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EU Standards Directive needs revision, researchers say

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The 2012 European Directive on Standardisation needs to be revised, three researchers on ICT standards say. The directive is hindering European companies that wish to implement software standards. Negative side effects are especially dire for small companies, the experts say.

“To avoid unfair competition, European governments and public sector organisations should only refer to software standards which are provided under royalty free conditions when expressing mandatory requirements in public sector procurement”, the experts recommend.

The three researchers, Björn Lundell, Jonas Gamalielsson, and Andrew Katz, working for the University of Skövde (Sweden) also warn against allowing FRAND (Fair, Reasonable, And Non-Discriminatory) licensing in the European Commission’s European Interoperability Framework, which is being revised. “FRAND can be very problematic when applied to software standards, in particular for small companies that are important for innovation in Europe”, the researchers said.

Standard barriers

The experts recently published a research paper in the International Journal of Standardisation Research, showing how formal standards can create barriers for developers of open source software. Formal standards are those provided by standardisation organisations that are recognised by Member States and the EC. This mostly means standards set by the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) as well as national standard organisations.

For their report, the researchers painstakingly checked all the licensing requirements of three ISO standards for computer images, PNG, JPEG, and TIFF. For both JPEG and TIFF, the three found that there are royalty-bearing patents required to implement the standard.

Lundell, Gamalielsson and Katz contacted all the organisations involved in the JPEG and TIFF patents. Most of these failed to respond to the enquiries and reminders sent by the researchers. The few that do respond, decline to allow implementation of their patent in the GPLv3, a free software licence, decline to answer, or decline to provide details on the patents. This hinders implementation of the standards by small companies and by open source projects, the experts elaborate in their study.

 

More information:

On Implementation of Open Standards in Software: To What Extent Can ISO Standards be Implemented in Open Source Software? (PDF)
Ars Technica Op-ED
Groklaw post
OSOR news item
European Interoperability Framework (EIF) revision