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August 1, 2003


FROM:    INCITS Executive Board

SUBJECT:    Availability of ISO Codes

INCITS wishes to express its concern over recent positions taken by ANSI and by the ISO CPSG with respect to ISO 3166, ISO 4217 and ISO 639, in particular ISO 3166, Country Codes.  In brief, the issue is whether ANSI or other ISO national bodies, or ISO itself, should charge royalty fees for the use of the standard, in addition to a standard copyright fee for purchase or reproduction of the standard.  In ANSI's on-line newsletter for May 2003, ANSI reported that:
"The CPSG also discussed the ISO 3166 country codes, ISO 4217 currencycodes, and ISO 639 language codes and proposed clarifications for their distribution.  Noting the necessity for a number of ISO standards to be published as databases, the CPSG asked that the Secretary General recommend a consideration of the publciation of some ISO standards as such, and promoted studying related pricing, delivery, and maintenance issues.
"CPSG Recommendation:  CPSG considered the ambiguity between reproducing of data elements from ISO 3166, 4217 and 6349 for the purpose of implementation and for commercial exploitation and proposed the following clarifications:
The final point has been amplified by ANSI in a summary on use of the ISO codes as:  
"Companies who develop software products for sale to other parties are adding value to their products by including the data elements from an ISO Code in proper applications ...via the sale of the product the developing company is not only being compensated for its direct efforts to incorporate the ISO Codes in apropriate locations but it is also being compensated for trhe value the ISO Codes have added to its product. The ISO community should also be compensated for providing the intellectual property required to incorporate the value-added features into the product."
While this raises many debatable issues, INCITS' overriding concern is that this represents a radical departure from established practice with respect to standards.  We are not concerned here with the fees collected by many standards setting organizations for purchasing copies of standards.  Rather,  the proposal being discussed would in effect place a charge upon implementing a standard by enforcing a fee associated with each copy of a product built according to or incorporating the standard.  In essence, therefore, this charges users of a standard, be they direct (in the case of manufacturers) or indirect (in the case of product consumers) to actually use the standard.

In INCITS'  opinion this would constitute a strong disincentive for manufacturers, large consumers and consumer groups to develop standards within standards organizations which might adopt this process or to subsequently make use of the standards in their products and services.  Standards participants, whether manufacturers, consumers, government agencies or other entities, bring their own information to the standards development process so that they can share in the resultant standard.  In other words, standards participants have the expectation that in exchange for their "valuable and volunteer" contributions, they will be able to "use" the fruits of their consensus-building process without further hindrance.

In the Information Technology industry, where many consortia and alternative standards-setting models to the formal standards development process already flourish, INCITS believes that the imposition of such usage fees would be likely to drive participation in standards development away from organizations which implement them. At the very least standards participants would probably adjust their priorities for involvement as a result.

Accordingly, INCITS requests the ANSI ICO Council to
  1. Adopt a position that fees for using the contents of standards, as opposed to fees for the purchase of the standards themselves, is inappropriate
  2. Ensure that ANSI does not go forward with such a policy
  3. Take this issue forward to ISO Council in the strongest possible terms to dissuade ISO and its members from this approach and from ISO policy