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  1. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
  2. <html>
  3. <head>
  4. <title>Open Standards – Overview – FSFE</title>
  5. </head>
  6. <body class="article" microformats="h-entry">
  7. <p id="category">
  8. <a href="/work.html">Our Work</a>
  9. </p>
  10. <h1 class="p-name">Open Standards</h1>
  11. <div class="e-content">
  12. <div id="introduction">
  13. <div class="right" style="max-width: 850px; width: 53%;">
  14. <img src="/activities/os/robot-protest-dark_2016_plussy.png" alt="robot protest"/>
  15. </div>
  16. <p><a href="/activities/os/def.html">Open Standards</a> are the foundation
  17. of cooperation in modern society. They allow people to share all kinds
  18. of data freely, prevent vendor lock-in and other artificial barriers to
  19. interoperability, and promote choice between vendors and technology solutions.
  20. Open Standards are implementable with Free Software, and thus provide full
  21. competition in the market. FSFE advocates for fair competition, interoperability of
  22. solutions, and choice for consumers. Open Standards are necessary prerequisite
  23. to ensure these freedoms.</p>
  24. </div>
  25. <h2 id="what-is-a-technical-standard">What is a technical standard?</h2>
  26. <p>A technical standard is a set of commonly agreed rules in regard to technical
  27. systems. It is usually documented in a so-called 'standard specification'
  28. that describes ways to consistently organise information so that it can
  29. be understood and used by multiple independent applications. Standards
  30. which are used for information storage are called 'formats', and those
  31. for transmissing information are called 'protocols'.</p>
  32. <p>A standard establishes common ground that provides means for interoperability
  33. and competition. The antipode of standardisation is monopoly: users of
  34. one product or service can only interoperate with users of the same product
  35. or service. Therefore, standards are used to enable competition for the
  36. public benefit.</p>
  37. <p>Standards can also be beneficial for innovation by allowing all actors
  38. on the market to innovate on top of the standard and build their own services
  39. in order to serve the standard.</p>
  40. <h2 id="why-open-standards">Why Open Standards?</h2>
  41. <p>The problem arises when a standard is owned by one market player that uses
  42. her position to control the further development of the standard, or tries
  43. to manipulate it through licensing policies in order to exclude or include
  44. some specific groups of actors. In this case, the standardisation is used
  45. for contrary purposes than promoting competition and interoperability.</p>
  46. <p>The full competition in the market is, therefore, provided by standards
  47. that are open. As Open Standards are freely available without any restrictions,
  48. they allow standardised technology to be used in products and services
  49. without any a priori advantage based on the ownership of the standard.
  50. As a consequence, the access to technology is allowed to all actors on
  51. the market irrespective of one's business model.</p>
  52. <h3 id="what-is-an-open-standard">What is an 'open' standard?</h3>
  53. <p>Open Standards are implementable with Free Software. If a standard does
  54. not meet the following criteria, it discriminates against Free Software and
  55. cannot be thus called an 'open' standard:</p>
  56. <p>An <a href="/activities/os/def.html">Open Standard</a> refers to a format
  57. or protocol that is:</p>
  58. <ol>
  59. <li>Subject to full public assessment and use without constraints in
  60. a manner equally available to all parties;</li>
  61. <li>Without any components or extensions that have dependencies
  62. on formats or protocols that do not meet the definition of an Open
  63. Standard themselves;</li>
  64. <li>Free from legal or technical clauses that limit its utilisation
  65. by any party or in any business model;</li>
  66. <li>managed and further developed independently of any single vendor in
  67. a process open to the equal participation of competitors and third parties;</li>
  68. <li>Available in multiple complete implementations by competing
  69. vendors, or as a complete implementation equally available to all
  70. parties.</li>
  71. </ol>
  72. <p>This way the standard ensures that technology is accessible for everyone,
  73. irrespective of business-model, size, or exclusive rights portfolio. </p>
  74. <h2 id="why-should-a-stanard-be-minimalistic">Why should a standard be minimalistic?</h2>
  75. <p>The aim of standards is to establish a common ground in technology and
  76. enable different applications to interact with each other. With more and
  77. more data being digitally stored, the more important is to ensure its
  78. portability between different applications. This is why it is essential
  79. to make sure that the format one chooses to store their data is accessible
  80. with multiple applications, irrespective of vendor or a technical solution.</p>
  81. <p>This is why the standard needs to be not only open, but also
  82. <a href="/activities/os/minimalisticstandards.en.html">'minimalistic'</a>,
  83. in order to solve the technical problem adequately, and allow as many
  84. implementers of that standard as possible. In other words, there is a need
  85. to assess whether the standard is as simple as possible, and as complicated
  86. as necessary.</p>
  87. <p>Overburdened standards with multiple unnecessary features gives its
  88. vendor an advantage: it is more difficult for another implementer to
  89. adequately read the format, and the customer is forced to a vendor lock-in.
  90. In addition, standards bloated with rarely used features leave backdoors
  91. and vulnerabilities for malicious attackers to take advantage of.</p>
  92. <h2 id="standard-that-is-implementable-with-free-software">Standard that
  93. is implementable with Free Software</h2>
  94. <h3 id="reference-implementation">Reference implementation</h3>
  95. <p>For software standards the actual standard is defined through both
  96. the formal specification and the actual implementation. Acquiring the
  97. formal specification is often not enough in order to implement the standard
  98. for complex digital systems. For any company wishing to implement the
  99. standard, knowledge of existing implementations is often even more
  100. valuable than the formal specification, as this helps to avoid the
  101. extended trial-and-error process for resolving ambiguities in formal
  102. specification.</p>
  103. <p>Hence, for a standard to be sufficiently 'open', the openness needs to
  104. address both the specification and implementation.</p>
  105. <p>Consequently, for open implementations it is economically more beneficial
  106. to publish reference implementations under a Free Software licence.
  107. This will allow the reference implementation to be freely available and
  108. also act as a formal specification without the institutional process of
  109. standard setting.</p>
  110. <h3 id="patents-in-standards">Patents in standards</h3>
  111. <p>Sometimes, the standard specification includes technical solutions
  112. that are needed in order to implement the standard. These technical
  113. solutions can be protected by patents. Whoever wishing to adopt and implement
  114. the standard has to, therefore, acquire the appropriate licence from the
  115. patent-holder.</p>
  116. <p>Industry has turned to different licensing practices in order to overcome
  117. the issue of patents essential to standard implementation: for example
  118. 'royalty-free' (RF) or an alternative 'fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory'
  119. (FRAND) terms. <a href="/activities/os/why-frand-is-bad-for-free-software.en.html">FRAND
  120. terms are incompatible with Free Software</a>. Furthermore, due to the
  121. fact that FRAND are usually kept secret, it is impossible to prove whether
  122. the imposed terms are objectively 'fair' or 'non-discriminatory'.
  123. Consequently, FRAND can be used as a tool to manipulate the standardisation
  124. process to exclude competition.</p>
  125. <p>While RF licensing is addressing only the royalty-payment criteria,
  126. it does not address other restrictions that may be placed on adoption
  127. and implementation of a standard by Free Software. In this regard, the
  128. licensing policies of patented technology in standardisation have to be
  129. compatible with the widest range of actors on the market, as the purpose
  130. of standardisation is to promote competition and to allow innovation on
  131. top of it.</p>
  132. <p>It is noteworthy, that hardly any new system in ICT is built without
  133. the use of Free Software, and the exclusion of companies basing their
  134. products on Free Software from standardisation can significantly hamper
  135. innovation. Therefore, the appropriate licence for standard-essential-patents
  136. is the one that is not placing any restrictions to the standard implementation
  137. with Free Software, i.e. 'restriction-free', according to the
  138. <a href="#what-is-an-open-standard">Open Standard definition</a>.</p>
  139. <h2 id="what-can-you-do">What can you do?</h2>
  140. <blockquote>
  141. <h3 id="as-a-citizen">As a citizen</h3>
  142. <p>
  143. <ul>Insist on Open Standards: don't let your government, university, employer,
  144. or a local public administration push you into using locked down formats.</ul>
  145. </p>
  146. </blockquote>
  147. <blockquote>
  148. <h3 id="as-a-politician">As a politician</h3>
  149. <ul>
  150. <li>Promote policies that in practice ensure competition and innovation
  151. in standardisation, i.e. minimalistic Open Standards implementable with
  152. Free Software.</li>
  153. <li>Promote licensing policies that are based on 'restriction-free' terms
  154. in order to achieve the widest adoption of standards and allow their
  155. implementation by all actors on the market.</li>
  156. <li>Prioritise the use of Open Standards in public procurement and software
  157. development in order to increase the interoperability of all software
  158. solutions used in public sector.</li>
  159. </ul>
  160. </blockquote>
  161. </div>
  162. <h2>Related news</h2>
  163. <fetch-news/>
  164. </body>
  165. <sidebar promo="open-standards">
  166. <dynamic-content />
  167. <h2>Further reading</h2>
  168. <ul>
  169. <li><a href="/activities/os/ps.html">"Analysis on balance: Standardisation and
  170. Patents"</a> by Georg Greve</li>
  171. <li><a href="/activities/os/why-frand-is-bad-for-free-software.html">Why
  172. FRAND is bad for Free Software?</a></li>
  173. <li><a href="/activities/os/eif-v3.en.html">FSFE's comments on the revision of
  174. the European Interoperability Framework v.3</a></li>
  175. <li><a href="/activities/os/eifv2.html">"EIFv2: Tracking the loss of
  176. interoperability"</a> by Karsten Gerloff and Hugo Roy</li>
  177. <li><a href="/activities/os/bsa-letter-analysis.html">"Defending Open Standards:
  178. FSFE refutes BSA's false claims to European Commission"</a> by Karsten
  179. Gerloff, Carlo Piana and Sam Tuke</li>
  180. <li><a href="http://fsfe.org/activities/os/2012-06-uk-consultation-os.en.html">FSFE's
  181. submission to the UK Open Standards Consultation 2012</a></li>
  182. <li><a href="/activities/policy/eu/digital-single-market-comments.en.html">FSFE
  183. comments on the EU Digital Single Market Strategy</a></li>
  184. <li><a href="/activities/policy/igf/sovsoft.html">"Sovereign Software: Open Standards,
  185. Free Software, and the Internet"</a> FSFE contribution to the first IGF</li>
  186. <li><a href="/activities/os/20150213.EC-patents-standards-consultation.FSFEresponse.pdf">FSFE response
  187. to the European Commission's consultation on patents and standards</a></li>
  188. <li><a href="/activities/os/2014-03-26.OpenLetterToVilella.en.html">Open
  189. Letter on Document Freedom Day 2014 to Giancarlo Vilella, Director of the European Parliament's
  190. DG ITEC and Chair of the Inter-Institutional Committee for
  191. Informatics</a> by Karsten Gerloff</li>
  192. <li><a href="/activities/os/msooxml.en.html">MS-OOXML: a pseudo-standard
  193. that pretends to be open</a></li>
  194. </ul>
  195. <h2>External links of interest</h2>
  196. <ul>
  197. <li><a href="http://documentfreedom.org">Document Freedom Day</a></li>
  198. <li><a href="http://www.odfalliance.org">ODF Alliance</a></li>
  199. <li><a href="http://www.pdfreaders.org">PDFreaders.org</a></li>
  200. <li><a href="http://www.fsf.org/resources/formats/playogg">Play Ogg!</a></li>
  201. <li><a href="http://isp.law.yale.edu/static/papers/Open_Documents_and_Democracy.pdf">"Open
  202. Documents and Democracy"</a> by Laura de Nardis and Eric Tam, Yale
  203. Information Society Project</li>
  204. <li><a href="http://www.intgovforum.org/Substantive_1st_IGF/openstandards-IGF.pdf">"An
  205. Economic Basis for Open Standards"</a> by Rishab A. Ghosh</li>
  206. <li><a href="http://blogs.fsfe.org/greve/?p=160">"An emerging understanding
  207. of Open Standards"</a> by Georg Greve</li>
  208. </ul>
  209. </sidebar>
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