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Last modified: July 08, 2008
Open Standards

Overview

The primary purpose of this document is to provide a collection of references to published definitions or formulations for "open standards." Other goals are referenced in a note of December 06, 2004. The document is only nominally maintained; see Wikipedia for additional references.

Preliminary Stuff

"Open" and its collocations: Open, like "choice," "transparent," "accountable," "fair," "reasonable," and "non-discriminatory," is a term everyone wants to use as descriptive of their enterprise operations. So we have open computing, open source, open standards, true open standards, truly open standards, open standards process, open systems, open formats, verifiable open standards, open content, etc. Nobody admits to the goal of creating a "closed" standard or to having a "closed" process. Since corporate entities of all kinds — convicted monopolists, industry cartels acting as self-appointed patent licensing authorities, pure-IP patent farming collectives, and accountable standards bodies — characterize their operational frameworks as "open," the value of "open" as a marketing claim is seriously diluted.

Bob Sutor writes: "People in our industry have put so much extra meaning into words like open, standards, and interoperability itself. I think it's time we brought these back to simpler, more basic meanings and then worked up from there. It's amazing I can still open a door without a 75 page appendix telling me what this really means and why I may not want to do it because it might be bad for me." [2005-03-16 blog "I thought I knew what open meant"]

Still, the "open" label persists in corporate mission statements, and endeavors to establish a quintessential definition of open and truly open consume lots of energy. In December 2004 we offered some initial reflections upon the desire to create and promulgate a definition of "open standards" to be used as a metric for characterizing a standards initiative and its work products: Analysis and commentary on the European Community IDA definition of "open standards" in the European Interoperability Framework for Pan-European E-Government Services.

Published definitions of "open standard" by representatives of the software trade associations (advocating for standards that can incorporate royalty-bearing RAND license terms) and by representatives of the open source community are thus largely conversations on different wavelengths. CompTIA, BSA, ECITA, and congeners argue that government jurisdictions should not mandate the use of royalty-free IT standards in civil society projects because this discriminates against some business models which depend upon royalty revenues from RAND standards; open source advocates argue that government jurisdictions should not allow the adoption of royalty-bearing RAND-licensed IT standards in the public sector since the RAND licensing model (with a few minor exceptions) categorically discriminates against the [OSI] open source business model — as open source software development practices, open source licensing terms, and open source software distribution models are incompatible with RAND. Since these counter-charges of discrimination and different definitions of "open standard" place the conversation at stalemate, it seems unlikely that these particular attempts to co-opt the meaning of "open" will contribute anything toward a resolution.


"Open Standards": Sample Definitions and Formulations

Contents

Business Software Alliance (BSA)

Formulation from the Business Software Alliance (BSA); see "Comments by the BSA in Response to the IDA Working Document on the European Interoperability Framework for Pan-European Egovernment Services."

a "... commonly accepted understanding of open standards, whose elements include:

  • First, the standard should be developed or affirmed in a voluntary, industry-led and transparent process, open to all qualified industry players wishing to participate and based on consensus among participants.
  • Second, the essential intellectual property rights to implement the standard should be licensed on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms (RAND), either with payment of a reasonable royalty or without.
  • Third, the specifications should be sufficiently complete as to permit the development of interoperable programs.
  • Fourth, the standard should be capable of being implemented on a variety of platforms.

In connection with BSA's definition of "open," see the FFII account of "Business Software Alliance and Software Patents": "BSA is an organisation founded in the USA and currently without official status in most European countries, controlled by Microsoft and a few other large members. BSA is specialised on copyright enforcement and, until recently, was uninterest in patents. Representatives of BSA in Europe have even pronounced themselves skeptical or hostile to software patents in public. However, during a recent campaign for the introduction of software patents in Europe, BSA's new director of public policy, Francisco Mingorance, became a close friend of the European Commission's patent lobby and even had a privileged opportunity to participate in the drafting of the directive proposal. Moreover, under Mingorance's direction, BSA became a supporter of extreme pro-patent positions. This is apparently not because Mingorance or BSA want software patents, but because it is Mingorance's job to entertain good relations with the European Commission, which again married the European Patent Office as a part of a strategy to transfer power from Munich to Brussels..."

Commonwealth of Massachusetts ITD

In June 2007 the U.S. Commonwealth of Massachusetts Information Technology Division (ITD) announced a new major release of the Enterprise Technical Reference Model (ETRM). ETRM Version 4.0 provides the following definitions of "open" in the terms "open format" [data formats] and "open standard". These definitions were discussed in the context of the ITD's "Definitions Relevant to Decision Process" viz., process used to determine when standards should be recommended for adoption or deferred for review at a later date.

Open Format: "The Commonwealth defines open formats as specifications for data file formats that are based on an underlying open standard, developed by an open community, affirmed and maintained by a standards body and are fully documented and publicly available." ETRM Version 4 classified exactly four (4) formats as "Open Formats": (1) OASIS Open Document Format For Office Applications (OpenDocument) v. 1.1; (2) Ecma-376 Office Open XML Formats (Open XML); (3) Hypertext Document Format v. 4.01; (4) Plain Text Format.

Open Standard: "Specifications for systems that are publicly available and are developed by an open community and affirmed by a standards body. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is an example of an open standard. Open standards imply that multiple vendors can compete directly based on the features and performance of their products. It also implies that the existing information technology solution is portable and that it can be removed and replaced with that of another vendor with minimal effort and without major interruption."

ConsortiumInfo.org

Andrew Updegrove maintains the ConsortiumInfo.org web site which provides a number of valuable resources for topics related to standard-setting and the consortia that support standards development. Appendix B of "Intellectual Property Rights Policies" provides a discussion "What does 'Open' Mean? A Guide to Open Source and Open Standards." Excerpt:

Characteristics of Open Standards. While some attributes of the definition of open standards might be subject to debate, there would be universal agreement that the term implies adherence to at least the following principles:

  • Input on creation of the standards must be open to all interested parties
  • Use of (and information about) the standard must be available to all on reasonably equivalent terms
  • Use must not benefit (or restrict choice to) a particular vendor's products
  • The right to implement the standard must be available for free, or on reasonable royalty terms

Most consortium (and all SDO) standards fit this definition, as any member who pays to become a member at a sufficient level may give input on the creation of the standard. Governmental regulations, in a sense, can also be considered to be open standards, in that input is indirectly accomplished through the political process.

Additional Characteristics. Some would apply the following additional restrictions before they would apply the phrase 'open standard' in connection with a given specification:

  • Implementation of the standard must be permitted without royalty — although compliance certification may involve payment
  • Extension and subsetting of the standard is restricted in order to prevent 'hijacking' of the standard; see Bruce Perens "Open Standards"..."

Danish National IT and Telecom Agency

The Danish government (Denmark National IT and Telecom Agency) published a "Definition of Open Standards" in June 2004. Section 3 discusses the "properties of a completely open standard" with a note about the qualification ("ideal," "completely open") as follows: "One argument in favour of a reasonability approach rather than the stringent requirement for free use is that the development and maintenance of an efficient standard often implies the defrayal of considerable costs on the part of the standard's owner, both for actual development as well as for maintenance, distribution, support, etc. These costs will not be covered if the standard can be used free of charge, unless these are covered indirectly through the sale of a related product or service..."

"When we speak of the ideal open standard we refer to:

  • An open standard is accessible to everyone free of charge, i.e., there is no discrimination between users, and no payment or other considerations are required as a condition of use of the standard
  • An open standard of necessity remains accessible and free of charge, i.e., owners renounce their options, if indeed such exist, to limit access to the standard at a later date, for example, by committing themselves to openness during the remainder of a possible patent's life
  • An open standard is accessible free of charge and documented in all its details, i.e., all aspects of the standard are transparent and documented, and both access to and use of the documentation is free..."

See also the news item "Danish Government Defines 'Open Standards'."

The Digital Standards Organization

The Digital Standards Organization defines "free and open standard as follows:

  • The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organization, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties
  • The standard has been published and the standard specification document is available freely. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute, and use it freely
  • The patents possibly present on (parts of) the standard are made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis
  • There are no constraints on the re-use of the standard

A key defining property is that a free and open standard is immune to vendor capture at all stages in its life-cycle. Immunity from vendor capture makes it possible to freely use, improve upon, trust, and extend a standard over time."

EC IDA European Interoperability Framework

A definition for "open standards" is given in the November 2004 European Interoperability Framework for Pan-European E-Government Services, Final Version 1.0. See the commentary.

While the European Interoperability Framework document does not deny the legitimate role of proprietary software alternatives in the IDABC Programme, it does present a strong statement about royalty-free standards that are viewed to be acceptably defined as "open" standards. A "standard" in this context is "used in its broadest sense to include all specifications, having gone through a standardization process."

The principle of "open standards" is formulated in EIF section 1.3 "Underlying principles," derived from the eEurope Action Plan 2005 as well as the Decisions of the European Parliament, where the Council and the Commission "have adopted and promote a set of general principles which should be respected for any eGovernment services set up at a pan-European level," including "Use of Open Standards":

"To attain interoperability in the context of pan-European eGovernment services, guidance needs to focus on open standards. The following are the minimal characteristics that a specification and its attendant documents must have in order to be considered an open standard:

  • The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organisation, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties (consensus or majority decision etc.)
  • The standard has been published and the standard specification document is available either freely or at a nominal charge. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute and use it for no fee or at a nominal fee
  • The intellectual property — i.e., patents possibly present — of (parts of) the standard is made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis
  • There are no constraints on the re-use of the standard."

Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC)

From the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document, Question #2 sub 'FAQs about openness':

Q: What is an "open standard"?

A: OGC defines an open standard as one that:

  1. Is created in an open, international, participatory industry process, as described above. The standard is thus non-proprietary, that is, owned in common. It will continue to be revised in that open process, in which any company, agency or organization can participate.
  2. Has free rights of distribution: An 'open' license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the specification as part of a software distribution. The 'open' license shall not require a royalty or other fee.
  3. Has open specification access: An 'open' environment must include free, public, and open access to all interface specifications. Developers are allowed to distribute the specifications.
  4. Does not discriminate against persons or groups: 'Open' specification licenses must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.
  5. Ensures that the specification and the license must be technology neutral: No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology or style of interface.

By this definition, a de facto standard established by one company or an exclusive group of companies or by a government is not an open standard, even if it is published and available for use by anyone at no charge. The Web, and the Spatial Web, cannot depend on proprietary standards..."

See:

Open Standards Alliance

For context, see the 2004-10-20 news story "Open Standards Alliance Formed at Inaugural Meeting on Open Source and Open Standards."

The opening Keynote Address at the "Open Source, Open Standards" conference was delivered by Lawrence Rosen, General Counsel for the Open Source Initiative. His presentation "Open Source + Open Standards" articulates key (draft) principles that will be discussed and refined by the Open Standards Alliance.

"Larry Rosen proposed five normative principles for open standards that are compatible with Open Source software licensing. The five principles of open standards are:

  1. Everyone is free to copy and distribute the official specification for an open standard under an open source license.
  2. Everyone is free to make or use embodiments of an open standard under unconditional licenses to patent claims necessary to practice that standard.
  3. Everyone is free to distribute externally, sell, offer for sale, have made or import embodiments of an open standard under patent licenses that may be conditioned only on reciprocal licenses to any of licensees' patent claims necessary to practice that standard.
  4. A patent license for an open standard may be terminated as to any licensee who sues the licensor or any other licensee for infringement of patent claims necessary to practice that standard.
  5. All patent licenses necessary to practice an open standard are worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual and sublicenseable."

Bruce Perens: Open Standards, Principles and Practice

"An Open Standard is more than just a specification. The principles behind the standard, and the practice of offering and operating the standard, are what make the standard Open. Principles:

  1. Availability. Open Standards are available for all to read and implement.
  2. Maximize End-User Choice. Open Standards create a fair, competitive market for implementations of the standard. They do not lock the customer in to a particular vendor or group.
  3. No Royalty. Open Standards are free for all to implement, with no royalty or fee. Certification of compliance by the standards organization may involve a fee.
  4. No Discrimination. Open Standards and the organizations that administer them do not favor one implementor over another for any reason other than the technical standards compliance of a vendor's implementation. Certification organizations must provide a path for low and zero-cost implementations to be validated, but may also provide enhanced certification services.[**]
  5. Extension or Subset. Implementations of Open Standards may be extended, or offered in subset form. However, certification organizations may decline to certify subset implementations, and may place requirements upon extensions; see Predatory Practices.
  6. Predatory Practices. Open Standards may employ license terms that protect against subversion of the standard by embrace-and-extend tactics. The licenses attached to the standard may require the publication of reference information for extensions, and a license for all others to create, distribute, and sell software that is compatible with the extensions. An Open Standard may not othewise prohibit extensions..."

Please see the complete document, which contains a Glosssary and elaborates upon the Open Standards Principles (reproduced above) in a separate section Open Standards Practice: "Open Standards: Principles and Practice." Bio: Bruce Perens is Senior Research Scientist, Open Source Cyber Security Policy Research Institute, George Washington University.

[**] See the discussion "Discrimination Against Small Business" in "The Problem of Software Patents in Standards": "Patent royalties tend to create discrimination against small-to-medium-sized businesses developing any form of software, and especially against Open Source developers. The largest businesses in an industry generally have patent cross-licenses with their peers, and thus they may ignore each other's patents while smaller businesses have no choice but to license those patents if they use them. As a result, there is a 'tax' upon technology that small businesses must pay while the largest businesses are exempt. Small-to-medium-sized businesses that make real products are generally unsuccessful in enforcing their patents against the largest businesses. When a smaller business brings a patent suit against a larger one, the larger one will often bring multiple patent suits (justified or not) against the smaller company. The smaller company is unable to defend itself. The American Intellectual Property Law Association claims that prosecution or defense of a software patent lawsuit costs about $3 Million dollars. The smaller patent holder simply cannot sustain the expense of defending himself, even when justified, and is forced to settle and license his patents to the larger company..." Full bibliographic record below.

Sun Microsystems: Open Standards and Common Criteria for IT Interoperability

A published letter from Greg Papadopoulos (Sun Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer on Value of Open Standards) introduces a description of Open Standards stated in terms of "Common Criteria for IT Interoperability":

"Sun believes that there are minimal characteristics that a specification and its attendant documents must exhibit in order to be considered an Open Standard. We call these the Common Criteria for IT Interoperability.

The Common Criteria for IT Interoperability address the necessary technical, business and legal components of interoperability that must be supported in a standardization ecosystem. These pro-competitive criteria create an environment in which stakeholder participation is encouraged at every step, the public interest is served, and IP owners are given a secure environment in which their rights are respected and collaboration is encouraged. The results of the Common Criteria for IT Interoperability are true Open Standards.

Definition: With regards to the business and legal aspects of a standard, the Common Criteria for IT Interoperability outline that:

  1. The standard must describe an interface, not an implementation, and the industry must be capable of creating multiple, competing implementations to the interface described in the standard without undue or restrictive constraints.
  2. Its development and management process must be documented and, through a known method, can itself be changed through input from all participants.
  3. Participation in its development and management must be accessible to all those who wish to participate and can meet reasonable criteria imposed by the organization under which it is developed and managed.
  4. Development and management processes should strive for consensus, and an appeals process must be clearly outlined.
  5. It must be open to extensive public review at least once in its life-cycle, with comments duly discussed and acted upon, if required.
  6. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute and use it for no fee.
  7. It must be possible for all to obtain worldwide, non-exclusive and perpetual licenses to all essential patent claims to make, use and sell products based on the standard, except if terminated pursuant to the reciprocity and defensive suspension terms outlined in Section 8. Essential patent claims include pending, unpublished patents, published patents, and patent applications. License is only for the exact scope of the standard in question.
  8. The terms of any required patent license must be publicly disclosed at the earliest possible stage of the standard's development (ex ante) and must be available on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, in which reasonable and non-discriminatory are defined as:
    • 8.1 May be conditioned only on reciprocal licenses to any of licensees' patent claims essential to practice that standard (also known as a reciprocity clause)
    • 8.2 May be terminated as to any licensee who sues the licensor or any other licensee for infringement of patent claims essential to practice that standard (also known as a "defensive suspension" clause)
    • 8.3 The same licensing terms are available to every potential licensor
    • 8.4 Collection of royalties, if any, must fall into one of three categories: (1) one-time only license fee; (2) an ongoing, reasonably priced royalty; or (3) a combination of the two. If royalties are to be collected on an ongoing basis, the timeline must be disclosed and adhered to.
    • 8.5 The definition of reasonable royalty will be determined by the market and may in fact include no royalties (royalty-free). A reasonable royalty is best obtained where the standards organization's IP policy requires members to disclose their essential patent claims and license terms early in the standard's development. Such early (ex ante) disclosure, combined with a public comment period, provides ample time to change the standard to work around the essential patent claim(s) and for business planning and discussion on royalty fees and other patent license terms, including the cumulative effect of all royalties and license terms.
  9. If the terms outlined in 8.0 are unacceptable, licensing terms revert to royalty-free with continued adherence to the points made in 8.1, 8.2 and 8.3.

UN/CEFACT Open Development Process for Technical Specifications

From the approved Open Development Process (ODP):

1. As part of a broad move to encourage electronic working, the UN/CEFACT Steering Group (CSG) are recommending that UN/CEFACT groups develop and evolve Technical Specifications using an open and inclusive process that produces high-quality specifications in "Internet-time."

2. This document describes the open process and the five goals that drive it: openness, world-wide participation, speed, compatibility, and technical excellence. The CSG believes that this process is fundamental to UN/CEFACT's large and accelerating acceptance as a modern standardisation organisation by the international community and by Electronic Business implementers (such as software developers) around the world and is also vital to maintaining the technical quality and cross-industry compatibility that a Electronic Business platform requires.

Openness 5. All specifications must be open, free of any constraints or restrictions associated with intellectual property rights (IPR). Anyone wishing to contribute to the Technical Specifications must be willing to do so without imposing IPR barriers. UN/CEFACT believes strongly in fostering competition around the technologies described by Technical Specifications. Anyone should be able to produce a complete implementation of the specifications described by Technical Specifications without IPR related cost or red tape... [emphasis added]

Step 3. Writing the first working draft
17. The editors write the first working draft. To satisfy UN/CEFACT's goal of openness, everyone that has made a contribution to this working draft, or a subsequent working draft, must agree to remove any IPR constraints or restrictions that might be associated with their contribution.

Step 7. Final Technical Specification release. 27. After the successful verification by at least two independent implementations, and conformation from the editing group, the UN/CEFACT group releases the work as a UN/CEFACT Technical Specification available for download at UN/CEFACT's web site. Given the diverse group from around the world that contributed to refining the working draft, it should receive broad industry endorsement upon final release and be quickly implemented. UN/CEFACT's goal of openness ensures that the final specification contains no barriers to implementation: anyone with Internet access can freely download a copy of the specification and produce an implementation without paying any additional licensing fees or royalties..." [emphasis added] (quoted from public text as of 2005-02-12; cache)

Bibliographic information: UN/CEFACT's Open Development Process for Technical Specifications. United Nations Economic and Social Council. Reference: TRADE/CEFACT/2000/22. 16-February-2000. Centre for the Facilitation of Procedures and Practices for Administration, Commerce and Transport. Sixth session, 27-30 March 2000, Item 4 of the provisional agenda. According to the OPD User Guide document, UN/CEFACT approved the document 'TRADE/CEFACT/2000/22' in March 2000. [PDF, cache]

See also: "Draft Intellectual Property Rights Policy for UN/CEFACT." United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT). June 17, 2005. Reference identifier: TRADE/CEFACT/2005/MISC.3. Submitted by the Bureau. This draft document is for information under agenda item 6 of the provisional agenda. The document is circulated for review and comments by the Special Contact Group set by the Bureau. And the associated April 2005 "Explanatory Note" from theUN/CEFACT IPR Special Contact Group (SCG) of the Bureau, UN/CEFACT Progress on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy. [source PDF]


Articles, Papers, News

  • [July 7, 2008] "A Standard for Openness?" By Rick Jelliffe. From O'Reilly Articles. July 7, 2008. "In public discourse and public policy, open standards are a now Good Thing (in the sense of 1066 and All That). However, the more that 'open standard' is deemed good and important without having a common meaning, the more that interests will attempt to stretch its meaning in one way or another. In this case, one way means to allow actual royalty-bearing (RAND) standards as 'open standards' and the other way is to require open source (or even free) implementations. The Wikipedia entry for Open Standards shows the variability in the definitions of the term. Most pressingly, it has examples of legislation that uses the buzzword 'open' but in very different ways. It is an issue with a lot of angles... Whenever I have mentioned in public forums that the essential claims provisions seem to mean that if there are multiple implementation techniques, you are not covered, I am often rewarded by blank stares. I think this is because the drafting lawyers interpret the problem of making sure that the open standard can have open implementations (which is what the public policy agenda is) as being the same as making sure that the open standard can have at least one open implementation (which is not the same thing, because different implementation strategies vary in their performance or quality properties.) What is needed for openness is open licenses that all the technology being granted being usable in any open standard, whether there are alternative implementation strategies or not..."

  • [April 07, 2008] Evaluation of Ten Standard Setting Organizations with Regard to Open Standards. Edited by Per Andersen. Prepared by IDC for the Danish National IT and Telecom Agency (NITA). An April 03, 2008 press release from the the Danish National IT and Telecom Agency (IT- og Telestyrelsen) announced the publication of a 92-page report titled "Evaluation of Ten Standard Setting Organizations with Regard to Open Standards." This special study by IDC was commissiones to evaluate the degree of "openness" of the leading standard setting organizations. The study was conducted in support of the Danish parliament's "Parliamentary Resolution B103", unanimously adopted on 02-June-2006, on the use of open standards for software in the public sector. The Resolution instructed the Danish Government to ensure that the public sector's use of information technology, including the use of software, should be based on open standards. Ten standard setting organizations were evaluated and all organizations had the opportunity to review and comment on the evaluation of their organization. The ten organizations are: CEN, Ecma, ETSI, IETF, ISO, ITU, NIST, OASIS, OMG, and W3C. Standards organizations are generally aware of the need of openness because they all aim at providing successful, widely accepted standards. However, the concepts of openness and consensus have been implemented using different models that relate to the type of organization, their formal foundation and their degrees of formalization. The definition of "open standards" was specified to consist of three criteria: (1) The standard is fully documented and accessible by public [Open documentation]; (2) The standard should be free to implement without economical, political or legal restictions -- now as well as in the future [Open IPR, Open access, Open interoperability]; (3) The standard is managed and maintained in an open forum through an open process [Open meeting; Consensus; Due process; Open change; Ongoing standards support]... Some organizations have front-end openness in terms of allowing wide and free participation in the process of defining a standard (for example W3C and IETF). These organizations then balance this by supplementing their democratic voting process with a back-end control in terms of a director being able to say "yes" or "no" to a standard. Other organizations are more restricted in the front-end participation (OMG, ITU, ISO), but the decision on standards are then made exclusively through a formal voting process. Some organizations have free membership or low membership fees (for example IETF) and therefore limited funding abilities. This means fewer activities in cost intensive areas like interoperability testing and conformance. Other organizations have a strong funding foundation from members (OMG, ISO) and can therefore engage in more supporting activities such as interoperability testing... See also the press release. [cache]

  • [January 11, 2008] "An Empirical Examination of Open Standards Development." By Rajiv Shah [WWW] (Department of Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago) and Jay P. Kesan [WWW] (College of Law, and Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). 10 pages. Also available from the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). This paper on "Open Standards" was presented on January 09, 2007 as part of the Electronic Government Track at the 41st Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-41), sponsored by the Shidler College of Business, University of Hawai'i at Manoa; the January 7-10, 2008 conference was held at Waikoloa, Big Island, Hawaii. The paper was nominated as one of the HICSS-41 Conference "Best Papers."

    Excerpt: "This project uses empirical data to provide insights into the impact of open standards. This work moves beyond the existing literature by considering a large number of open standards, instead of handpicked case studies. The results of this research will be timely, as governments are advocating and sometimes mandating the use of open standards... We found inequalities in the impact of open standards that suggest a power law relationship. The implications are that standard organizations need to recognize this property and shift their strategies during the development process. First, standards organizations should happily accept that many standards will not become widely popular. This is just a simple property when you create lots of standards. This also carries implications. Open standards organizations should be flexible and adaptable in their approach towards the development of open standards. There will be some open standards that will require special guidance or rules because of their enormous impact, and vice-versa. After all, standards that are likely to have a high impact are often recognizable during the development process. They usually have more participants, are longer, and have more divisive debates. These results agree with our regressions that found longer standards generated higher impact. Standards organizations should not be afraid to play politics by instituting different rules or procedures to address problems during the standards development. Secondly, standards organizations should recognize that many high quality and potentially useful standards may be overlooked... The analysis of the impact of open standards found that the duration of the development process does not affect the impact of a standard. This finding carries significant policy implications as reforms are currently underway to speed up the IETF development process. Our results support these reforms as they should not influence the impact of the standards. Our analysis did find the length of the standard document (number of words) as a crucial factor affecting the impact of the standard. The length of a standard often reflects multiple participants, divisiveness, and technical complexity, all of which suggest greater interest during the development and consequently a higher impact..."

  • [July 9, 2007] "Is our idea of Open Standards good enough? Verifiable Vendor-Neutrality." By Rick Jelliffe. From O'Reilly Articles (July 9, 2007). "Open standards are clearly a good thing. Hurrah for open standards, etc. Nail my hat to the ceiling! [...] I think the problem is that rather than talking 'open standards' we need to be talking as much of 'verifiable vendor-neutrality', if that is the goal for our public policy. It is nice that ODF and Open XML are open standards by the academic definitions, but it does not get us to where we need to be, and legislation based on mere 'open standards' tickboxing will not succeed in getting vendor-neutral formats, if that is indeed the underlying aim. A standard may be as open as the grave yet not be good enough to the native format for an application, to bring up the current instance... Verifiable here means that there is a check in place that the committee proceedings did not discriminate against any player. Mere quorums and absolute votes are not enough. Vendor-neutral here means that the standard does not discriminate against any realistic players, either by making basic implementation too hard or by disallowing vendor-specific features or innovations or experiments, where appropriate... The issue of ODF versus Open XML will not go away, because they both have different drivers: the issue is not 'open standards' but how to have vendor-neutral interchange formats that also allow good enough vendor-specific functionality to be used as native formats without embrace-and-extend, and most critically how to verify that the formats are not just open but also fair, participatory and non-discriminatory."

  • [March 27, 2007] "Oracle Signs License Agreement with Open Invention Network. Demonstrates Oracle's Commitment to a Secure and Fertile Linux Ecosystem Which Drives Innovation and Ensures choice in the Marketplace." — "Open Invention Network (OIN), the company formed to spur innovation and protect the Linux System, announced today that Oracle, the world's largest enterprise software company, has become a licensee. By becoming a licensee, Oracle is demonstrating its commitment to a secure, fertile Linux ecosystem, ensuring choice in the marketplace. Patents owned by Open Invention Network are available royalty-free to any company, institution or individual that agrees not to assert its patents against the Linux System. This enables companies like Oracle to continue to make significant corporate and capital expenditure investments in Linux — helping to fuel economic growth... In less than a year, OIN has accumulated more than 100 strategic, worldwide patents and patent applications. These patents are available to all licensees as part of the patent commons that OIN is creating around, and in support of Linux. This makes it economically attractive for companies that want to repackage, embed and use Linux to host specialized services or create complementary products. Additionally, it helps ensure the continuation of innovation that has benefited software vendors, customers, emerging markets and investors..." See also Patents and Open Standards.

  • [July 24, 2006] "Open Standards vs. Open Source." By Bob Sutor. With Podcasts. Part One: Standards, Part Two: Software; Part Three: Open Source Software; Part Four: The SOA Connection Part one focuses on what a standard is and what it means for it to be open: 'I compared a standard to a blueprint and said that we separate the ideas of 'a standard which may be implemented' and 'something that is an implementation of a standard.' Open source is a particular way of implementing and distributing software, enabled by legal language that gives a range of permissions for what people may do with it. Just as we saw that there are a number of factors that can determine the relative openness of a standard, so too are there conditions that allow, encourage, or even demand behaviors from people who use or further develop open source software... open source software is something that you need to consider very seriously. This is true whether you are a user of software, a creator of software, a software distributor, a software integrator, a software solutions provider, or a venture capitalist. There is a difference, though, between seriously considering something and eventually doing something with it. Nevertheless, if you don't educate yourself about the possible role of open source in your business, organization, or government, you might be leaving yourself open to missed opportunities and cost savings, as well as increased competitive pressures..."

  • [December 23, 2005] "Podcast: ODF, MOX and the Definition of Open Standards." By Kurt Cagle. Blog entry. December 22, 2005. Discussion on the role of open vs. property standards in the Massachusetts Open Standards Requirements case. "Massachusetts has become a focus because it is seen as establishing a precedent elsewhere in the US. Those key issues include the following: (1) What exactly is meant by an open standard? Is it sufficient to post a standard that one has created to a receptive 'standards body', without involving a community development process, in order to justify the use 'open', or is community process and ratification a key requirement? By this light, PDF, the Adobe (formerly Macromedia) Flash format, C# and similar publicly available formats are all 'open standards' despite the fact that they were developed within proprietary environments. (2) What role do the various standards bodies play, and to what extent do they measure a commitment to both users and companies to be fair and unbiased within their works? Is a standard ratified by the ECMA any more or less valid than one ratified by the W3C, for instance, or OASIS? (3) To what extent do standards bodies have the right and responsibility of insuring that an organization, especially the standard issuing organization, abides by that standard? (4) Does a company that has a majority share in the marketplace have the right to dictate standards? Similarly, do a consortia of companies that collectively do not have a majority share have the right to establish standards that work to the monetary detriment of the dominant company?..."

  • [October 04, 2005] Sun Patent Non-Assertion Covenant for OpenDocument Offers Model for Open Standards. On September 30, 2005 Sun Microsystems published a declaration of non-enforcement of its U.S. and foreign patents against any implementation of the Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) v1.0 Specification or of any subsequent version of ODF. This non-assertion covenant is being praised as a creative mechanism for patent management in the OASIS open standards development context — a "model for patent protection that doesn't involve the glorification of software patents." Sun's public non-assertion declaration may be summarized unofficially as an irrevocable covenant not to enforce any of its enforceable U.S. or foreign patents against any implementation of the OASIS OpenDocument specification; however, this commitment is not necessarily applicable to any individual, corporation, or other entity that asserts, threatens or seeks to enforce any patents or patent rights against any OpenDocument Implementation. Clarification of terms governing the use of the OASIS OpenDocument Standard is especially important because the final version of the Enterprise Technical Reference Model Version 3.5 published by The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and made effective on September 21, 2005 features the OpenDocument spefification. As presented in the ETRM Version 3.5 Introduction and Information Domain final documents, the Commonwealth defines open formats as "specifications for data file formats that are based on an underlying open standard, developed by an open community, affirmed and maintained by a standards body and are fully documented and publicly available." Three (3) Open Format Technology Specifications are identified in ETRM Version 3.5: [1] OASIS Open Document Format For Office Applications (OpenDocument) v. 1.0; [2] Plain Text Format; [3] Hypertext Document Format v. 4.01. The Sun OpenDocument Patent Statement was published apparently in response to a question about whether users of the OpenDocument standard would need to ask Sun for a [formal, explicit, executable] license, and whether users would have to give Sun a reciprocal executed license as a precondition. Sun has updated its OASIS vintage-2002 IPR declaration with a clarification that no such license application or license paperwork are necessary. The non-assertion covenant is a public, blanket declaration asserting the freedom of anyone to implement the OpenDocument specification without needing to transact paperwork or otherwise to ask for Sun's permission.

  • [September 22, 2005] "The Microsoft License for the Office XML Reference Schemas is not Compatible with the GPL." ["More on the Royalty-Free Licenses for the Microsoft Office Open XML Formats." By Brian Jones (Microsoft Program Manager in Office). From Microsoft Blog Brian Jones: Office XML Formats, posted on Thursday, September 22, 2005. "People have asked for a yes/no answer for compatibility with the GPL, and the bottom line is I think he is right that the Microsoft license for the Office XML reference schemas is not compatible with the GPL. The GPL says that there can't be a requirement that you give credit to the author of the program (something called attribution). The GPL also says that you can't put a limitation on sublicensing IP rights. As Craig [Ringer] says, the Microsoft license has both these requirements, so it is not compatible with the GPL..." See similarly "MS Office XML Formats Not OK with GNU," by Peter Galli, on the authority of Richard Stallman (eWEEK June 17, 2005) and Jean Paoli, senior director of XML architecture for Microsoft: "what Microsoft is not trumpeting is a provision that requires anyone who uses the XML file format to attribute this in their code. This could preclude any technology that uses these file formats from being used in Linux and other open-source technologies licensed under the GPL, Paoli admitted... 'I am not a lawyer and so am not the authority on this, but the GPL may not allow code that is attributable to another company like Microsoft to be included. But some other open-source licenses are compatible as far as I know,' Paoli said."

  • [July 08, 2005] "Apache Faces Web Services Security Spec Roadblock. Open Source Organization to Meet with Microsoft, IBM." By Paul Krill. From InfoWorld (July 08, 2005). Microsoft: "WS-Security is an open standard at the OASIS standards organization. Microsoft has made a royalty-free license commitment for WS-Security that is consistent with the OASIS IPR policy." Apache: (paraphrased) "Nope: your definition of open is incompatible with open source licensing." InfoWorld (Krill): "Apache officials hope to iron out licensing issues with Microsoft and IBM pertaining to the WS-Security specification, so that Apache can add the technology to its open source Axis SOAP stack. Axis is envisioned as a Web services engine for deploying SOAs, according to Apache. WS-Security is needed to communicate with .Net systems, said Davanum Srinivas, vice president of services at the Apache Software Foundation. Although WS-Security is available for implementation royalty-free, it still must be licensed from Microsoft and IBM. Apache has raised concerns about this, mostly pertaining to a non-transfer clause that appears incompatible with open source licenses that allow for uninhibited transfer of technologies, Apache officials said. 'The big picture here is that we want users of open source to also be able to be distributors of open source, and that should happen without a requirement to go back to some other vendor for additional terms, to get rights from some other vendor,' said Cliff Schmidt, vice president of legal affairs at the Apache Software Foundation. There have been some discussions with IBM and Microsoft about the issue: 'What we know is that there needs to be further clarification from IBM and Microsoft regarding their licenses in order to make this compatible with open source licenses,' Schmidt said. Being a contributor to Apache, IBM is eager to cooperate with the foundation and is optimistic about reaching a resolution, according to Karla Norsworthy, vice president of software standards at IBM... The issue arose when VeriSign wanted to provide via open source its TSIK (Trust Service Integration Kit) toolkit, which implements WS-Security, to Apache, the Apache officials said. Microsoft has not been an advocate of open source technology to the same degree as IBM. Citing staff commitments to the TechEd Europe conference, Microsoft representatives said a company official would not be able to comment on the Apache issue this week..." Note: Microsoft [as of 2005-07-08] was apparently taking the same position with respect to WS-Security as in the Sender ID case: demanding that all implementers, including open source developers, explicitly execute a formal license with Microsoft. This demand is (apparently) incompatible with GPL, with the Apache Software License 2.0, and with open source software licenses based upon the The Open Source Definition (Version 1.9, Clause 7 'Distribution of License': "The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties." References: Apache and WS-Security.

  • [June 07, 2005.] "Open Document Formats: 'Open' Must be More Than a Marketing Term." Posted by Bob Sutor. Blog on Open standards, open source, open minds, open opportunities. June 07, 2005. And don't miss the entertaining followon of June 15, 2005 from James Governor's MonkChips, "What is Open? Ask IBM. It's a Four Letter Word. A Sutor-ble apology." Sutor: "To me, that document formats for 'office' applications should be completely open, not hindered by patents, and not owned by a single vendor is just obvious. I wasn't brought up to think otherwise, and so this whole business around why everyone should be rushing to implement the new OASIS Open Document format standard is a big 'duh' (that is, slap-yourself-in-the-head-obvious)... OASIS has just standardized their Open Document format and we're starting to see announcements of early implementations. Microsoft has just announced their next proprietary 'open' XML format, which is not the OASIS format but nevertheless reads like the description of that. It won't be available in released product form until sometime in 2006. There are other vendor word processors that use their own flavors of XML formats. These are some of the characteristics of a real open document format in 2005: (1) it is supported by multiple applications with demonstrated interoperability (2) it is preferably produced but at least maintained by a standards group with representation from many companies, organizations, and individuals, (3) is therefore not under the control of a single vendor who can change the format and the licensing at its whim, (4) and is available on a royalty-free basis and has no restrictions that might limit its use for any reason in any software, be it customer-unique code, a vendor product or open source... [what I recommend you do if you care about this as I do]: a) insist today that the provider of your office applications (word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software) tells you that they will support the OASIS Open Document format; b) insist today that the provider of your office applications allows you to easily set the OASIS Open Document format as the default 'save' format for your documents. That is, you should not have to go to a lot of trouble to avoid using proprietary formats..."

  • [June 07, 2005] "Open Standards in Everyday Life." Posted by Bobby Woolf (IBM). June 07, 2005. "... Standards enable products from different vendors developed separately and unaware of each other to nevertheless work together. As if they were designed to work together, because, by following the standard, they were in effect designed to work together. But standards aren't enough. Anyone can make something up and declare it a standard. If enough people start using it, it becomes a de facto standard. For a standard to be useful, there's the matter of specifications, openness, and standards bodies... A standards body is a vendor-neutral, non-profit organization that approves specifications as standards. Effectively, the industry is saying that it accepts the specification as a standard. Some examples include the W3C (HTTP, HTML, XML, etc.), OASIS (ebXML, UDDI, WS-Security, etc.), the WS-I (web services basic profile, attachment profile, security profile, etc.), etc... Now the issue is coming to a head in another way. OASIS has recently approved OpenDocument, a standard for office documents. Yet Microsoft, the #1 vendor in office applications, plans to use its own proprietary XML format. This does not seem to be an open standard, but rather a document format which isn't specified and which Microsoft can change whenever they like. Why is an open standard for office documents important? So that you can use the word processor, spreadsheet, or presentation application of your choice to edit your documents. And so that you can easily collaborate with other people, exchanging and editing each other's documents, each using your preferred application to do so. It's like being able to use any web browser to view any web page. Seems like something we ought to be able to expect..."

  • [March 17, 2005] "Concerns Raised Over Proposed Definition of 'Open Standards'." From European Communities, in eGovernment News (March 17, 2005). "Responding to the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) published by the European Commission's IDABC programme, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) said the document's definition of open standards could restrict the ability of European governments to procure IT products that implement widely used standards. The BSA said that this definition of open standards — namely the requirement that a standard be irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis and the obligation for licenses to be irrevocable and impose no constraints on re-use of the standard — 'is inconsistent in important respects with the policies and practices of many major international standards bodies'... The EIF provides a set of guidelines and recommendations to enable interoperability of government systems and processes with a view to delivering pan-European e-government services (PEGS). A draft version of the EIF was first released in January 2004. Following further consultations and an intense dialogue with all concerned actors and stakeholders — Members States, industry representatives, and stakeholders within the European institutions — the Framework was then refined and complemented before being finalised and approved in late 2004..." Note: As BSA is a pro-software-patent organization, it can be expected to oppose the EIF's definition of open standards.

  • [January 24, 2005] "Interoperability and Open Standards for eGovernment Services." By Hugo Lueders (hlueders@comptia.org), Director, ISC Europe. January 17, 2005. 9 pages. "This paper presents the key industry issues concerning interoperability and open standards with a view to developing sustainable solutions beneficial to all stakeholders. The focal point in the discussions amongst the different stakeholders — EU, Member State governments and industry — is the definition of open standards as the implications of this definition affect government services and business practices across Europe. Open Standards should refer to a technical interoperability framework which is agreed upon by companies and governmental decision-makers in order to ensure greater overall interoperability. This paper outlines how the balance between standardisation and intellectual property is struck by respecting the principles of transparency and non-discrimination. In this regard, the need to preserve consistency with EU policy and legal positions taken is of crucial importance, in particular as it relates to European and international intellectual property rights and public procurement law." Note: Initiative for Software Choice (ISC) is "a global coalition of more than 300 large and small companies and associations committed to advancing the concept that multiple competing software development and licensing models should be free to develop flourish unimpeded by government preference or mandate. The Initiative is managed by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), the world's largest technology trade association." [cache]

  • [December 08, 2004] "The Problem of Software Patents in Standards [Patent Farming]." By Bruce Perens (Senior Research Scientist, Open Source Cyber Security Policy Research Institute, George Washington University). Paper delivered at the FFII Conference "Regulating Knowledge: Costs, Risks, and Models of Innovation," Brussels, November 9-10, 2004. [A two-day conference, sponsored by MERIT, CEA-PME, the Open Society Institute, the Greens/EFA in the EP, and FFII; to survey the state of the policy debate over software patents and its relation to broader issues of access, innovation, and control of knowledge in the knowledge-based economy.] Discusses Patent Farming, "[deliberately] influencing a standards organization to use a particular principle covered by a patent." "Patents, originally created to stimulate innovation, may now be having the opposite effect, at least in the software industry. Plagued by an exponential growth in software patents, many of which are not valid, software vendors and developers must navigate a potential minefield to avoid patent infringement and future lawsuits. Coupled with strategies to exploit this confusion over patents, especially in standards setting organizations, it appears that software advancement will become stifled unless legal action is taken to resolve the situation. This article examines the current situation facing software developers and users, the methods employed by standards setting organizations to address these problems, and recommends strategies for resolving the problem caused by software patents...International Policy Regarding Open Standards: The rise of intellectual property licensing in software, and its inevitable extension to software standards, has led to a more rigorous definition of what governance and intellectual property terms are called for in something that is to be considered an open standard. The problem is that discriminatory intellectual property policy and unfair governance can actually encumber a standards document thought to be 'open' simply because of its availability. This fact may not be immediately visible to the implementors or even the standards working group. This has recently has prompted several organizations to create formal definitions of open standards..."

  • [November 08, 2004] "Open Standards Are Key to Busting Microsoft, IBM Says." By Mary Lou Roberts. From iSeries Network.com (November 08, 2004). "In his keynote address at COMMON last month, Bill Zeitler, IBM's senior vice president of the Systems & Technology Group, left no room for question about what Big Blue believes customers will want moving into the future: openness, integration, and simplicity. 'The open movement is not going to be stopped,' he said, and 'open standards are one of the prime drivers.' Rochester has worked hard over the past five years or so to bring the iSeries up to date with support for numerous technology standards. But the fact remains that the iSeries itself is still a proprietary system with proprietary presentation of data that resides on it..."

  • [September 27, 2004] "Open-Standard Bearers Close Ranks." By Rupert Goodwins. In CNETAsia (September 27, 2004). "Nobody on the planet has a word to say against open standards: like liberty, the family, and good television, they are universally popular. You just have to agree on how to define them."

  • [August 08, 2004] "The Word 'Open'." By Jonathan Schwartz (President and Chief Operating Officer, Sun Microsystems, Inc). From Jonathan's Blog (August 08, 2004). "Only a customer can define the word 'open.' That's my view. There's been a lot of discussion of 'open systems,' 'open source,' and 'open standards,' over the past — well, 30 years — and I'd like to add some refinements to the current debate. Granted, I seem to spend a disproportionate amount of my time defining things, but it seems like a lot of industry rhetoric right now depends upon redefining history and vocabulary..."

  • [March 2004] "Comments by the BSA in Response to the IDA Working Document on the European Interoperability Framework for Pan-European Egovernment Services." March 2004.

  • [February 18, 2004] "'European Interoperability Framework' — ICT Industry Recommendations." Brussels, 18-February-2004. Published by Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). 40 pages. Critical review of the IDA's EIF (Draft) document. Provides an 'Open Standards Directory' in Annex II, which collects a representative sample of alternative definitions used in the political debate about "open standards" (definition). "While everybody may agree on the need for interoperability, the scope and implementation of interoperability, as well as the incentives that encourage it or the technical or political barriers that hinder it, remain controversial. What are the issues and what are the recommendations by the ICT industry for the role of governments in promoting interoperability and enacting related regulatory policies? This White Paper aims to identify the issues and to develop replies. It gives an overview of the debate, summarises technical and industry experiences, and outlines possible directions for the policy framework within which further discussion will take place and needed answers will be found..."

  • [November 25, 2003] "An Introduction to Open Computing, Open Standards, and Open Source." By Douglas Heintzman (Director, Technical Strategy, IBM). From The Rational Edge (November 25, 2003). ['This article examines the role of standards as well as the role of open source software in the market today.'] "Open standards — interfaces or formats that are openly documented and have been accepted in the industry through either formal or de facto processes, and which are freely available for adoption by the industry. In the context of this article the term will be used to specifically refer to software interfaces. Examples that many people are familiar with include HTTP, HTML, WAP, TCP/IP, VoiceXML, XML, and SQL. They are typically built by software engineers from various IT/software companies who collaborate under the auspices of organizations such as W3C, OASIS, OMA, and IETF..."

  • [September 13, 1998] "The Principles of Open Standards." By Ken Krechmer. In Standards Engineering Volume 50, Number 6 (November/December 1998), pages 1-6. Reprinted in Communications Standards Review. Second place award winner, World Standards Day Competition, 1998. "Open Standards is a changing concept, molding itself to the evolving needs of an open, consensus based society. Currently ten concepts are considered, at least by some, to constitute part of the principles of Open Standards: (1) Openness: all stakeholders may participate in the standards development process. (2) Consensus: all interests are discussed and agreement found, no domination. (3) Due Process: balloting and an appeals process may be used to find resolution. (4) Open IPR: holders of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) must identify themselves during the standards development process. (5) Open World: same standard for the same function, world-wide. (6) Open Access: all may access committee documents, drafts and completed standards. (7) Open Meeting: all may participate in standards development meetings (8) On-going Support: standards are supported until user interest ceases rather than when provider interest declines. (9) Open Interfaces: interfaces allow additional functions, public or proprietary. (10) Open Use: low or no charge for IPR necessary to implement an accredited standard..."

Notes

  • [December 06, 2004] The initial intent of this document on "Open Standards" was conceived to be as follows:

    • provide a collection of references to published definitions or formulations for "open standards"
    • demonstrate that the varying definitions and formulations are generally predictable, given an understanding of the authoring corporate entity's business model and corporate objectives
    • document historical changes in attitude and approach to "open standards" through time
    • expose attempts by various parties to co-opt the preferred definition of "open source" such that competing definitions are discredited or disparaged, and their own products/behavior elevated
    • suggest that programmatic attempts to establish and promulgate the "best" definition of "open source" as a marketing message, and at the expense of a holistic view of interoperable computing solutions, are not as helpful as other activities focused upon creative solutions (legislative reforms, industry collaborations, development of licensing models) that advance "computing openness" at all levels and in all theatres, for example, claims to:
      • the most popular definition — popular in the same as sense as "most frequently purchased brand of burger"
      • the definition endorsed by the most prestigious corporate bodies — where prestige is a matter of perspective
      • the definition backed by the strongest legal authority — where strongest is relative to context
      • the definition most favorable, simultaneously, to both commercial (proprietary) and non-commercial (Stallman-"free", open source) business models for software development and distribution
      • the definition having the most extreme characteristics of "openness" — where, for example, open is equated with the absence of a restriction imposed by an owner or legal authority

    These initial goals were not expected to be stable.


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