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Subject: [ubl-comment] Copyrights, standards and trash talk (was) UN/CEFACT:consultation process for new organization

At 06:37 AM 1/18/02, CRAWFORD, Mark wrote:
* ** why is OASIS working hard to preserve the ebXML brand on their TC work, to include standing up their part of the bargain to form the ebXML management committee and continuing to promote ebXML, while the eBTWG is removing references to ebXML * * * I thought the agreement was that the architecture group would be joint, and that the ebXML Coordinating Committee would harmonize the work * * *

ebXML was and is a good piece of work, and a high water mark for intergovernmental and intervendor cooperation in its area.   Some recent discussions about it have been unnecessarily contentious.  The leadership of the affected groups are trying to find ways to cooperate, in spite of several difficulties. 

There has been too much trash talk, and not enough clarity, in these discussions.   Here, in my own view as a participant who attempts to remain neutral, is where we are.

   =   The May 2001 arrangements for continuing the ebXML work were not executed in a careful or open manner.   Participants seemed animated by private agendas, to the detriment of the work plan.  The result was an suboptimal but workable structure declared in a significantly inadequate fashion.  Subsequent stumbles suggest that both relevant MoUs were poorly negotiated and poorly drafted.  This was disappointing, but is a recoverable situation.  I do not care to discuss the details publicly right now, because I believe that good faith efforts are underway to improve the situation, without unnecessary embarrassment or finger-pointing, and I expect those efforts to result in clear and helpful public discussions shortly.   

   =   The leadership of both groups have been trying to promote coordination in good faith, though at times slowly or unevenly.  There is too much turfsmanship, and too little attention to process architecture.  Nevertheless, the actual work has been progressing on all fronts in a spirit of cooperation and interoperation.   One example is the continuing and completely voluntary efforts of the (CEFACT) BPSS and (OASIS) CPPA teams to remain in sync in their tightly related models.  Another is the (OASIS) UBL white paper, which frames its planned work product within the OO-edi and ebXML layers consistent with anticipated extensions of the (CEFACT) business model.   These are cheerful evidence that most of our technical participants are on the right page, regardless of occasional management lapses.

    =   The ownership, copyright and forward control of the work product is significant and sensitive.  Intelligent adopters will not use any of this work if it is tied up in fractious disputes over ownership or access, inadequately reconciled requirements, or obstacles to fair participation in future versioning.  We are all groping towards an optimal model.  Disagreements about private versus public control, and financial control, are inevitable.  So are attempts to dominate the process.  As a community, we have not solved this yet.  Mark, your suggestion that all of the problems lie with CEFACT, and none with OASIS, is neither accurate or helpful.  

All of the obstacles described above are merely politic, and do not impeach the technical work.  Also, they are all resolvable, if addressed in good faith in a fair and transparent manner.  If we failed to solve the political issues, the work is compelling enough that I suspect a critical mass of experts would reconvene elsewhere and continue.   (Incidentally, the same thing happened to most of my keggers in high school.  Eventually the police came, so we drove to another park, procured more beer, and resumed the proceedings.)   So a solution of the current standards group structure issues is desirable, but not absolutely essential.

However, the work itself is essential, as is our spirit of cooperation.  If we dissolve into contentious factions, we cede the domain to a thousand competing proprietary forays, years of absurd patent claims, and an unworkable Babel.  This is a sufficiently bad outcome that it should inspire all to cooperate.  

Jamie Clark

~ James Bryce Clark   
~ VP and General Counsel, McLure-Moynihan Inc.
~ Chair, ABA Business Law Subcommittee on Electronic Commerce  
~ 1 818 597 9475   jamie.clark@mmiec.com    jbc@lawyer.com
~ This message is neither legal advice nor a binding signature.  Ask me why.

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