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Subject: Re: [oiic-formation-discuss] Caution and Disclaimer on Interoperability

On Thu, Jun 12, 2008 at 5:04 AM, Dave Pawson <dave.pawson@gmail.com> wrote:
> Having just finished Pauls ... novel | post. Two things.
> 1. I'm a geek, not a lawyer. I want this groups output to be
> (correctly) interpreted
> by other geeks for implementation. On which basis I'd prefer a definition of
> interop that's workable rather than legally correct.

Hi, Dave,

Ideally, "legally correct" and "workable:" are identical. Law does not
exist in a vacuum. It's evolved over the millenia as a method of
preventing disputes and resolving them. Law deals with real world
issues. At the same time, Law  distinctly capable of error. It's
people making those decisions, not an equation that can be disproved
using formal logic. The Rule of Law is an aspiration, not an
achievable goal. But the alternative is chaos, so I think the Rule of
Law is a worthy aspiration.

The most eloquent short justification for adhering to the law I've
ever encountered warns of the danger of ignoring it, words of some
importance to a group of people sitting in a circus tent with a a few
800-pound gorillas running loose in the center ring:

"Our individual appraisal of the wisdom or unwisdom of a particular
course consciously selected by the Congress is to be put aside in the
process of interpreting a statute. Once the meaning of an enactment is
discerned and its constitutionality determined, the judicial process
comes to an end. We do not    sit as a committee of review, nor are we
vested with the power of veto. The lines ascribed to Sir Thomas More
by Robert Bolt are not without relevance here:

 'The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal, not what's right. And
I'll stick to what's legal. . . . I'm not God. The currents and eddies
of right and wrong, which you find such plain-sailing, I can't
navigate, I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh there I'm
a forester. . . . What would you do? Cut a great road through the law
to get after the Devil? . . . And when the last law was down, and the
Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all
being flat? . . . This country's planted thick with laws from coast to
coast - Man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down . . . d'you
really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow
them? . . . Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own
safety's sake." R. Bolt, A Man for All Seasons, Act I, p. 147 (Three
Plays, Heinemann ed. 1967).'

"We agree with the Court of Appeals that in our constitutional system
the commitment to the separation of powers is too fundamental for us
to pre-empt congressional action by judicially decreeing what accords
with "common sense and the public weal." Our Constitution vests such
responsibilities in the political branches."

Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153, 195-196 (1978).
(Tellico Dam snail darter Endangered Species Act decision; completion
of nearly-finished major dam ordered to be halted to protect the snail

The relevant wisdom there, I think, is this: Law is only as powerful
as the respect it is given. Every time a law is ignored, that law is
weakened. And if one wishes to retain the freedom to invoke Law in
protection of one's own interests, one must be careful not to
undermine Law when it is not in one's interests by defying Law.

Particularly when there are 800-pound gorillas loose in the tent, a
prudent person would have some concern about the trainer with the
whip's legal responsibility to keep the gorillas under control.

We either follow the rules even when we don't like them or by ignoring
the rules, we erode our own right to assert the rules when others
violate them.

You might consider the size of the mess that now has to be cleaned up
because the 800-pound gorillas never felt that the following
ISO/IEC/JTC 1 Directives requirement would never stop them from
getting whatever interoperability they wanted to be designated as
international standards:

"Standards designed to facilitate interoperability need to specify
clearly and unambiguously the conformity requirements that are
essential to achieve the interoperability. Complexity and the number
of options should be kept to a minimum and the implementability of the
standards should be demonstrable."

Might the mess have been lessened if the gorillas knew from the
beginning that it would be futile to try to get their standards
through JTC 1 without complying with that rule? How much work must we
now do to clean up their messes?

And how do we ever get that work done if there is no trainer in the
tent, if the gorillas are allowed to run free?

Law ain't perfect; it's just better than the alternative.

> Mmmm. Flexible content recycling aside, proposal.
> That 'pixel perfect' (lousy term but gets across the idea) will be subsumed
> under one or another profile, i.e. won't even be considered until
> a scoping definition is in place.
> At which time:
>  for pixel perfect for an accessible (I'll use the non-print user as
> usual) profile
> the definition will be interpreted as identical audio wise (what's the
> English for that!).
> Same caveats as earlier, I'll discount your American accent when I play it in
> my ... Canadian/UK synthetic voice.


Sounds tentively workable to me. Another approach that's been talked
about is working toward the editable document and its PDF being
packaged in the same container. Pixel perfect, archival, and editable
rolled into one. It could conceivably simplify the maintenance burden
of keeping the editable and the archival synchronized, plus fulfill
the desires of the pixel perfect folk far better than ODF could
itself. Network bandwidth and drive capacity aren't the barriers they
used to be.

> [[Declaration of interest. I used to work for and with blind people, I get
> quite twitchy on accessibility issues.]]

I spent a year and a half in hospitals with folks wounded far worse
than I was in Viet Nam. Count me on the side of accessibility too.

> The nasty one that Paul brings up that should be addressed IMHO, even
> if only to dismiss it.

I'll hold back for now and let others speak their piece on that issue.

Best regards,


Universal Interoperability Council

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