California may adopt OpenDocument

Bill would require state agencies to adopt ODF as a standard and exclude the use of proprietary file formats.

California may follow Massachusetts in making the OpenDocument Format the required standard for state agencies.

The OpenDocument Format (ODF) is a standard XML-based file format used by OpenOffice, an open-source application program supported by IBM and Sun Microsystems among others.

Similar to the ODF bills proposed in Texas and Minnesota, California Assembly bill AB 1668 would require that state agencies "become equipped to accept all documents in an open, XML-based file format for office applications, and shall not adopt a file format used by only one entity."

The bill was introduced on Friday by Assemblyman Mark Leno, a Democrat from San Francisco, and read on the floor of the state Legislature on Monday.

The bill is not yet scheduled for a vote, according to Leno's office, but if passed could go into effect as soon as January 1, 2008.

AB 1668's wording particularly excludes the use of proprietary file formats used only by one application, such as those found naturally in Microsoft's Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.

While Microsoft has submitted its Office Open XML (OOXML) format for acceptance by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), OOXML is arguably viewed as a format proprietary to Microsoft Office. Companies like Sun and do, however, offer a translator for converting files from Microsoft Word documents to ODF.

If the bill is passed, the ODF requirement would apply to all agencies, but be added as part of California's government code regulating the responsibilities of the Department of Technology Services.

An ODF requirement has already been implemented in Massachusetts. After complaints from disability-rights groups, the state also adopted ODF plug-ins, programs for making ODF usable by people with disabilities.

Leno also announced in January that he would be introducing Net neutrality legislation to prevent companies from controlling Internet infrastructure and consumer access based on content source or ownership.

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