Oregon joins states considering open-source legislation

Proposal favors 'freeware' such as OpenOffice

Oregon has joined TexasCalifornia  and Minnesota as states that may vote this year on legislation that would mandate the use of open document formats for public documents and records.

Oregon state representative Peter Buckley, a Democrat from Ashland, proposed House Bill 2920, which would require state government agencies, the state library, and all public libraries in the state to make certain documents and records available in open document formats.

The bill as it is currently written appears to more explicitly favor the use of free, open-source software such as OpenOffice and its native format, Open Document Format for Office Applications (ODF), than do pending proposals in other states.

It requires state agencies, "when practicable," to use "open formats for which freeware is available."

Additionally, it states that all libraries would have "to install and maintain freeware" so that members of the public can view, print and make copies of public documents -- as long as doing so does not force the library to "incur additional administrative or operational expense."

Other states’ proposals mandate the use of open XML-based formats but do not specify the use of free software.

Open field of battle

ODF was approved by the international standards group ISO last year as an open standard. It is being pushed by vendors such as IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. as an alternative to the new Office Open XML format that Microsoft Corp. has developed for its Office 2007 software.

Microsoft is fighting back. Open XML was put onto the ISO’s five-month fast track for approval as an open standard earlier this month, despite lingering objections by some member nations.

Massachusetts has already passed a law mandating the use of open documents, though it is moving slowly on its migration away from Microsoft Office.

According to a press release put out Tuesday by the one-year old ODF Alliance, a Washington-based lobbying group, a total of seven national governments and four regional governments have approved the move to open document formats.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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