Open Source Law Releases Report On Open Standards
I have been doing a bit of work for a variety of people recently relating to standards and standards setting. In early May I saw that the UK open standards consultation process had been extended because of a potential conflict of interest by one of the facilitators. Linux Australia commissioned a report from me about Open Standards. That report (link below) was completed last week and, I understand, Linux Australia has used it as a basis for a submission to the UK Open Standards Consultation process. The report covers a variety of issues relating to open standards. Some of the issues it covers are:
- the difference between open formats and open standards. I think if government focusses on open “standards”, then that’s a big problem. In practice it would resolve to “open standards or anything goes”, with no middle ground. However, there are plenty of viable open formats which have not been standardised. Moreover, invariably any format used by an application will initially not be standardised, so there needs to be an incentive for that first format to be open. The report suggests, for example, that open formats should be preferred to closed standards;
- what is open in relation to a format. The word “open” is tossed around in government with varying degrees of precision. Often it can mean no more than “specified”. Thus, a format which requires the payment of extensive licence fees can nevertheless be “open”. The report endorses the proposition that if some format gives a preference to a particular bidder, then it’s not open.
- discriminatory “non discriminatory” terms – the report draws attention to the fact that licensing terms for standards are commonly overtly discriminatory. For example, the requirement to pay per copy licence fees directly discriminates against any open source implementation of the standard. Despite this obvious bias, such terms are routinely permitted to be categorised as “non-discriminatory”. The report rejects the usefulness of terms like “RAND/FRAND/RANDZ”.
The report is licensed under a creative commons licence.
The full report can be downloaded here.
Here are the figures: