Information on W3C Letter to ISO wrt Licensing Fee Proposal for use of ISO codes

Dear Readers,

The text below is based on a letter sent yesterday to the W3C Membership 
regarding a recent proposal to ISO to charge licensing fees for the 
commercial use of several ISO codes [0]. The codes under consideration 
and the possible impacts of this proposal on W3C specifications and the 
Web are summarized in the text below.

W3C will be following the matter closely, and will keep the list 
informed of developments.

Best regards,

Janet Daly


The Hypertext Coordination Group (representing the W3C's HTML, CSS, MMI, 
DOM, I18N, and Voice Browser Activities), along with W3C Member 
organizations, told us they believe that a swift, firm response from W3C 
is needed.  A poll of the W3C Advisory Board over the past 24 hours has 
also produced clear support for such action. The W3C Advisory Board 
further recommended that the full W3C Membership be alerted to the 
situation and of the possibility to respond to national ISO member 

Below is the text of an email that we sent on Thursday 18 September to 
Dr. Oliver Smoot, President of ISO. The letter was sent as Dr. Smoot 
informed us that the topic will be on the agenda of the ISO Council this 
coming Saturday 20 September.

NCITS has also sent a response to this proposal to ANSI [1].

If you wish to contact your national ISO member organization to register 
your opinion on the ISO proposal, here is the contact information for 
each of the ISO members:

[0] ISO Commercial Policies Steering Group Meets at ANSI



Text of message to Oliver Smoot


To:  Dr. Oliver Smoot, President, International Organization for

Dear Dr. Smoot,

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) wishes to express its deep concerns
over a recent proposal by the ISO Commercial Policies Steering Group 
(CPSG) to charge fees for the commercial use of ISO codes such as ISO 
639 (language codes), ISO 3166 (country codes), and ISO 4127 (currency 

These and similar codes are widely used on the Web. In particular the
language and country codes are of direct interest to W3C and the users
of W3C Recommendations in the context of HTTP, HTML and XML and various
other technologies. Language and country codes currently provide a 
single, standard way of identifying languages (and locales) throughout 
the Web. Multilingual Web sites and Web pages, as well as 
internationalization and localization features, would be particularly 

Any charges for the use of these standards are going to lead to
fragmentation, delay in deployment, and in effect a lack of
standardization. In particular, those users who depend upon 
multi-lingual or non-English language services will suffer.

In their considerations, the CPSG notes "the necessity for a number
of ISO standards to be published as databases". Web technology today
allows publication and reuse of data at a small fraction of the
costs a few years ago. If it is the case that the costs of maintaining
these databases is beyond ISO's capacity to cover, we would suggest that
ISO open a discussion with the larger user community about how these
services might be hosted in a manner that covers these costs.

Given that this policy would have profound impact not only on ISO,
but also on industry and users of the Web at large, we urge ISO to
further consider this policy and its broader implications and
consequences, and to reassure the community as quickly as possible
that there will be no charges for the use of these standards.

Best regards,

Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director
Steven R. Bratt, W3C Chief Operating Officer


World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

Janet Daly, Head of Communications
200 Technology Square
Cambridge, MA 02139

voice: +1.617.253.5884
fax:   +1.617.258.5999

Received on Friday, 19 September 2003 19:55:11 UTC