you've got a small budget. Complete compatilibility is not much of an issue if you can save (400*$600) $180,000 - $240,000, yet run a "mostly compatible" suite. Now, with the opening of the format, that "mostly compatible" becomes "compatible."

        Then there's the whole issue of MS Licensing 6.0 (as if it's a whole other application itself).

        • by Pharmboy (216950) on Monday November 17, 2003 @05:39PM (#7496450) Journal
          Now, with the opening of the format, that "mostly compatible" becomes "compatible."

          Did any of you read the actual Microsoft patent statement? It says you must obtain a license if you USE the information in a seperate application for compatability. Quoting them:

          "There is a separate patent license available to parties interested in implementing software programs that can read and write files that conform to the Specification."

          Technically, anyone that looks at it, and uses it to put compatability for Open Office, are infringing on their patent. And now that the spec is in the open, its very easy for microsoft to say "we opened it up, and they infringed, this is why we dont like open source". This also means, that if you DON'T look at it, and instead do manage to reverse engineer it, it is likely that a judge will believe MS that you are lying and instead just read their "open" standard.

          Its open, as long as you don't use it.
    • I went to the same launch event and it was nothing more than an 8 hour marketing presentation. I took the IT track and stuck with it until the end because at the end we all got retail copies of Office 2003 pro. Of course it was just a voucher and it doesnt seem like MS will be shipping it to us until late next month while the torrents are everywhere.

      Aside from that I cant complain, free software, free food, met some cool people. Felt like a corporate lan party in some weird way.

      I think the most inter
      • Virtual PC kicks the shit out of VMWare. VMWare is a huge resource hog, where Virtual PC runs significantly faster on less resources. I have both, VPC on windows/mac and vmware on linux/windows. Virtual PC wins hands down.
    • by KagakuNinja (236659) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:40PM (#7493542)
      Word will now allow anyone to create XML Schemas and "Solutions" (groups of schemae)...

      Just thought you would like to know, the plural of schema is schemata.

      Mr. Language Person
    • Except things like the new document security functionality will, I'm sure, only work with Word and their server software.

      They're opening just enough to make people think they're being open, but they're just going to leverage it into other functionality that won't be open.

    • Also known as "Embrace, and extend".

      I'll believe it when I see it. And I'll really believe it, when I see that the EULA on the MS schemas remains open and unrestricted over the next few years.
    • by Darth Daver (193621) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:36PM (#7494034)
      That certainly is a nice pro-Microsoft spin you put on things, but perhaps you can explain the logic behind your statements. How did they "out-open-source" Open Source software? How can they be more open that what is already completely open?

      I am still skeptical that Microsoft has truly made this open. Excuse me, but I don't just blindly accept what Microsoft says at face value. Microsoft has a serious credibility problem from lying about so much for so long. Even if Microsoft has finally caught up to the Open Source community regarding the openness of file formats, that helps OpenOffice and its users. It would make me feel even better about NOT spending hundreds of dollars on an office suite every few years.

      Microsoft just cut our legs off over security issues? Do you think opening a Word file format just magically makes all of their security issues go away?

      I saw some other Microsoft cheerleader congratulate Microsoft for "leapfrogging" Linux by finally providing a decent (remains to be seen) shell, but this person did not explain how this infant shell surpassed bash, pdksh, or zsh. Just because someone makes some wildly unsubstantiated claim about Microsoft's superiority does not make it true. Why should I believe this is anything more than PR and spin? I'm not convinced they have joined us, let alone beat us, at anything. Honestly, please explain your rationale.
      • That certainly is a nice pro-Microsoft spin you put on things... Honestly, please explain your rationale.

        Dude, did you read my post? :)

        Why should I believe this is anything more than PR and spin?

        That was my point -- unfortunately PR and spin are too often what the PHB's depend on when they're choosing a "strategic" direction. When I suggested that MS has cut you down, I meant in the view of the non-technical manager who believes everything Bill Gates says.

        But in full disclosure, I will admit that I'
      • Look at the bright side. When the League of Microsoft Moderators scramble to mod up a post so patently broken in fact and logical coherency, someone's in panic mode. That +5 is good news.
    • by Lodragandraoidh (639696) on Monday November 17, 2003 @03:30PM (#7495181) Journal
      I like this part the best:

      No right to create modifications or derivatives of this Specification is granted herein.

      I just had a flashback to when I was a kid and my Dad was giving me the old "do as I say, not as I do" lecture...
    • by 3seas (184403) on Monday November 17, 2003 @05:50PM (#7496572) Journal
      (Forwarded from Patents list)

      -------- Original Message --------
      Subject: [Patents] MS Office 2003 XML patented
      Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2003 13:48:11 +0100
      From: Carsten Svaneborg
      Organization: www.mpipks-dresden.mpg.de
      To: patents@aful.org

      Hi! Just came across the following:

      http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/ip/format/xmlpat en tlicense.asp
      Office 2003 XML Reference Schema Patent License

      Microsoft may have patents and/or patent applications that are necessary for
      you to license in order to make, sell, or distribute software programs that
      read or write files that comply with the Microsoft specifications for the
      Office Schemas.

      So usage of MS Word XML files requires a patentlicense.

      :

      You are not licensed to distribute a Licensed Implementation under license
      terms and conditions that prohibit the terms and conditions of this
      license. You are not licensed to sublicense or transfer your rights.

      The licence is royalty free, but GPL 7 requires the right to sublicence
      patent rights to the people who obtain a GPL program from you.

      so in other words Microsoft is using patents to prevent GPLed programs from
      accessing the XML format that MS Word will be using.

      This is very good timing, and goes to show how important it is to ensure
      that the software patent directive has articles that protects
      interoperativity from consituting patentinfringemet.

      --
      Mvh. Carsten Svaneborg
      http://www.softwarepatenter.dk
  • ....seems like all you have to do is put a notice in the code [microsoft.com] about using the spec. Sounds kind of like the original BSD license - i.e., with the advertising clause.
    • by Uma Thurman (623807) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:26PM (#7493405) Homepage Journal
      It's NOT reasonable. They don't allow any modifications or derivatives of the schema without permission.

      So, Microsoft will be free to continue changing their format with each new release, breaking all the open source programs for a time, causing time and trouble for users to upgrade.

      We don't like Word formats because they change frequently, and they are developed in a direction that suits Microsoft. How does this change anything?

      • by MAXOMENOS (9802) <maxomai AT gmail DOT com> on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:34PM (#7493490) Homepage
        I'll take this over having to reverse-engineer the specs and deal with potential IP issues. For once, Microsoft did us a favor, even if it does come with strings attatched.
        • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:49PM (#7493607) Homepage
          Previously we could reverse engineer their format and use it. Their work was covered by copyright, no problem once we create our own implementation.

          This schema is patented. Patents are an exclusive right to use an idea. Now if you use their format without upholding their conditions, you're a criminal, even if you figured out the format yourself.

          By publishing the format, they can cast doubt on anyone that does reverse engineer it. "I bet you read the spec on line".

          Also, being able to view the format isn't much use. It's XML, but that doesn't mean it will be meaningful cleartext. They can simply uuencode a big block of binary data, stick it between two tags, and it's valid XML.

          Learn from the past. Microsoft are not here to do us favours.
          • I call bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

            by jrumney (197329) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:12PM (#7493813) Homepage
            This schema is patented.

            Microsoft knows full well that an XML schema cannot be patented. The patent nonsense is a way to scare off open source developers. They may hold patents on some algorithms they've used to implement this in MS Office, but we don't have to use those same algorithms to read those documents with an XML schema capable parser and do whatever we like with them.

            • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:08PM (#7494373) Homepage
              First, remember that file formats in general are patentable. The ASF video format is one example.

              Some might say: "But that's a binary format."

              Doesn't matter. Microsofts Office-xml format has plenty of binary data. They uuencode it so that it's official XML, but it's still encrypted or command content, not cleartext.

              What if Microsoft embedded an ASF video in the word format?
              They'd have to uuencode it first, then stick it in. Would this suddenly make the ASF format non-patented? no. And once parts of a format are patented, you can't recreate the whole format without negotiating a patent deal with the holder.

              Yes, the law is an ass. No, you can't circumvent it with clever words.
          • by dabadab (126782) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:16PM (#7493850)
            Don't forget that in the EU patents can not be abused in this, since the nice people from FFII and others got through an amendment that you are free to use patented technologies for interoperability - and I can't really imagine any other uses for a fileformat besides of interoperability.
            • Remember, they got that amendment through in the European Parliament. While that is a victory, the EP does not have a whole lot of real power, unfortunately. It's the European Commission that decides. And it's quite likely that they'll eventually endorse a version that doesn't have the good amendments.

              The EU sucks. They should make it democratic before expanding it.

      • > They don't allow any modifications or
        > derivatives of the schema without permission

        Hm. I guess I'm not sure what would be gained by doing that - i.e., changing the spec and republishing it. Why would that be a good thing to do, even if you could?

        > Microsoft will be free to continue
        > changing their format with each new
        > release, breaking all the open source
        > programs for a time

        Right... but couldn't the same be said of any API? I mean, if the Apache plugin API [apache.org] changes, I'll need to rewrite my mod_foo module to use the new API.
        • Right... but couldn't the same be said of any API? I mean, if the Apache plugin API changes, I'll need to rewrite my mod_foo module to use the new API.

          It's a good thing for MS, because they will, for a time, have the only compliant implimentation of the standards every time they change. Every other implimentation will lag behind as they seek to impliment the new standard.

          The main difference between these changes and the apachie API changes is that the apache people are not selling a closed source versio
        • by Uma Thurman (623807) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:23PM (#7493910) Homepage Journal
          >Hm. I guess I'm not sure what would be gained by doing that - i.e., changing the spec and republishing it. Why would that be a good thing to do, even if you could?

          1) All specifications are incomplete. The requirements that it addresses today are not static, and in 10 years there will be new requirements.
          2) Microsoft will change their XML schema.
          3) Historically, Microsoft has done things that are in the interest of Microsoft. Everyone else must follow along.
          4) Therefore, the changes that Microsoft will make the the XML schema have a high liklihood of being advantageous to Microsoft.

          When Microsoft keeps all the real control of the format, it turns any open source developer into a sharecropper. We're going to be plowing a field that we don't own, and the price we pay is going to entrench the Microsoft format even further.

      • Namespaces... (Score:3, Interesting)

        Couldn't you extend the file formats the 'Namespace Module' way? This has several advantages: First off, you aren't changing their spec, only adding a new namespace for a particular need -- and now you namespace modules are the proper and accepted way, in XML, to add functionality to a schema you don't control!
    • by Bananenrepublik (49759) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:26PM (#7493415)
      You have to display the following text in any derived work:

      "This product may incorporate intellectual property owned by Microsoft Corporation. The terms and conditions upon which Microsoft is licensing such intellectual property may be found at http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/odcXMLRef/ html/odcXMLRefLegalNotice.asp?frame=true [microsoft.com]."

      Now try the link ...
    • by corebreech (469871) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:31PM (#7493455) Journal
      Here's the part of the patent license I don't think I understand completely:

      By including the above notice in a Licensed Implementation, you will be deemed to have accepted the terms and conditions of this license. You are not licensed to distribute a Licensed Implementation under license terms and conditions that prohibit the terms and conditions of this license.


      You are not licensed to sublicense or transfer your rights.


      IANAL, but I think this says no open source implementation is possible, doesn't it?
      • No open sourced "Licensed Implementation" seems possible. I don't see any reason why you can't write a system that conforms to the published specifications without including the notice or becoming a "licensed implementation", since that would involve no reproduction of any Microsoft IP.

        • Well would you not fall under:

          There is a separate patent license available to parties interested in implementing software programs that can read and write files that conform to the Specification. This patent license is available at this location: http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/ip/format/xmlpate n tlicense.asp.

          Unless you were doing a complete clean room reverse implememtation, you'd definitely be caught by this, and even then you could have issues, after all patents can apply to completely seperate implem
      • I think this says no open source implementation is possible, doesn't it?

        Open Source != GNU Public License.

        Microsoft's licensing terms here seem to be closest to the BSD License out of the major open source models. A good decision if they're looking for rapid and widespread adoption of their design -- how many TCP/IP stacks do you know of that AREN'T derived from BSD?
        • But open source generally involves your granting certain rights to the code to others, and this license appears to prohibit that. If you can't transfer your rights to the code, how can you open source it in any meaningful way?
        • by cabalamat2 (227849) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:51PM (#7493633) Homepage Journal

          I think you are making 2 mistakes here:

          (1) You say: Open Source != GNU Public License..
          There's no such thing as the "GNU Public License"; you probably mean the GNU General Public License.

          (2) Microsoft's license says: "You are not licensed to sublicense or transfer your rights". This means if you write a program using Microsoft's license, and license your preogram under the BSDL, then someone using your program isn't licensed to modify it. I would imagine MS have done this deliberately to sabotage open source / free software implementations of their XML schemas.

      • I think the key phrase is
        You are not licensed to distribute a Licensed Implementation under license terms and conditions that prohibit the terms and conditions of this license.
        Which just accidentally happens to exclude any software that is licensed under GPL, since the GPL is not compatible with any licence that has a mandatory advertising clause.

        We are clever, aren't we!

    • This is what I found unreasonable as well as that you can't modify it like you can all other products out there in this world and sell them.

      "The name and trademarks of Microsoft may NOT be used in any manner, including advertising or publicity pertaining to the Specification or its contents without specific, written prior permission."

      In other words, you can not state in your specifications that your software can open and save in that particular format. So how are people going to know that the software ca
      • Simple...you state in the advertising materials for your product that it can open the same documents that a software suite with a name similar to Orifice made by a company with a name similar to Muckrosaft can...example documentation follows:

        Errfice 1.0 can open lots and lots of files...in addition to native StarOffice/OpenOffice document compatibility, there is another company that has a name like "Muckrosaft" that makes an office suite called "Orifice" with which this software is compatible (can you gue


    • Wrong! The specifications are one thing, but once
      you make code that uses it, you will have to
      follow Microsoft's licensing scheme, since they
      claim that their XML Office Schema is patented.
      Here is the link to that:

      http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/ip/format/xmlpa t en tlicense.asp

      The link on this page that references the actual
      details gives a 404, but I would bet that it only
      allows their schema to be used by closed source
      products. You can bet that GPL or BSD code will
      simply never be able to receive a license
    • no, it isn't (Score:3, Insightful)

      by penguin7of9 (697383)
      ....seems like all you have to do is put a notice in the code about using the spec.

      You can't sublicense or transfer the license. That means that Microsoft can stop new implementations any time they choose by simply changing the license on their web site. They may even be able to do that retroactively.
  • by warmcat (3545) * on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:18PM (#7493326)
    With thanks to Seth Johnson on the DMCA Discuss list for forwarding this earlier today:

    Subject: [Patents] MS Office 2003 XML patented
    Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2003 13:48:11 +0100
    From: Carsten Svaneborg
    Organization: www.mpipks-dresden.mpg.de
    To: patents@aful.org

    Hi! Just came across the following:

    http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/ip/format/xmlpat en tlicense.asp
    Office 2003 XML Reference Schema Patent License

    Microsoft may have patents and/or patent applications that are necessary for
    you to license in order to make, sell, or distribute software programs that
    read or write files that comply with the Microsoft specifications for the
    Office Schemas.


    So usage of MS Word XML files requires a patentlicense:

    You are not licensed to distribute a Licensed Implementation under license
    terms and conditions that prohibit the terms and conditions of this
    license. You are not licensed to sublicense or transfer your rights.


    The licence is royalty free, but GPL 7 requires the right to sublicence
    patent rights to the people who obtain a GPL program from you.

    so in other words Microsoft is using patents to prevent GPLed programs from
    accessing the XML format that MS Word will be using.


    This is very good timing, and goes to show how important it is to ensure
    that the software patent directive has articles that protects
    interoperativity from consituting patentinfringemet.
    • Possible solution (Score:5, Interesting)

      by infolib (618234) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:23PM (#7493382)
      This is a real problem. However I think it may perhaps be circumvented by having a MSOfficeOpenOffice converter under a BSD-like license. The combination of the BSD'd plugin and eg. OpenOffice might however infringe patents if they were too closely integrated. Murky legal waters. Ugh :-(
    • by conner_bw (120497) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:25PM (#7493398) Homepage Journal
      I think you may be incorrect...

      Anything uploaded as specs to "Infostructurebase" can not be, by their own mission statement, lock-in proprietary technology.

      Check out their overview [isb.oio.dk].

      --
      Tired of spammers? Kill them all [si20.com]! Let the irony of this sig sort 'em out.

    • by rruvin (583160) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:27PM (#7493424)
      So, let me get this straight:

      Microsoft is allowing you to license the patent free of charge but not to sublicense it. The GPL requires that you be allowed to sublicense patents applicable to GPLed software. And that's somehow Microsoft's fault?

      • The intent of the GPL is to guarantee that if I give you a program under a GPL license, then no one can take away your freedoms as regards that program. Microsoft's intent here is to license the patents in such a way that they can revoke the license if desired. These goals are rather incompatible. Whether that makes it MS's fault... that's up to you. Personally, it doesn't surprise me; I think it's bad, I think it's an abuse of the patent system, and I think it is exactly in keeping with the habits of M
    • by David Jao (2759) * <djao@dominia.org> on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:29PM (#7493442) Homepage
      GPL 7 requires the right to sublicence patent rights to the people who obtain a GPL program from you.

      Not true. Section 7 of the GPL requires that patent rights be publicly available, but it does not require that you personally sublicense those patent rights.

      Specifically, GPL section 7 says:

      ... if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.
      Since the Microsoft patent license does permit royalty-free redistribution, it does not contradict the GPL in this regard (although it may have other incompatibilities; I have not looked at the whole thing thoroughly yet).
    • so in other words Microsoft is using patents to prevent GPLed programs from accessing the XML format that MS Word will be using.

      Interesting. But wouldn't it be possible for programs such as OpenOffice to incorporate separate files which are distributed under a modified GPL which would contain the description of the format? Something like a plugin, which could be distributed separately but still allow full MS Office compatibility?
    • Not true (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nodwick (716348) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:36PM (#7493510)
      You omit the relevant parts of the patent license [microsoft.com]:
      Except as provided below, Microsoft hereby grants you a royalty-free license under Microsoft's Necessary Claims to make, use, sell, offer to sell, import, and otherwise distribute Licensed Implementations solely for the purpose of reading and writing files that comply with the Microsoft specifications for the Office Schemas. [...] If you distribute, license or sell a Licensed Implementation, this license is conditioned upon you requiring that the following notice be prominently displayed in all copies and derivative works of your source code and in copies of the documentation and licenses associated with your Licensed Implementation:

      "This product may incorporate intellectual property owned by Microsoft Corporation. The terms and conditions upon which Microsoft is licensing such intellectual property may be found at http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/odcXMLRef/ html/odcXMLRefLegalNotice.asp?frame=true."

      You are not licensed to distribute a Licensed Implementation under license terms and conditions that prohibit the terms and conditions of this license.

      The license explicitly allows you to sell/offer/distribute an implementation of their standard. The rest appears to be a bunch of legalese saying that you can't transfer your distribution rights to other people; it's not saying that you can't transfer your distribution. Since anyone else who feels like modifying your GPL'd code is allowed to sell/offer/distribute Microsoft's XML standard too under their license, I fail to see why this is hostile to the GPL license. The GPL itself only requires that a patent license be publicly available, not that the rights themselves have to be transfered to the users. Since the Microsoft license lets anyone use implementations royalty-free, it shouldn't be a problem.
    • Solution: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Alethes (533985)
      Create a BSD licensed application that accesses the XML format, so that users will have a choice other than MS Word.

      It seems that Microsoft has inadvertently demonstated that the GPL does not always protect the users' freedom, as is its intent. If the user can only use MS Word or some other highly restrictive software to access these file formats, because somebody has decided to be a GPL zealot, then the GPL has become a hindrance to the users' freedom.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:20PM (#7493340)

    From http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/ip/format/xmlpaten tlicense.asp [microsoft.com]:

    "...You are not licensed to sublicense or transfer your rights..."

    That whole page is worth reading, but doesn't this phrase in particular damage the ability to make use of the information in open source code, whether GPL or BSD?

    The page also says:

    "...If you distribute, license or sell a Licensed Implementation, this license is conditioned upon you requiring that the following notice be prominently displayed in all copies and derivative works of your source code and in copies of the documentation and licenses associated with your Licensed Implementation:
    'This product may incorporate intellectual property owned by Microsoft Corporation. The terms and conditions upon which Microsoft is licensing such intellectual property may be found at http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/odcXMLRef/ html/odcXMLRefLegalNotice.asp?frame=true [microsoft.com].'...

    Unfortunately, the page they ask you to link to doesn't actually exist...

    • In the US it does. But these software/method-patents wont work with the new european rules on software patents.
    • by heironymouscoward (683461) <heironymouscoward.yahoo@com> on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:31PM (#7493460) Journal
      Most probably the intention is to make the XML formats 'incompatible' with the GPL. However if this is the case, there is at least one easy work around, namely to define a neutral XML format (say the OOo XML format) and use a non-GPL 'connector' (which carefully observes the Microsoft patent license conditions) to do the dirty work.

      Any 'open' standard that imposes conditions on its use is not actually open at all. The owner can decide at any time to change the license, and this in itself should be enough reason to avoid this XML interface.

      I believe these XML standards are what is technically called a "honeypot".

      Of course, I may be paranoid, this may indeed be a munificent gesture by Microsoft who have realized that their XML schemas will serve the global community, add value to their products, and encourage a new generation of Office extension applications that will halt the trickle/rush/avalanche of Linux conversions.

      Indeed.

    • "http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/odcXMLRef / html/odcXMLRefLegalNotice.asp?frame=true"

      Hey, they can't be serious with THAT URL anyway.

      Perhaps we should point them to http://tinyurl.com/ ;-)
  • Given Microsofts history of skirting around verdicts and legal agreements, how long will this format be valid?

    How long before MS switches to either a new markup scheme, or introduces undocumented 'features'?

  • Hmph (Score:5, Funny)

    by WTFmonkey (652603) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:23PM (#7493372)
    THE SPECIFICATION IS PROVIDED "AS IS" AND MICROSOFT MAKES NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, NON-INFRINGEMENT, OR TITLE; THAT THE CONTENTS OF THE SPECIFICATION ARE SUITABLE FOR ANY PURPOSE; NOR THAT THE IMPLEMENTATION OF SUCH CONTENTS WILL NOT INFRINGE ANY THIRD PARTY PATENTS, COPYRIGHTS, TRADEMARKS OR OTHER RIGHTS. MICROSOFT WILL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF OR RELATING TO ANY USE OR DISTRIBUTION OF THE SPECIFICATION.
    vs.
    This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.
    Someone needs to tell Microsoft not to use so many caps, it's like YELLING.

    Defeated by my own cleverness and the lameness filter. Now I need to type at random in order to dodge the bullet. Neat-o. Nope, not enough yet. This is better than resorting to cut and pasting of the usual "Important stuff" list, don't you. Although it is rather early for this. DAMN IT still too many caps, although I guess that didn't help, now did it. I guess I could look at the code and see what the percentage is before it dies, but that's way harder than just typing until my fingers bleed.

  • Not so fast (Score:2, Interesting)

    by OMG (669971)
    Wait a second ... I think the XML-format document types are only available for corporate versions of MS office. If that is true there still will be a lot of propiertary binary-only .DOCuments around in the future.

    Nice tactics: MS now tells everybody "we use open standards" (as they already do) but the users keep saving files in closed formats.
    • Re:Not so fast (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chokolad (35911) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:28PM (#7493434)
      > Wait a second ... I think the XML-format document types are only available for corporate versions of MS office. If that is true there still will be a lot of propiertary binary-only .DOCuments around in the future.

      You are wrong. Word Standard Edition can save into WordML (which schema has been published). Enterprise version allows you to map certain parts of documents into Xml with customer specified schema.
      • >You are wrong.
        Ouch!

        >Word Standard Edition can save into WordML (which schema has been published). Enterprise version allows you to map certain parts of documents into Xml with customer specified schema.

        Does "...can save..." mean WordML will be the default file format in those Office versions?
  • legal terms (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:24PM (#7493388)
    Legal Notice

    Permission to copy, display and distribute the contents of this document (the "Specification"), in any medium for any purpose without fee or royalty is hereby granted, provided that you include the following notice on ALL copies of the Specification, or portions thereof, that you make:

    Copyright (C) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Permission to copy, display and distribute this document is available at: [here] [microsoft.com].

    No right to create modifications or derivatives of this Specification is granted herein.

    There is a separate patent license available to parties interested in implementing software programs that can read and write files that conform to the Specification. This patent license is available at this location: [here] [microsoft.com].

    THE SPECIFICATION IS PROVIDED "AS IS" [blah blah blah]

    The name and trademarks of Microsoft may NOT be used in any manner, including advertising or publicity pertaining to the Specification or its contents without specific, written prior permission. Title to copyright in the Specification will at all times remain with Microsoft.

    No other rights are granted by implication, estoppel or otherwise.

    following that second link...

    Patent License

    Microsoft may have patents and/or patent applications that are necessary for you to license in order to make, sell, or distribute software programs that read or write files that comply with the Microsoft specifications for the Office Schemas.

    Except as provided below, Microsoft hereby grants you a royalty-free license under Microsoft's Necessary Claims to make, use, sell, offer to sell, import, and otherwise distribute Licensed Implementations solely for the purpose of reading and writing files that comply with the Microsoft specifications for the Office Schemas. A "Licensed Implementation" means only those specific portions of a software product that read and writes files that are fully compliant with the specifications for the Office Schemas. The term "Necessary Claims" means claims of a patent or patent application that are owned or controlled by Microsoft and that are necessarily infringed by reading or writing files pursuant to the requirements of the Office Schemas. A claim is necessarily infringed only when it is not possible to avoid infringing when conforming to the specification because there is no technically reasonable non-infringing alternative for reading or writing such files. Notwithstanding the foregoing, "Necessary Claims" do not include any claims: (i) that would require a payment of royalties by Microsoft to unaffiliated third parties; (ii) covering any enabling technologies that may be necessary to make or use any product incorporating a Licensed Implementation (e.g., word processing, spreadsheet or presentation features or functionality, programming interfaces, protocols), or (iii) covering the reading or writing of files generally or covering the reading or writing of files other than those complying with the requirements of the specifications for the Office Schemas.

    If you distribute, license or sell a Licensed Implementation, this license is conditioned upon you requiring that the following notice be prominently displayed in all copies and derivative works of your source code and in copies of the documentation and licenses associated with your Licensed Implementation:

    "This product may incorporate intellectual property owned by Microsoft Corporation. The terms and conditions upon which Microsoft is licensing such intellectual property may be found at http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/odcXMLRef/ html/odcXMLRefLegalNotice.asp?frame=true."

    By including the above notice in a Licensed Implementation, you will be deemed to have accepted the terms and conditions of this license. You are not licensed to distr
  • The patent license requires everybody to prominently display this text on any product that can read/write Microsoft XML documents:

    "This product may incorporate intellectual property owned by Microsoft Corporation. The terms and conditions upon which Microsoft is licensing such intellectual property may be found at

    Too bad the link leads to a 404!

  • hell has frozen over (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bug (8519)
    Here's a blurb from the sister license granting use of their software patents related to the XML formats:

    By including the above notice in a Licensed Implementation, you will be deemed to have accepted the terms and conditions of this license. You are not licensed to distribute a Licensed Implementation under license terms and conditions that prohibit the terms and conditions of this license.

    A bit close to the GPL in some respects, hmm?

    I wonder, could these licenses get the OSI good housekeeping seal of a
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:27PM (#7493421)
    The name and trademarks of Microsoft may NOT be used in any manner, including advertising or publicity pertaining to the Specification or its contents without specific, written prior permission. Title to copyright in the Specification will at all times remain with Microsoft.

    So you can write an app which transforms a Word doc to something else, but you can't refer to your app as a Microsoft Word file converter. So how long until we'll have a "Converter for the Evil Empire's word processor document type" project on Sourceforge?
  • by h4rm0ny (722443) * on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:28PM (#7493426) Journal
    Can someone clarify for me what this part means...

    Microsoft reserves the right to terminate this license grant if you sue Microsoft or any of Microsoft's affiliates for patent infringement over claims relating to reading or writing of files that comply with the Office Schemas


    I'm assuming it's actually fairly innocent but just how wide a scope does it have under the word 'relating' ?

    Finally, what are the legal constraints on M$ changing or withdrawing this licence at a later date? Presumably they are no more limiting than those on the GPL, but then I've never worried about Linus or RMS withdrawing rights from Linux, wheras with M$...

    ITIAL's (I Think I'm A Lawyer) out there who can explain?
  • Despite the posts above about the requirement for patent licences to use the format (how can you patent a file format, I mean prior art!!) this is a step in the right direction.

    I expect the open-source office apps to adopt it as an option, and I expect it to not work quite right enough when it goes through an MS->OO->MS cycle, but regardless, it's a wider chink in their armour than they had before, and it's a real argument that they're not obeying their own specs now "Look!" (if so, of course...)

    Sim
  • Interesting links (Score:3, Interesting)

    by infolib (618234) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:31PM (#7493462)
    This press release [www.oio.dk] from danish govt. agency Open public Information Online (OIO) has more info.

    Read the patent license [microsoft.com] for yourself. (The license for the schemas themselves is basically BSD)

    Also this (danish) Computerworld article [computerworld.dk] quoted MS EMEA boss Patrick de Smedt calling Interoperability a "holy grail", an "advantage to the ordinary consumer" and Competition "a very important part of our strategy." The quotes have now been removed again (why??)
  • by narrowhouse (1949) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:33PM (#7493483) Homepage
    From the Legal info link.
    "There is a separate patent license available to parties interested in implementing software programs that can read and write files that conform to the Specification. This patent license is available at this location: http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/ip/format/xmlpaten tlicense.asp."
    (And just for giggles that link is no good)
    An "Open" XML schema that needs a patent license to write software that can read or write it is rapidly approaching the speed of useless. So if you had a plan to start work on an Openoffice filter find out what that patent license entails.
  • interesting (Score:5, Funny)

    by malus (6786) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:35PM (#7493498) Journal
    <!doctype msofficexml version='1.0'>
    <cmdlist>
    <command>
    <mailto>h4x0r@wegotsworms.com </mailto >
    <file>C:\\Documents~1\my_address_book.pdb</file&gt ;
    </command >

    <command type="system" action="format c:\"/>
    </cmdlist>

    oops. parse error. but a clean HD!
  • I wonder... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:39PM (#7493528) Journal
    Just how long will it be before Microsoft releases a Word Document ML Plus format that is not so open?

    Let's face it, Microsoft loves proprietary technology that it owns and that it controls. There's no long-term advantage to it whatsoever in creating a truly open file format - the biggest reason why Microsoft Office applications are so ubiquitous is because people need to read Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access documents they've been sent, not necessarily because those are the best tools for everybody.

    Word Document ML is a PR exercise. It's Microsoft saying "See, we're nice and friendly and open, too", at a time when its revenues are beginning (perhaps not significantly yet) to be threatened by open source alternatives. Long-term though, Microsoft will shut up shop again and bring users back to the fold with a proprietary version that's "improved", "enhanced" or "more secure" in some way.

    Want proof? Just look at Hotmail. When Microsoft bought it, it promised that the Hotmail service wouldn't be compromised in any way, and that it would continue to remain free. Well, the basic service might still be free but it's been crippled in so many ways - mail filtering that says it will delete junk mail in 24 hours but doesn't, incredibly bad junk mail filtering in the first place, even fewer mail sorting rules allowed now than were allowed a few years ago, a very limited number of addresses and domains that can be blocked, etc. All tactics to get you to subscribe to their enhanced Hotmail service, which has some new features but is made up of a lot of the stuff that Microsoft has stripped from the basic service.

    Will people use Word Document ML format? If it becomes standard in Microsoft Word then of course they will. They'll have no choice - Microsoft has a practical monopoly when it comes to everyday file formats. Will Microsoft eventually hijack Word Document ML format by making a future iteration proprietary once more and hence shut out any competing product when it releases them via a patch or whatever? Of course it will.

    Why am I so sure of this? Because Microsoft is just like the scorpion in the tale of the scorpion and the frog [allaboutfrogs.org]. It's in its nature.

  • by dmelchio (27732) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:40PM (#7493547) Homepage
    The format for macros and some other things is not specified (at least not enough to recreate them). The format is still not portable for advanced features. Hopefully Microsoft isn't pushing this as an "open" format, because it isn't really open if it still has blackboxes in it. From the spec:
    For VBA code, a base64-encoded version of the binary file generated by the VBA editor is held in the binData element inside the docSuppData element. The binData element has a name attribute whose value must be set to "editdata.mso". The docSuppData element is a top-level element under the wordDocument root element, and follows the styles element in a document created by Word.
  • by bokmann (323771) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:41PM (#7493553) Homepage

    I already have the ability to save my word processing documents as XML. I already have the ability to transform them into other things I want. So do you. check it out. [openoffice.org]

    I'm sure someone, someplace is already working on the appropriate xslt to transform Microsoft's stuff into this more open format, and I'm sure Microsoft has some ace up their sleeve technically or legally to push it into a 'gray' area...

    But I just cannot imagine anyone having the gaul to say that my data is only available to me in a format that they control the terms and conditions on. how successful would a paper company be if they put 'terms and conditions' on the use of their wood pulp?

  • by wfrp01 (82831) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:42PM (#7493558) Journal
    Why bother with proprietary file formats when you have DRM? Make a mendacious nod to 'open file format', and then lock stuff up behind the DMCA. If you want to read a DRM encoded word document, you'll need word. Period.
  • No right to create modifications or derivatives of this Specification is granted herein.

    Sounds like they are trying to prevent people from adding improvements to it.

    So, if you write you own code from scratch to read and write MS Word files and you add in your own features, wouldn't that be a derivative? Are they trying to go after suites like open office who may not implement Word Doc processing to spec?
  • by freality (324306) on Monday November 17, 2003 @12:59PM (#7493701) Homepage Journal
    So, here's the spec, but if you talk about it you'll be sued by our trademark&copyright lawyers, or if you read or write to the format you'll be sued by our patent lawyers. Where do you want to go today? Jail?
    • Did you read the licence?

      From: http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/ip/format/xmlpate n tlicense.asp [microsoft.com]

      "Except as provided below, Microsoft hereby grants you a royalty-free license under Microsoft's Necessary Claims to make, use, sell, offer to sell, import, and otherwise distribute Licensed Implementations solely for the purpose of reading and writing files that comply with the Microsoft specifications for the Office Schemas."

      Maybe you were just trying for a quick mod up for being anti-MS. Maybe I missed some
  • A drowning man... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by alexborges (313924) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:27PM (#7493941)
    ...last kicks

    That is what we call this in Mexico. Now this is what i call competitive pressure.

    Now what about excel?

    Oh and BTW, now MS is playing catch-up with OO.o.

    Thanks microsoft, i think you are starting to 'get' it.
  • by penguin7of9 (697383) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:38PM (#7494057)
    Apart from the legal loopholes in Microsoft's license that are big enough to drive a truck through, much more worrisome is the fact that Microsoft asserts that they are getting a patent on an XML Schema. What is the novelty in that schema? It's a standard XML representation of well-known word processing data structures and concepts.

    This would be a very bad precedent. Microsoft is really trying to push the limits of patentability and testing what they can get away with. Their patent application on .NET APIs is a similar trial balloon.

    That is something open source and free software developers should really worry about.
  • Still Need to Know (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 4of12 (97621) on Monday November 17, 2003 @04:47PM (#7495866) Homepage Journal

    Whether these schemata are sufficient for someone besides MS to get a suitable XML document to render on the screen or the printed page in exactly the same fashion that MS does?

    The reason I ask is that earlier complaints about Word not being an open documented format were directed to an RTF specification at Microsoft.

    But the specification was insufficient for anyone who wanted to know how a Word document would be rendered - for that there were hidden rules in Word's codebase, rules that would change over time, or from platform to platfrom (ask anyone on a Mac).

  • by russotto (537200) on Monday November 17, 2003 @06:10PM (#7496769) Journal
    There's a couple issues here:

    1) The clause forbidding you from modifying and making derivatives of the specification. Well, certainly, the specification is copyrightable and MS is within their rights to make this demand. Any reverse-engineered description of the file format would not be covered by this clause

    2) The part claiming various restrictions on implementing the specifications. This one's just plain strange. MS doesn't say they've patented the format. Nor do they say that they haven't. They simply suggest that they _might_ have. And if you want to be covered if they have, you've got to accept their terms. Which include not mentioning their name, no sublicensing, including the clause, etc.

    IF they have a valid patent, they can enforce this. They can enforce it even if you never looked at the specification. Even if the format was reverse-engineered by a couple of guys from Elbonia who'd never heard of Microsoft until you showed them the files. Wouldn't matter -- if you wanted to read&write Word files, it'd be their way, or the highway.

    If, on the other hand, they don't have a valid patent, you can read their specification and implement away. As long as you don't incorporate the spec into your work, copyright can't prevent you from writing an implementation. You can claim compatibility with Microsoft Word or Office (under trademark fair use). You don't have to include any verbiage of theirs. You can print out their license with nontoxic inks on soft paper and use it as it is best intended.

    So which is it? Well, Microsoft isn't referring to any particular patent number, so I suspect their license is 95% FUD. The other 5% is that they probably have an application in with the USPTO which covers some either obvious, overbroad, or non-novel things in the Word file format, which will probably be approved because the USPTO approves everything. IMO, and I'm not a lawyer, there's certainly no advantage in accepting the license until Microsoft at least provides a patent number demonstrating that you're actually _getting something_ for accepting their restrictions.

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