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<html newsdate="2016-04-28">
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<title>EU jeopardises its own goals in standardisation with FRAND licensing</title>
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<h1>EU jeopardises its own goals in standardisation with FRAND licensing</h1>
<p>On 19 April, the European Commission published a communication on <a
href="https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/communication-ict-standardisation-priorities-digital-single-market">"ICT
Standardisation Priorities for the Digital Single Market"</a> (hereinafter 'the
Communication'). The <a
href="https://download.fsfe.org/policy/letters/20151029-fsfe-dsm-comments.pdf">Digital
Single Market (DSM) strategy</a> intends to digitise industries with several
legislative and political initiatives, and the Communication is a part of it
covering standardisation. In general, the Free Software Foundation Europe
(FSFE) welcomes the Communication's plausible approach for integrating Free
Software and <a href="/freesoftware/standards/">Open Standards</a> into standardisation
but expresses its concerns about the lack of understanding of necessary
prerequisites to pursue that direction.</p>
<h2>Acknowledging the importance of Free Software</h2>
<p>The Communication starts with acknowledging the importance of Open Standards
for interoperability, innovation and access to media, cultural and educational
content, and promotes "community building, attracting new sectors, promoting
open standards and platforms where needed, strengthening the link between
research and standardisation". The latter is closely linked to the "cloud",
where the Communication states that the "proprietary solutions, purely national
approaches and standards that limit interoperability can severely hamper the
potential of the Digital Single Market", and highlights that "common open
standards will help users access new innovative services".</p>
<p>As a result, the Commission concludes that by the end of 2016 it intends to
make more use of Free Software elements by better integrating Free Software
communities into standard setting processes in the standards developing
organisations.</p>
<p>In the Internet of Things (IoT) domain, the Communication acknowledges the
EU need for "an open platform approach that supports multiple application
domains ... to create competitive IoT ecosystems". In this regard, the
Commission states that "this requires open standards that support the entire
value chain, integrating multiple technologies ... based on streamlined
international cooperation that build on an IPR ["intellectual property rights"]
framework enabling easy and fair access to standard essential patents
(SEPs)".</p>
<p>FSFE welcomes this direction taken in the Communication, as well as the
Commissioner <a
href="https://ec.europa.eu/commission/2014-2019/oettinger/announcements/keynote-speech-closing-plenary-session-net-futures-2016-brussels_en">Günther
Oettinger's position, highlighted in his keynote at the Net Futures 2016</a>,
that "easy reuse of standard and open components accelerates digitisation of
any business or any industry sector." Furthermore, according to the
Commissioner Oettinger, Free Software standards "enable transparency and build
trust."</p>
<h2>EC putting good efforts at risk</h2>
<p>However, the attempts of the Commission to promote Open Standards and a more
balanced approach towards "intellectual property rights" policies in
standardisation may be seriously hampered by the Commission's stance towards
FRAND licensing. In particular, the Commission sets the goal to "clarify core
elements of an equitable, effective and enforceable licensing methodology
around FRAND principles" which is seen as striking the right balance in
standardisation and ensuring the "fair and non-discriminatory" access to
standards. Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that FRAND licensing terms that
in theory stand for "fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory" terms, in
practice are <a
href="/freesoftware/standards/why-frand-is-bad-for-free-software.html">incompatible
with most of Free Software</a>.</p>
<p>In conclusion, whilst the Communication sets a positive direction towards
the promotion of Open Standards and the inclusion of Free Software communities
into the standardisation, this direction may be seriously limited if the
Commission fails to acknowledge the incompatibility of FRAND licensing terms
with Free Software licenses. This in return can in practice make a proper Free
Software implementation of the standard impossible. As a result, the attempts
of the Commission to achieve truly "digital single market" based on
interoperability, openness and innovation will not be achieved as the
significant part of innovative potential found in Free Software will be in
practice excluded from standardisation.</p>
<p>In line with <a
href="https://download.fsfe.org/policy/letters/20151029-fsfe-dsm-comments.pdf">our
recommendations on the DSM initiative</a> that got well received by the
Commission, FSFE believes that in order to achieve the adequate integration of
Free Software communities, and the overall plausible approach towards
appropriate use of Open Standards the Commission needs to avoid the harmful
consequences of FRAND licensing to Free Software, and instead pursue the
promotion of standards that are open, minimalistic and implementable with Free
Software. These standards will give the substance to the Commission's promises
to encourage Free Software communities to participate in standardisation.</p>
</body>
<tags>
<tag key="front-page"/>
<tag key="openstandards">Open Standards</tag>
<tag key="policy">Policy</tag>
<tag key="european-commission">European Commission</tag>
<tag key="digital-single-market">Digital Single Market</tag>
</tags>
</html>