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Open Season on Open Standards

ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - The increasingly heated debates about the traditionally dull area of computer standards is testimony to the rise of open source. For the latter absolutely requires standards to be truly open - that is, freely implementable, without any restrictions - whereas in the past standards were pretty much anything that enough powerful companies agreed upon, regardless of how restrictive they were.

In the face of the continuing move to such open standards, there has been a rearguard action by traditional proprietary software companies to push FRAND - Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory - as an acceptable default for "open" standards. Except that it is not, as I have discussed at length before.

Aside from its incompatibility with open source software - which means excluding the most vibrant part of the computer world - FRAND-based standards don't even succeed on their own terms. That can be seen in the increasing concern about the use of "standards-essential patents" to block rivals. Apple is accusing Motorola of doing that, and the European Commission is starting to make threatening noises about the practice.

This shows the folly of allowing companies to have such a stranglehold on standards - and why we need to move to restriction-free (RF) licensing. That would ensure a truly level playing field, and would avoid the danger of arguments breaking out afterwards about what exactly "fair and reasonable" means, since different companies will have different interpretations, and will always change their minds if it suits them.