Open format document bills in states derailed

A report reviewing a handful of state bills endorsing open document formats finds that none has survived.

Bills introduced over the past year to promote open digital document formats in U.S. state governments have foundered, according to a review of state-level standards activity.

Computerworld on Sunday published an article that found that bills in Minnesota, Texas, Florida, and Oregon around open formats did not pass. The bills called for the use of standards and open document formats in desktop software.

A number of European governments have adopted Open Document Format (ODF) as the standard for electronic documents from productivity applications. Microsoft's rival Open XML format has been certified as an Ecma standards and is now being considered by the International Standards Organization.

Apart from the high-profile case of Massachusetts, U.S. states have not adopted policies that mandate the use of standard, open document formats.

Marino Marcich, the managing director of lobbying group the ODF Alliance, said that bills in Florida, Oregon and Texas did not come up for vote in committee. A California bill he characterized as a "work in progress" while Minnesota's bill was altered to study the issue of open documents.

Massachusetts has continued to stick with its policy of mandating standard document formats for executive branch offices; it said last year that it intends to use a plug-in that will allow Microsoft Office to work with documents and the OpenDocument format.

The call for standards and desktop applications has spread to governments around the world, in part because of the standardization and growing viability of OpenDocument.

The process has been marked by intense lobbying by Microsoft and IBM, which backs OpenDocument, at the government level.

Despite the derailing of the state bills, Marcich said he expects discussion around open formats at states will be common in a few years, driven by either legislative action or executive policy.