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  1. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
  2. <html>
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  4. <head>
  5. <title>Open Standards – Overview – FSFE</title>
  6. </head>
  7. <body class="article" microformats="h-entry">
  8. <p id="category">
  9. <a href="/work.html">Our Work</a>
  10. </p>
  11. <h1 class="p-name">Open Standards</h1>
  12. <div class="e-content">
  13. <div id="introduction">
  14. <div class="right" style="max-width: 850px; width: 53%;">
  15. <img src="/activities/os/robot-protest-dark_2016_plussy.png" alt="robot protest"/>
  16. </div>
  17. <p><a href="/activities/os/def.html">Open Standards</a> are the foundation
  18. of cooperation in modern society. They allow people to share all kinds
  19. of data freely, prevent vendor lock-in and other artificial barriers to
  20. interoperability, and promote choice between vendors and technology solutions.
  21. Open Standards are implementable with Free Software, and thus provide full
  22. competition in the market. FSFE advocates for fair competition, interoperability of
  23. solutions, and choice for consumers. Open Standards are necessary prerequisite
  24. to ensure these freedoms.</p>
  25. </div>
  26. <h2 id="what-is-a-technical-standard">What is a technical standard?</h2>
  27. <p>A technical standard is a set of commonly agreed rules in regard to technical
  28. systems. It is usually documented in a so-called 'standard specification'
  29. that describes ways to consistently organise information so that it can
  30. be understood and used by multiple independent applications. Standards
  31. which are used for information storage are called 'formats', and those
  32. for transmitting information are called 'protocols'.</p>
  33. <p>A standard establishes common ground that provides means for interoperability
  34. and competition. The antipode of standardisation is monopoly: users of
  35. one product or service can only interoperate with users of the same product
  36. or service. Therefore, standards are used to enable competition for the
  37. public benefit.</p>
  38. <p>Standards can also be beneficial for innovation by allowing all actors
  39. on the market to innovate on top of the standard and build their own services
  40. in order to serve the standard.</p>
  41. <h2 id="why-open-standards">Why Open Standards?</h2>
  42. <p>The problem arises when a standard is owned by one market player that uses
  43. her position to control the further development of the standard, or tries
  44. to manipulate it through licensing policies in order to exclude or include
  45. some specific groups of actors. In this case, the standardisation is used
  46. for contrary purposes than promoting competition and interoperability.</p>
  47. <p>The full competition in the market is, therefore, provided by standards
  48. that are open. As Open Standards are freely available without any restrictions,
  49. they allow standardised technology to be used in products and services
  50. without any a priori advantage based on the ownership of the standard.
  51. As a consequence, the access to technology is allowed to all actors on
  52. the market irrespective of one's business model.</p>
  53. <h3 id="what-is-an-open-standard">What is an 'open' standard?</h3>
  54. <p>Open Standards are implementable with Free Software. If a standard does
  55. not meet the following criteria, it discriminates against Free Software and
  56. cannot be thus called an 'open' standard:</p>
  57. <p>An <a href="/activities/os/def.html">Open Standard</a> refers to a format
  58. or protocol that is:</p>
  59. <ol>
  60. <li>Subject to full public assessment and use without constraints in
  61. a manner equally available to all parties;</li>
  62. <li>Without any components or extensions that have dependencies
  63. on formats or protocols that do not meet the definition of an Open
  64. Standard themselves;</li>
  65. <li>Free from legal or technical clauses that limit its utilisation
  66. by any party or in any business model;</li>
  67. <li>Managed and further developed independently of any single vendor in
  68. a process open to the equal participation of competitors and third parties;</li>
  69. <li>Available in multiple complete implementations by competing
  70. vendors, or as a complete implementation equally available to all
  71. parties.</li>
  72. </ol>
  73. <p>This way the standard ensures that technology is accessible for everyone,
  74. irrespective of business-model, size, or exclusive rights portfolio. </p>
  75. <h2 id="why-should-a-stanard-be-minimalistic">Why should a standard be minimalistic?</h2>
  76. <p>The aim of standards is to establish a common ground in technology and
  77. enable different applications to interact with each other. With more and
  78. more data being digitally stored, it is more important to ensure its
  79. portability between different applications. This is why it is essential
  80. to make sure that the format one chooses to store data is accessible
  81. with multiple applications, irrespective of vendor or a technical solution.</p>
  82. <p>This is why the standard needs to be not only open, but also
  83. <a href="/activities/os/minimalisticstandards.en.html">'minimalistic'</a>,
  84. in order to solve the technical problem adequately, and allow as many
  85. implementers of that standard as possible. In other words, there is a need
  86. to assess whether the standard is as simple as possible, and as complicated
  87. as necessary.</p>
  88. <p>Overburdened standards with multiple unnecessary features give their
  89. vendors an advantage: it is more difficult for another implementer to
  90. adequately read the format, and the customer is forced to a vendor lock-in.
  91. In addition, standards bloated with rarely used features leave backdoors
  92. and vulnerabilities for malicious attackers to take advantage of.</p>
  93. <h2 id="standard-that-is-implementable-with-free-software">Standard that
  94. is implementable with Free Software</h2>
  95. <h3 id="reference-implementation">Reference implementation</h3>
  96. <p>For software standards the actual standard is defined through both
  97. the formal specification and the actual implementation. Acquiring the
  98. formal specification is often not enough in order to implement the standard
  99. for complex digital systems. For any company wishing to implement the
  100. standard, knowledge of existing implementations can be as valuable as
  101. the formal specification, as this helps to avoid the
  102. extended trial-and-error process for resolving ambiguities in formal
  103. specification.</p>
  104. <p>Hence, for a standard to be sufficiently 'open', the openness needs to
  105. address both the specification and implementation.</p>
  106. <p>Consequently, for open implementations it is economically more beneficial
  107. to publish reference implementations under a Free Software licence.
  108. This will allow the reference implementation to be freely available and
  109. also to act as a formal specification without the institutional process of
  110. standard setting.</p>
  111. <h3 id="patents-in-standards">Patents in standards</h3>
  112. <p>Sometimes, the standard specification includes technical solutions
  113. that are needed in order to implement the standard. These technical
  114. solutions can be protected by patents. Whoever wishes to adopt and implement
  115. the standard has to, therefore, acquire the appropriate licence from the
  116. patent-holder.</p>
  117. <p>Industry has turned to different licensing practices in order to overcome
  118. the issue of patents essential to standard implementation: for example
  119. 'royalty-free' (RF) or an alternative 'fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory'
  120. (FRAND) terms. <a href="/activities/os/why-frand-is-bad-for-free-software.en.html">FRAND
  121. terms are incompatible with Free Software</a>. Furthermore, due to the
  122. fact that FRAND are usually kept secret, it is impossible to prove whether
  123. the imposed terms are objectively 'fair' or 'non-discriminatory'.
  124. Consequently, FRAND can be used as a tool to manipulate the standardisation
  125. process to exclude competition.</p>
  126. <p>While RF licensing addresses only the royalty-payment criteria,
  127. it does not address other restrictions that may be placed on adoption
  128. and implementation of a standard by Free Software. In this regard, the
  129. licensing policies of patented technology in standardisation have to be
  130. compatible with the widest range of actors on the market, as the purpose
  131. of standardisation is to promote competition and to allow innovation on
  132. top of it.</p>
  133. <p>It is noteworthy that hardly any new system in information and communications technology (ICT) is built without
  134. the use of Free Software, and the exclusion of companies basing their
  135. products on Free Software from standardisation can significantly hamper
  136. innovation. Therefore, the appropriate licence for standard-essential-patents
  137. is the one that does not place any restrictions to the standard implementation
  138. with Free Software, i.e. 'restriction-free', according to the
  139. <a href="#what-is-an-open-standard">Open Standard definition</a>.</p>
  140. <h2 id="what-can-you-do">What can you do?</h2>
  141. <blockquote>
  142. <h3 id="as-a-citizen">As a citizen</h3>
  143. <p>
  144. <ul>Insist on Open Standards: don't let your government, university, employer,
  145. or a local public administration push you into using locked down formats.</ul>
  146. </p>
  147. </blockquote>
  148. <blockquote>
  149. <h3 id="as-a-politician">As a politician</h3>
  150. <ul>
  151. <li>Promote policies that in practice ensure competition and innovation
  152. in standardisation, i.e. minimalistic Open Standards implementable with
  153. Free Software.</li>
  154. <li>Promote licensing policies that are based on 'restriction-free' terms
  155. in order to achieve the widest adoption of standards and allow their
  156. implementation by all actors on the market.</li>
  157. <li>Prioritise the use of Open Standards in public procurement and software
  158. development in order to increase the interoperability of all software
  159. solutions used in public sector.</li>
  160. </ul>
  161. </blockquote>
  162. </div>
  163. <related-feed tag="openstandards"/>
  164. </body>
  165. <sidebar promo="open-standards">
  166. </sidebar>
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