Re: Definitions - Policy, Regulation and Compliance

> On Sep 15, 2022, at 11:44 AM, Alastair Campbell < <>> wrote:
> Hi Andrew,
> These emails relate to a conversation at TPAC where we were making sure we all understood the terms in the same way.

Thank you for the clarification Alastair.

> On Sep 15, 2022, at 11:51 AM, Gregg Vanderheiden < <>> wrote:
> I think we are all on the same page Andrew
> We introduce the term regulation to make it clear that what the W3C is doing is NOT regulation.  And also that companies don’t "comply" with a W3C standard — since the W3C is not requiring or asking.  

Thank you for the clarification Gregg, that puts it all into perspective — absent full context I was obviously parsing things a bit differently. A factor is that I had a related conversation recently which was in contrast to this thread and likely colored my perception.  (see what I did there…)

> (I would refrain from limiting regulators to gov agencies — but may be true) 

As far as the US, I’m going to suggest true. 


I just took a look at two private organizations that exert regulatory influence on members or within a closed ecosystem, namely the NFL and the MPAA.

NFL sets the rules for commercial football, and the term they use is “rules” and the only times they use the term “regulation” is when referring to a governmental regulation (such as OSHA) or in the context of the alternate meaning that you indicated in your previous post (“regulation playing time” but not a “playing time regulations”).

The MPAA (Motion Picture Ratings Board) also uses the term “rules” and again, the only time the word “regulation” is mentioned is in the context of a governmental law, or in the sense of “we are a self-regulating industry”. This is a thing as the Federal Govt. in the late 1960s was like “Look Hollywood, either you regulate yourself, or we’ll do it for you!” which freaked out the studio heads to the point they formed the MPAA for that purpose. 

But despite the fact the MPAA literally regulates the content of motion pictures, they refer to the process as ratings rules, and not regulations.

Also in the US, the US Chess Federation rule book is titled “Rules of Chess” and “regulation” is used just for the title of “rules and regulations of computer chess” but nothing is defined as a “regulation”.


Those are all US. Internationally it’s different. The International Chess Federation FIDA’s rule book is the “Rules and Regulations of Chess” and they use the terms “regulations” as well as the term “Chess Law”. But this is also a closed ecosystem, with the scope only being FIDE members/players.

— — 

My point is, my understanding of “regulation” in this context relates only to laws or bylaws, and is narrow in scope, with defined enforcement.

Policy is much broader, and without defined enforcement.

> On Sep 15, 2022, at 12:47 PM, Mary Jo Mueller < <>> wrote:
> Andrew, 
> Thanks for joining in on this thread. I had sent my email due to a discussion of terminology during Tuesday’s TPAC AG WG meeting as shown in the slide deck titled Accessibility, Conformance, and Regulation (Compliance) <> where there was work done to define these terms. Here’s a link to the meeting minutes where the terms were discussed <>. 

Hi Mary Jo, thank you for the further clarification and the links to the related background materials.

> I think there’s a general feeling in the AG WG that such terms are being used interchangeably (or with slightly different meaning) in different contexts by different persons. There is a desire to clarify the definitions so we’re all closer to a common understanding when we talk about compliance vs. conformance and regulation vs. law vs. policy. I wasn’t fully comfortable with how the terms were defined in Tuesday’s TPAC presentation.

Based on what I just read I agree with you and I’m not comfortable with that either.

“Regulation” has a similar weighted meaning as “Shall” and at least in the US, “regulation” and “law” have some specific meanings in the context, as I outlined in my earlier post.  

> There were additional modifications made during the meeting that seemed to lean toward equating policy with regulation – something I’m also uncomfortable with. I did not have the capacity to wordsmith or research on the fly during the meeting to fully explain my concerns.

IMO It would be very bad to equate “regulation” and “policy” as they have legally distinct meanings.  

And also, in looking into this a bit, something else became apparent, and that is translations and international understanding of these terms may have different weight or even meaning, than they do in the US. This implies an even greater importance for defined uniformity here.

More definitions:

I do not know if this is useful or overly pedantic, but I looked through Black’s Law Dictionary 7th ed, and pulled a few of the related definitions, they’re pasted in below, thinking they might be useful for phraseology or terminology, and are citable to Black’s 7th ed.

Thank you for reading,


- - - - - - -

From Black’s 7th Ed.

law. 1. The regime that orders human activities and relations through systematic application of the force of politically organized society, or through social pressure, backed by force, in such a society; the legal system <respect and obey the law> . 2. The aggregate of legislation, judicial precedents, and accepted legal princi­ ples ; the body of authoritative grounds of judi­cial and administrative action <the law of the land > . 3. The set of rules or principles dealing with a specific area of a legal system <copy­right law>. … 5. A statute <Con­gress passed a law>

statute. A law passed by a legislative body

statutory law. The body of law derived from statutes rather than from constitutions or judi­ cial decisions. - Also termed statute law; legis­lative law; ordinary law.

caselaw. The collection of reported cases that form the body of law within a given jurisdic­tion. See also "common law”.

common law, n. 1. The body of law derived from judicial decisions, rather than from stat­utes or constitutions; CASELAW <federal com­mon law>

regulation, n . 1 . The act or process of control­ling by rule or restriction <the federal regula­tion of the airline industry> . 2. BYLAW (1) < the CEO referred to the corporate regulation>. 3. A rule or order, having legal force, issued by an administrative agency or a local government <Treasury regulations explain and interpret the Internal Revenue Code>. - Also termed (in sense 3) agency regulation; subordinate leg­islation; delegated legislation. - Often shortened to reg;

bylaw. 1. A rule or administrative provision adopted by an association or corporation for its internal governance. • Corporate bylaws are usually enacted apart from the articles of incorporation. - Also termed regulation. 2. ORDINANCE. - Sometimes spelled by-law;

rule, n . 1 . Generally, an established and authori­tative standard or principle; a general norm mandating or guiding conduct or action in a given type of situation.
  general rule. A rule applicable to a class of cases or circumstances.
  special rule. A rule applicable to a particular case or circumstance only.
2. A regulation governing a court's or an agen­cy's internal procedures.

policy. 1. The general principles by which a government is guided in its management of public affairs. See PUBLIC POLICY.

public policy. 1. Broadly, principles and stan­dards regarded by the legislature or by the courts as being of fundamental concern to the state and the whole of society. • Courts some­times use the term to justify their decisions, as when declaring a contract void because it is "contrary to public policy.” - Also termed policy of the law.

organization. 1. A body of persons (such as a union or corporation) formed for a common purpose. 2. See UNION.


standard, n. 1. A model accepted as correct by custom, consent, or authority <what is the standard in the ant-farm industry?>. 2. A criterion for measuring acceptability, quality, or accuracy <the attorney was making a nice liv­ing - even by New York standards>.

STANDARDS  (From 2nd ed - not in Black’s 7th ed)
1. General. Written limit, definition or rule that is approved and monitored by an agency as the minimum benchmark acceptable. 2. GATT defection. “Technical specifications contained in a document that lays characteristics of a product such as levels of quality, performance, safety or dimensions. Standards may include a deal exclusively with terminology, symbols, testing and methods, packaging or labeling requirements as they apply to a product”. See Standard.


GUIDELINE (From 2nd ed - not in Black’s 7th ed)
A practice that allows leeway in its interpretation.

soft law. 1. Collectively, rules that are neither strictly binding nor completely lacking in legal significance.
2. Int'l law. Guidelines, policy declarations, or codes of conduct that set stan­dards of conduct but are not directly enforceable.


CONFORMANCE (From 2nd ed - not in Black’s 7th ed)
A certification that an item meets requirements and standards of a contract. Refer to compliance.

conforming, ad). Being in accordance with con­tractual obligations <conforming goods> <conforming conduct>. VCC § 2-102(a)(8).

follow, vb. To conform to or comply with; to accept as authority <the lawyer assumed that the Supreme Court would follow its own prece­dent>.

nonconformity. The failure to comply with something, as in a contract specification.


COMPLIANCE  (From 2nd ed - not in Black’s 7th ed)
A confirmation that a manufacturer can do what they say they can according to the rules and standards required by a contract. Refer to conformance.

audit, n. A formal examination of an individual's or organization's accounting records, financial situation, or compliance with some other set of standards. - audit, vb. - auditor, n.

compliance audit. An audit conducted by a regulatory agency, an organization, or a third party to assess compliance with one or more sets of laws and regulations.

command. 1. An order; a directive. 2. In legal positivism, the sovereign's express desire that a person act or refrain from acting a certain way, combined with the threat of punishment for failure to comply.

"Commands are orders backed by threats. It is in virtue of threatened evils, sanctions, that expressions of desire not only constitute commands but also impose an obli­gation or duty to act in the prescribed ways." Martin P. Golding, Philosophy ofLaw 26 (1975).

enforce, vb. 1. To give force or effect to (a law, etc . ) ; to compel obedience to. 2. Loosely, to compel a person to pay damages for not com­plying with (a contract) .

enforcement, n. The act or process of compel­ling compliance with a law, mandate, or com­mand.

legitimate, adj. 1. Complying with the law; lawful <a legitimate business> . …. 3. Genuine; valid <a legitimate complaint>. - legitimacy, n.

literal, adj. According to expressed language. • Literal performance of a condition requires ex­act compliance with its terms.

obedience. - Compliance with a law, command, or authority.


Received on Friday, 16 September 2022 00:28:49 UTC