Document Freedom Day

Open Documents — a Business Friendly Decision

We have used software conforming to fully disclosed public international standards for over a decade: at first Open Office, and then after some corporate re-arranging LibreOffice. It is easy to use, works (mostly) with all established Microsoft formats, and unencumbered by dangerous licensing legalities and legal overhead, tracking licenses, number of permitted installs from volume licensing contracts, and so forth. It is especially important for global commerce as the spreadsheets and document files it saves are universally recognized and will work with any computer in any organization or country, even if they cannot buy the latest Microsoft Office product. LibreOffice also can save documents in the standard .PDF format for mass distribution and archival purposes without additional “plugins” or cost — it is built in from the start.

There is great value in having a totally open standard to allow all people everywhere to use, regardless of ethnicity, national origin, economic status, or any other of a host of parameters beyond the control of individuals all over this planet. We are no longer a disconnected bundle of trivial kingdoms, walled off from each other and silent: we are a global community of living, thinking, humankind, interacting for good or evil: isolationism is an obsolete model for nations, and for software.

Document Freedom Day

Yesterday, March 26, 2014 was “Document Freedom Day“: a day for celebrating information accessibility for all people everywhere and for raising awareness of open standards. There is a struggle of sorts raging since Linus Torvalds inadvertently started the Open Source movement. It essentially comes down to the economic models of Protectionism, where all standards are determined by a single ruler and may not even be known in their entirety by his subjects as he may be making up some of the rules as he goes along, entirely for his own personal gain. and Capitalism, where a open public interaction determines all the rules, openly and responsive to public intent and personal gain of the people at large.

To understand the impact on humanity of having a known international standard for communication and information exchange that is available to all people, consider what would have happened if, instead of being initiated and controlled by open standards, the Internet Web, HTML, CSS, and other critical infrastructure was controlled by one corporation only and licenses issued to maximize the wealth of corporate shareholders regardless of the harm or loss to humanity? Would there be a World Wide Web today? Would most people be able to use it? Would business and humanity have profited nearly as much if all things were decided on a software patent, protectionism, controlling, “just me and my rich friends” basis?

Examples of Open Standards in Action

But the concept of Word Wide Web was a collaborative effort, open to public scrutiny, and available to all. And because of this openness, a far greater development team — global and trans-cultural in nature — built an incredible system that allows communication for everything from buying a pair of hiking shoes to streaming video of news as it happens. I remember when the Great Wall fell in Berlin — I was chatting, in text, with a friend, and she relayed that another friend has just told her “Oh look, they are taking down Stalin’s Statue”. In text. Can you measure the difference now, when, instead of reading text about something important that is happening we can watch it as it occurs, free from the bias and controls of corporate news media?

Availability to all can be just as important for sharing information. Imagine how much simpler hereditary research would be right now if all records from the past were stored in a standard, electronic format available to everyone! How could medicine advance if all past records were likewise standardized and published? Or science? Would history that we know be different today if for the last two millennium records were written by anyone — not just the elite — and available to anyone today so that we could read accounts of what happened from more than one perspective? As it is, history is usually written by the victor, and truth becomes a murky and evasive fugitive.

A Vision of a Future Without Open Standards

Flipping time and looking to the future, can you imagine what could happen if only one corporation could totally control all information software for the personal profit and wealth of only their shareholders? Businesses would be subject to absolute control of this corporation, as their business could simply be turned off at the corporation’s whim: prices could be set to anything the corporation wished, at any time: only those the corporation wishes to have access would have access.

A future more reminiscent of a Fallout series game than today? Don’t be so sure. If Microsoft Windows XP was not “activated” in time, what happened? Windows 7 does let the computer continue to run simply with nag boxes reminding us that the software has not yet be “activated”, but couldn’t they just as easily turn it off? Could Microsoft, or any other for profit corporation likewise simply deny access to anyone? How would these corporations respond to a a secret letter from a secret court to secretly turn off some organization’s computers?

Do you really think that is so far fetched? What has been going on for the last few years already — secret letters from secret courts demanding Internet Service Providers turn over private records belonging to their customers, or “take down” web sites? If one for profit corporation rose to the point it could control all computers, or even most computers, could government order them to collect and forward all the private information in those computers? Could dissidents be silenced by merely invalidating a code in a database somewhere so their computers, phones, tablets would no longer start? What happened with Twitter in the London riots last year? Yes, it was “turned off” for London. And in Egypt.

It’s All About Control

The open software movement and the corporate desire for it to end is very much like the American Second Amendment “Gun Control” movement — Software Patents are not about software and Gun Control is not about guns, but both are about CONTROL. And it behooves us as a global community to promote freedom and oppose protectionism in whatever form it may appear.

Power to the People – That’s YOU

I encourage you all to download the current version of LibreOffice today from http://www.libreoffice.org/ for whatever is your preferred operating system: it is available for most computers, free of charge. And donate if you can to the effort of continuing open standards  at their donation box here or the LibreOffice Project here.

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