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August 2005
Vol IV, No. 8

Government and SSO's: Optimizing the System

EDITOR'S NOTE: TOWARDS A MORE PERFECT UNION
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EDITORIAL: A CALL FOR GREATER COLLABORATION
The voluntary consensus process of standard setting and the legislative process of rule making often share the same goals, and interconnect in many ways. These interconnections will increase in the future, as will the competitive edge of those nations where the public and private sector collaborate most effectively. Print this article
   
FEATURE ARTICLE:

UNDERSTANDING THE ROLES AND OPTIMIZING THE RELATIONSHIPS OF GOVERNMENT AND SSO'S

Governments and standard setting organizations (SSOs) have much in common, as well as important differences. They also need to work closely together in pursuit of common goals. Understanding their strengths and weaknesses can lead to a more effective and efficient partnership. Print this article
   
STANDARDS BLOG: PATENT POOLS AND PRACTICALITY: WOULD YOU GIVE A PENNY FOR THE GUY?
While the open source model continues to gain momentum, there is another approach to avoiding unacceptable costs and licensing headaches that is more common in some other industries: the patent pool. From time to time, as now, it pops up in the software arena as well. Print this article
   
CONSIDER THIS: HOW DO YOU DEFINE A WILDERNESS?
Definitions may seem like simple tools. But when they are incorporated into statutes, they become powerful legal standards that can have profound impacts on our lives. Print this article
   
ANNOUNCING: CSB EDITOR RECEIVES ANSI 2005 PRESIDENT’S AWARD FOR JOURNALISM
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FEATURED MEETING: STANDARD SETTING IN A CHANGING WORLD: THE GROWING INFLUENCE OF EUROPE AND ASIA
It’s no surprise that Europe and China, which integrate standard setting much more closely into national and regional policy, are increasing their global impact in important standards areas. Attend this free, interactive analysis of this trend in Washington, D.C. on October 5, co-sponsored by ConsortiumInfo.org/Gesmer Updegrove LLP and held in conjunction with the ANSI Annual Conference during World Standards Week. Print this article
   
NEWS SHORTS:  
China Flexes Its Standards Muscles; Europe Supports Open Source (and Not Software Patents); U.S. Struggles with IPR Issues; Open Source Advocates Mount Patent Counteroffensives; Open Source and Open Standards Systems Grind Gears; Semantic Web Projects Proliferate; IEEE: WLAN Rapprochement Announced While New Mesh Competition Begins; and, as always, much more. Print this article
 

 




EDITOR'S NOTE:

TOWARDS A MORE PERFECT UNION

 

In this issue I highlight the interdependencies of two systems that have much in common, but too often work in total isolation (at least in the United States): government and standard setting organizations (SSO's). Europe and China, among others, see standard setting as an extension of regional and national policy, and integrate these two systems closely, to national advantage. I believe that the United States government, SSO's and industry should recognize the value of greater collaboration as well, and work towards optimizing the relationship between these two allied, but too-often independent systems.

In this month’s Editorial, I note that the interconnections between government and SSO's will increase, as will the margin between success and failure in remaining competitive in the global marketplace. As a result, I call for more cooperation and dialogue between government and SSO's in the United States.

In the Feature Article, I examine the ways in which government and SSO's are the same, and in which ways they are different, and offer suggestions on how the two can better work together for greater mutual benefit, and greater benefit to the end user.

In this month’s excerpt from the Standards Blog I depart briefly from this issue’s theme, and describe how one mechanism for simplifying intellectual property matters – the patent pool – can be used to favorable effect in the software arena as well.

In this month’s excerpt from Consider This… I explore the relationship between standards (in this case definitions) and legislation by comparing the many popular definitions of “Wilderness” to that which was included in the 1964 Wilderness Act.

I also have two announcements to make this month. In the first, I take pleasure in announcing that we have helped plan, and are co-sponsoring a seminar in Washington, D.C. on October 5, in conjunction with World Standards Week and the ANSI Annual Conference. The seminar will analyze the impact that the close coordination between government and SSO's in Europe and China is having on their national competitiveness, the specific areas in which that impact is being felt, and what can be expected in the future.

I also take personal pleasure in announcing that the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) will be bestowing their 2005 President’s Award for Journalism on me in recognition of the role that ConsortiumInfo.org and the Consortium Standards Bulletin have played in helping “to raise the profile of standards and highlight their importance to commerce and daily life, as well as encourage greater support for their use and development.”

As always, I hope you enjoy this issue.

    Best Regards,
 
  Andrew Updegrove
  Editor and Publisher
     


EDITORIAL

A CALL FOR GREATER COLLABORATION

Andrew Updegrove

 

While standards are important tools, it is worth recalling that they coexist with another rule set that is in many ways similar, but which is created through a different process. That other set of rules, of course, comprises the many sets of local, state and federal laws and regulations that govern our lives.

When setting standards (or drafting legislation) in the breach, it is all too easy to forget about the other system of rules and skills. But the interconnections between these two systems (as explored in greater detail in this month’s Feature Article ) are many, such as the incorporation of consensus standards into regulations (such as building codes).

By keeping this big picture in focus, it is easier to understand the often related roles that standards, laws and regulations play in the grand scheme of things, and therefore to do a better job of creating them. It can also enable the creation of more sophisticated and predictable business strategies. Similarly, by recognizing how much is held in common between consensus-based standards and legislated standards, those that create each type of tool may learn from the experiences of those that work in the other system.

Recognizing that voluntary and mandatory standards have much in common, and that they often serve the same ultimate goals, will be increasingly important in the future, as technology assumes an ever greater role in just about everything. If there is too little communication between those that set governmental policy and those that set standards, each is likely to work at cross purposes rather than towards achieving common goals. In today’s highly competitive global marketplace, those nations that maintain the closest ties and achieve the greatest synergies between public and private standards efforts will doubtless gain a meaningful competitive advantage. Most knowledgeable sources would conclude, we believe, that the United States does not enjoy such an advantage today.

Traditionally, standards and government policy have intersected most often in areas such as trade (where nominally mechanistic standards can be used to favor local industry), procurement (where both government-unique and consensus standards may be used together), and health and public safety (where all manner of standards exist, some of which are created within one system, and some within the other). But now new intersections (or collisions, depending on your point of view) are emerging. For example, Internet governance has become a major focus of the ongoing World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which has created a Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) to consider what action, if any, should be requested in light of the United States’ continuing oversight of ICANN, which controls the global Internet root directory.

In fact, both governments as well as the standards bodies that maintain the standards, registries and protocols that enable the Internet to operate all wish to have an efficient, effective system. But each has separate concerns as well. Those that set Internet and Web standards have a technical focus and strong vendor involvement, while those that are concerned with Internet “governance” worry over who controls this essential resource, especially if it is another government.

And what of the end-user? On the standards body side, those that have technical expertise may participate in organizations such as the IETF, but someone who simply wants to use the Internet (and whose life is increasingly dependent upon how it operates) has no effective voice at all. In the WSIS process, the interests of the end-user (and particularly those in the Third World) are at the forefront, but the agendas of some participants may also include other goals that are not as admirable. And, as the transitory WSIS process demonstrates, there is currently no effective, standing, trusted system in place to permit both sides to discuss and agree on how to achieve the best results for humanity as a whole when standards and public policy intersect on a global basis.

Nor is this an isolated example. With increasing globalization, environmental pressures and international tensions, it will be particularly important for each person that plays a role in setting the rules and creating the tools that will control and enable our lives to understand how the pieces fit together. What, for example, will we agree that concepts such as “sustainability” mean, and who will create the laws, regulations and standards that will allow us to define, measure and achieve that goal on a case-by-case basis? Will there be communication among those that set policy and those that create standards, and how will that be achieved?

If we are to live in the type of world that we would wish, greater identification of the role of standards, and the interplay of laws and standards, will be important – as will greater understanding on the part of those that work in each system about the work and goals of the other. Perhaps greater compromises will be needed by each system in order to achieve the best results. Focusing greater attention on how this dual system can be optimized, and setting up well thought out channels for regular dialogue today will doubtless make creating the world that we hope to live in tomorrow more achievable.

Comments? Email:

Copyright 2005 Andrew Updegrove



FEATURE ARTICLE

UNDERSTANDING THE ROLES AND OPTIMIZING THE RELATIONSHIPS OF GOVERNMENT AND SSOS

Andrew Updegrove

Abstract: Governmental rule making and private consensus-based standard setting activities have long enjoyed a synergistic relationship in most nations. But in the United States today, cooperation in many industry sectors is more situation-based than carefully planned in advance for maximum productive results, in part because there is no public-private collaborative structure that sets guidelines for assigning specific standards projects to one system or the other, or to provide support by one system to the other when a standard is completed. This article explores some of the similarities and differences between these public and private systems; compares the strengths and weaknesses of each; suggests criteria for determining which efforts should be pursued in one venue or the other; and proposes ways in which the two systems could learn from, and more effectively work with, each other.

 

Introduction: When we think of a standard, we typically think in terms of the specific purpose for which that standard was created: the performance required by a product, the requirements needed to establish interoperability between two devices, and so on. In a sense, standards are examples of “Thou shalt” requirements.

When we think of laws and regulations, we typically think in terms of rules that specify what cannot be done (e.g., trespassing), or the limits within which things may be done (e.g., speed limits). In other words, laws and regulations usually constitute “Thou shalt not” rules.

Of course, the dividing line between these two types of standards, one of which relies upon the power of the state, and the other of which is consensual, is hardly so simple, and one need not look too far to begin to find areas where the two types of rules begin to intersect. For example, laws and regulations are frequently created to protect public health, safety and welfare. But many non-governmental standards are created for the same purpose. And, indeed, local, state and national governments frequently incorporate standards created through the consensus process into their own laws and regulations (e.g., the repurposing of electrical and construction standards into building codes). Similarly, governments are huge purchasers of goods and services, and until recently, “government unique” standards were the norm in the United States rather than the exception in the procurement process.

The concerns that motivate legislators and regulators, on the one hand, and standards development organizations (SDO's) and consortia 1 (referred to collectively below in this article as “standard setting organizations”, or “SSO's”), on the other hand, are in many ways similar. But they are also in many ways dissimilar, as are the processes by which they are created.

Besides overlaps in subject matter and the incorporation of standards into laws and regulations, there are other intersections between these two spheres as well. For example, two of the global “Big I’s” (the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, and the International Electrotechnical Commission, or IEC) are private organizations in which there is national participation. But the third Big I (the International Telecommunication Union, or ITU) became a special agency of the United Nations in 1947. Consequently, while vendors and others may also participate as members, countries participate in the ITU as member states at the governmental level. Within individual countries, SSO's may be highly distributed and include government agencies only as individual members (as in the United States), or the standards function may be carried out entirely by government agencies, or by government-chartered organizations (e.g., DIN, the German Institute for Standardization).

The number of other interrelations is legion (e.g., the World Trade Organization’s rules prohibiting the use of standards to erect barriers to trade, and the various regional European standards agencies created under the governmental authority of the EU itself). These interrelations could be the subject of an extremely lengthy article in their own right.

There are thus not only distinct roles played by both governments and SSO's, but also extensive interconnections and interdependencies between these two sources of the rules that govern our behavior, environment, products, health, safety and virtually every other aspect of our lives. Acquiring an understanding of the ways in which these two standard systems are different, as well as the characteristics, dynamics and goals that they have in common, can therefore be useful in charting how the most useful outcomes for society may be achieved through both approaches working in cooperation.

Since many specific needs can as effectively be addressed through either the legislative or the consensus process, it is also important to appreciate which venue would be most appropriate in a given circumstance, so that the governments know when to act, and when to defer, to the private sector. Similarly, since legislative resources are limited, it is important to be able to demonstrate why public resources should be allocated to a given purpose that ostensibly could be addressed through a private sector response. Finally, where both systems must work in tandem, it is important to understand the unique abilities (and weaknesses) of each in order to make the most effective and efficient use of the resources of each, and to ensure that the efforts of one are not wasted due to the unwillingness of the other to become involved in a supporting role.

The purpose of this article is not to present a comprehensive treatment of this subject (which would require a work of far greater length), but to selectively highlight some of the aspects of this symbiotic relationship in order to raise awareness and to encourage greater dialogue and collaboration between those that operate in these two separate but necessarily related systems.

Areas (and degrees) of commonality: Both governments and SSO's share many goals, concerns, and areas of focus. But in most or all of these instances, there are also important distinctions that arise as a result of the process that each system employs, the backgrounds of those that make the decisions, the constituencies that they represent, and the motivations that bring them to pursue their individual goals. These areas of commonality, and the relevant distinctions between them, include the following:

      Subject Matter (e.g., Health and safety): Protecting the lives and promoting the health of the citizenry is one of the acknowledged roles of government in the modern world. In the United States, this became increasingly true over the last 100 years, and a vast network of laws and supporting regulations and enforcement agencies have been created in areas such as workplace safety (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA), food and drug efficacy, safety and purity (the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA) and pollution abatement and remediation (the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA).

But many of these same concerns have been addressed by private industry, although the motivations that bring private companies together for that purpose may be rather different. For example, industries can attract government regulation if they are not considered to be sufficiently safe and responsible, and industry therefore often acts out of self-interest in setting the rules by which it will operate. Similarly, before insurance coverage can be obtained for a new industry, standards are often needed in order to provide insurance providers with the level of certainty upon which actuarial calculations can be based.

Finally, the advent of consumer product safety laws and regulations and the judicial development of the concept of imposing strict liability for injury upon everyone in the distribution chain, from manufacturer to point of sale, has engendered strong economic reasons for manufacturers to build safe products, and for those downstream to carry products that are certified to be safe.

      Representative nature: In a free society, anyone may vote, and anyone (subject to elementary requirements, such as citizenship and age) may run for elected office, allowing all voices to be heard -- at least theoretically. Typically, regional interests are also typically represented. Thus, although each party tries as hard as it can to play the system to its maximum advantage, a well-conceived government system will permit all interests to be heard, if not ultimately satisfied.

By definition, SDO's must be open to all who wish to participate, although those that do in fact choose to become involved may not be representative of all that have a stake in the final work product that an SDO may produce (consumers being the perennial example, due to lack of interest on their part). In the case of consortia, there is a greater propensity to structure membership classes to accommodate those that are expected to have an interest (e.g., vendors, government, academia, and commercial end-users), although there is frequently an inexpensive informational membership class available to individuals. Consortia also typically require higher membership fees than do SDO's from those that wish to have the greatest influence on the work product of the organization, since consortia garner almost 100% of their operating budget from membership dues, rather than from the sale of their standards.

Even though these differences between governments and SSO's are nominally significant, the results tend to be more similar than might otherwise be expected. This is due in large part to the fact that while governments may require compliance with law, the implementation of standards is voluntary. Hence, if a standard is not created by a representative group, it will be difficult to educate and inspire non-participants to adopt it, and if the SSO has not been successful in attracting a representative group of members, it is more likely that their work product will lack important features that are needed to ensure its final success in the marketplace. As a result, SSO's are well motivated to recruit a representative group of members as a way of achieving their ultimate goals, and to be mindful of the requirements of non-participants, if their adoption of resulting standards is crucial to success.

     Process: Process is as important to the success of a law or standard as is the representative nature of the body that creates it. In order to have lasting utility, both laws and standards must be created through a process that is viewed by those that will be affected by the results to be fair, transparent and consistent. Where this is not true, the effort ultimately often fails, either eventually (in the case of laws, which can be repealed by future legislative sessions, or overturned in the courts) or immediately (as occurs in the case of voluntary standards, which may simply not be adopted at all.

At the same time, each system has its own shortcomings. In a legislature, the majority ultimately rules, and therefore even a nominally representative legislature can pass a law that favors one group at the expense of another, or even oppresses one group for the satisfaction or bias of the other. Still, governments act under the harsh light of public scrutiny, which tends to be a moderating factor (at least in a free society), and a well-constructed government will have checks and balances that help to restrict abuse by any single governmental body.

In SSO's, the situation is far different, although the result will generally be the same, through different dynamics. Most obviously, SSO's strive for consensus, since a standard that is not adopted even by its members is not likely to benefit those that carry a vote. As with attracting a representative membership, SSO's also need to employ a process that persuades would-be implementers (members and non-members alike) that they will be “safe” and better off implementing a standard than pursuing a proprietary alternative. If one member believes that another member is able to cheat successfully, then it will conclude that it is better off cheating as well, or perhaps ceasing to participate at all. In either case, the standard (and the SSO) is likely to ultimately fail. In order to avoid that result, a well-constructed and well-administered process is crucial.

     Transparency: Both SSO's and governments derive a good measure of their legitimacy and influence from the degree of trust that inspire in the eyes of those that are impacted by their actions. A key element in earning such trust in each system is by maintaining transparency in process and actions, as well as by accepting and considering public comments on work product that is in draft form.

In the case of SSO's, practice varies, with some operating entirely in full public view, and others limiting access to standards in process throughout part of the process as a privilege of membership (and an incentive to pay membership fees). At some point, however, an SSO will typically post a draft for public comment, and then consider all comments received to whatever extent it’s rules provide.

Government operates under a much more formal process, with extensive rules regulating what must be where, when and how; what discussions will be held in open session; how and when transcripts are created and how they will be made available; how proposed regulations will be posted for comment and where, and so on. This legislative and regulatory record is not only relied upon as the process continues, but may be consulted later (and cited in court) to indicate what was the legislative intent where ambiguity is later found to exist.

     Game Playing : Even when attention is paid to designing and administering a process that minimizes opportunities for abuse, both systems are sadly subject to game playing of various types. Procedurally, government has more mechanisms (both formal and informal) to facilitate such activity than do most SSO's, such as the ability to add unrelated “riders” to legislation in order to secure often wasteful appropriations for the home districts of individual senators and congressman. On the other hand, there are various forms of formal oversight over both the legislative and the rule making processes, as well as a broad and attentive public press.

The game playing within some SSO's (SDO's as well as consortia) can also become intense, including actions taken to ensure that a finally approved standard will require the payment of a royalty to a participant, either for implementing a standard, or for making practical use of a standard through the need to practice additional patented inventions. Such abuses of process may incur the ire of those directly involved, but rarely achieve wide attention or detailed reporting in the technical press, unless actual litigation ensues (as in the case of Rambus v. Infineon) or if the stakes are very high (as in the case of the Eolas patent cited against some aspects of the Microsoft Explorer browser).

      Necessity of Compromise: Both the legislative process and the SSO consensus process often rely on compromises among those involved. In the case of government, the need for compromise can be absolute, where a law must be passed, or relative, where action (such as an Executive Order) does not require formal legislative approval, but the party in power’s fortunes at the polls may suffer in the future, or when “pay back” on the floor of Congress on other initiatives may result from overplaying one’s hand.

In the world of SSO's, the need for consensus is either formal (as in the SDO's’ and consortia whose rules require it) or practical, as in those consortia that do not have such a formal rule, but operate in that fashion nonetheless in order to secure broad member adoption of the standards that the SSO develops.

But the distinctions between the two systems are also marked. There may be less horse-trading in many SSO's, and truly unrelated riders on standards are unknown. Similarly, most of those individuals that actually participate in SDO's (and virtually all of those that participate in consortia) do so as a function of a job that they already have. As a result, in contrast to the political system, how one votes in an SSO is unlikely to have any impact on one’s future livelihood (assuming that a vote is cast in a manner consistent with critical aspects of the business strategy of one’s business strategy).

Areas of difference: While various qualified differences have already been described, there are additional ways in which governments and SSO's are totally different, or nearly so. These include the following:

     Mode of representation: To use classic terminology, democratic countries (such as the United States, France and Canada) are republics, while SSO's are Athenian democracies. What this means is that while the power of government derives from the governed in each case, that power is exercised by elected officials and representatives, and it is these individuals that create policy and vote on outcomes. In SSO's, this intermediate layer is eliminated at the technical voting level. Instead, those that have a stake in an outcome and sufficient interest in affecting it are free (as were the citizens of Athens) to become directly involved in determining outcomes.

What the two systems share in common is that the success of an SSO is typically affected by its success in recruitment. If a sufficiently large and diverse membership is secured, then those that are directly involved tend to act as effective proxies for those that are not. Still, there is an important difference: being representative of an interest group as a factual matter is far different from being responsible to that group in an electoral sense, and outcomes may therefore be less predictable.

SSO outcomes may also be less broadly representative, since a representative in each system may be expected to act out of self-interest. In the governmental setting, that self-interest is reelection (a product of being responsible to her electors), while a representative in an SSO will act solely out of her employer’s best interests, which may (or may not), for a variety of reasons, be representative of all other companies similarly situated. What saves the system in the case of an SSO is that the goal is wide adoption of the standard, and therefore the self-interest of the member, and the self-interest of non-involved stakeholders is often sufficiently aligned to produce the right result.

The great weakness in each system is not that too many players play to “win”, but that too many players believe that winning means achieving their desired specific outcome, rather than an outcome that is most beneficial to all (in the case of governments) or most likely to be broadly adopted (in the case of SSO's).

     Constituencies: Although SDO's are supposed to keep the interests of all stakeholders (involved and uninvolved alike) in mind – and many make a genuine effort to do so, as do a few consortia (such as the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C) -- there is a broad gap between the governmental and SSO systems in this regard. Even with the best of intentions, it is hard to work actively in the interests of a group that has not chosen to participate. More seriously, under-representation of specific groups can occur by design (e.g., if recruiting efforts or fee structures are targeted at certain groups to the exclusion of others) or through negligence or lack of resources (e.g., for a consortium, when recruiting efforts beyond the national borders of the host country are weak).

The innate differences between the two systems that can lead to variations in serving all stakeholders are too numerous to mention, but would include the following: SSO's have limited recruiting budgets, and only the barest semblance of a Bill or Rights or Constitution that institutionalizes the rights of the individual or any specific interest group against the work of the SSO. At the same time, however, SSO's are more open than governments to direct participation by anyone that chooses to do so, 2 while a small interest group in a governmental system may find it almost impossible to be effectively heard.

     Priority: One of the prime reasons that a given need is addressed within one system or the other is the priority that is placed upon that need by the participants in each potential venue. Thus, where a subject area is identified closely with a government’s mission (e.g., health, safety, and creating public infrastructure), governments are likely to become involved, and even preempt the field (as in setting and allocating the telecommunications frequencies that are utilized by standards set by SSO's such as the IEEE). But government has many concerns to address, and its attention to setting standards (by law and regulation) is therefore severely limited. 3 Where a given need is relevant to only a small sector of society or industry, there must be a compelling reason why government should become involved.

The result is that, areas of overlap and intersection aside, there are relatively clear lines that separate where government takes the leading role and where it is content to be a follower. How this occurs on a nation by nation basis varies widely, with some countries (such as China) and regions (such as Europe) taking an active governmental interest, while others (such as the United States) play a very limited and episodic supporting role. 4

The boundary between government and SSO's is not only one that is blurred, but also one that can be moved by circumstances and events. For example, in the area of professional or safety standards, when a scandal or tragedy leads to the public perception that private industry is doing an inadequate job of policing itself, government may be forced by public opinion to step in, either effectively, or (as in the case of the CANSPAM legislation) ineffectively. Similarly, the importance or strategic value of standards in a given area may rise, leading government to assign a higher priority to an area going forward (the WSIS initiative to explore Internet “governance” issues is one such example).

     Knowledge: Government is often at a distinct disadvantage to SSO's in many situations where standards need to be created by law or regulation. In some cases, large and knowledgeable government agencies already exist, with deep domain expertise (as in the case of securities regulation). But in others, as often is the case of trade policy when the United States is called upon by industry to assert U.S. rights and interests as a member of the World Trade Organization, it may find that it needs to turn to outside experts for education on arcane technical matters.

One result of this reality is the rise of the lobbyist: the professional that is paid to gain access to and “educate” influential legislators, but whose employer has an interest in advocating a particular result. When government makes too much use of lobbyists and expends too little effort on independent fact finding and contacting of disinterested experts, results suffer. SSO's provide one source of information for Congress that is representative of the views of industry broadly, rather than the self-interested advice of a single company with a large lobbying budget.

In contrast, the work of SSO's is typically staffed (at the technical level) with both dedicated and volunteer staff that are very knowledgeable, and that can therefore accurately understand both the need as well as craft an appropriate solution. On the other hand, SDO's are variously knowledgeable and able to support efforts (and consortia are typically clueless and inadequately funded) to influence or educate governments in order to advocate pursuing international standards-based strategies.

      Unique capabilities: While SSO's can create standards, they have only limited abilities to persuade non-members to adopt them. This is, for the most part, a good thing, as it forces SSO's to offer quality and openness as incentives to adoption. Still, when international crises arise (as when China last year sought to require usage of a domestic wireless standard rather than the IEEE “Wi-Fi” standard) a government possesses powers of persuasion that no mere SSO can command. Similarly, although the CANSPAM law that was intended to abate the nuisance of junk email was structurally flawed from the outset, it is also likely that an effective response to spam, phishing and other abuses will ultimately only be achieved through coordinated international effort at the governmental level.

While governments mandate compliance with their laws, SSO's, for their part, can (at least at times) achieve broad industry buy-in, resulting in faster and more enthusiastic uptake of standards than might occur if the same requirements were established via the regulatory process. Also, the SSO process, while appearing slow to those that wish for instant gratification, is almost always more rapid than the tedious legislative process.

Strengths and weaknesses: Clearly, there are meaningful differences between the legislative and the consensus standards process. On a composite basis, some of the most notable may be summarized as follows:

     Governmental: Laws and regulations are backed by the power of the state, meaning that uptake is generally assured, so long as enforcement is practical and government has the determination to put its resources behind assuring compliance. Governments also have domestic and international credibility and powers that SSO's do not, as well as rigidly transparent (and scrutinized) processes. Hence, the government venue is optimized for situations where: compliance cannot otherwise be assumed without the ability to levy penalties; the stakes are very high; compliance testing is expensive or burdensome; transparent, documented process is crucial; and/or international cooperation is required and not likely to automatically occur out of self-interest. However, the government process has a price: the legislative agenda is crowded, the process is slow, the outcome is unpredictable, and the costs of enforcement are great.

     SSO's: Relative to government, SDO's in general, and consortia in particular, are very light-weight and inexpensive affairs. While the fully burdened cost of producing a single standard (when member travel and time costs are included) is still substantial, it is rapidly decreasing, as standard setting increasingly becomes an on-line activity. The relevance of any individual standard created by an SSO is also likely to be far narrower than many matters typically addressed by a legislature. SSO's by their nature are therefore optimized for achieving relatively fast, cheap results that are of importance to specific interest groups (and that will not adversely impact other interest groups). While there can be needless duplication of effort between SSO's, there can also be concurrent beta testing of multiple new ideas and approaches in competing organizations, with the marketplace ultimately deciding which approach is preferable for what purpose (a luxury that the governmental process is not constructed to allow). 5

SSO's also have the signal advantage of relying on consensus rather than the brute force of an “up or down” legislative vote. When the process works poorly, the result is a watered down, ineffective, ignored standard (which is still better than a watered down, ineffective – but nevertheless enforced – regulation). When the process works well, however, broad and rapid adoption follows.

Lessons to be learned: Neither process is ideal, and each system could productively borrow specific strategies and features from the other, as well as work with the other on a more advantageous basis. Here are some examples of such possibilities, based upon the observations made in this article:

  • SSO's are typically far more successful at achieving voluntary, global buy-in than has been (for example) the United Nations in many cases. Similarly, the process of creating a standard is often more smooth and constructive than is the often adversarial process of constructing and passing legislation. Perhaps national governments and international treaty organizations could productively examine the consensus process to learn how to improve the success and speed of their own efforts.
  • The most significant difference between SSO's, on the one hand, and governments and treaty organizations, on the other, is that the SSO process is based on creating standards that the members will want to implement, as compared to the political process, in which legislators and diplomats ultimately come up with a compromise that the legislators or treaty parties ultimately agree to respect. The result is that standards become adopted on their own merit, while laws and treaty obligations must be policed, and sometimes enforced. While certainly not all actions considered by governments are susceptible to consensus approval (that, after all, is one reason that we have governments), this does not mean that identifying those situations that are appropriate at an early stage would not be productive. The distinction to be made is that the SSO process assumes the need for consensus, while the legislative process assumes the need for a majority vote – and that makes all of the difference. In the United States, for example, the increasingly adversarial, “winner take all” atmosphere that currently exists in Congress ensures that consensus decisions will all too rarely be achieved.
  • Government and industry sectors should maintain the type of closer working relationships that would enable high-level forward planning. By agreeing upon goals, and then establishing guidelines for allocating which tasks can most productively be achieved through the efforts and support of each system, better domestic results, and greater international influence, might be achieved (in this regard, the United States government could learn a great deal from the example presented by Europe). A first step in creating such a system could be to create a working group of representatives of SDO's, consortia, industry experts, and relevant government agencies that could make recommendations for creating such a system.
  • Closer collaboration between SSO's and governments could allow government to make more effective and efficient use of SSO work product and knowledge. At the same time, such collaboration could provide SSO's with new avenues to increase uptake of that work product.
  • While consortia play an increasingly important role in the United States technology-based economy, there is virtually no communication or collaboration between these hundreds of organizations and the U.S. Congress or agencies, nor any organization to act on their behalf, as does the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) on behalf of SDO's The result is a near-total disconnect between the knowledge and activity base represented by consortia and the U.S. government. Only when individual companies act to bring a consortium standards-based situation to the attention of government does such a link become established.
  • Minimal economic support from governments could greatly help in harmonizing SSO and government efforts in order to avoid needless duplication and to speed government awareness of available consensus standards. For example, there is a chronic (and increasing) need for a master registry of standards efforts in process, as well as completed standards and other work product. There is not sufficient will or resources within any existing SSO to create such a comprehensive resource today (although some more limited efforts are in process), but a government grant of modest proportions could easily reverse the situation.

Summary: Governments and SSO's share much in common – and each has distinct features, strengths and weaknesses not shared in full with the other. While there has always been cooperation and awareness between these two systems, closer study of the dynamics and attributes of each could lead to greater successes and strategies for each system and its stakeholders. Similarly, government agencies and legislative staff and SSO's should take greater interest in maintaining closer, and more collaborative, relationships to their mutual advantage. A first step in achieving a more efficient and productive relationship between government and SSO's in the United States would be to form a working group to study opportunities for change, and to make specific recommendations.

As standards become of ever greater societal and strategic importance in the future, the nation that most effectively optimizes the relationship between its legislative, regulatory and consensus based standards efforts will enjoy a competitive advantage in the global marketplace. Those that neglect to do so will suffer accordingly, as the margin for error between successful competition and unsuccessful efforts to remain competitive in the global marketplace becomes ever smaller.

Comments? Email:

Copyright 2005 Andrew Updegrove

Endnotes

1. While the range of organizations that could fall under the general label “consortium” is broad, ranging from small, closed, self-selecting organizations to large, global associations that are indistinguishable from SDO's, for purposes of this article I define a consortium to be an organization that has all of the commonly accepted attributes of an organization that sets “open standards” (e.g., membership is available to all, there are clear and fair policies and procedures that are in fact followed, resulting specifications may be implemented by members and non-members alike under reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, and so on). There are hundreds of non-accredited organizations that meet this definition today.

2. A hopeful recent development in this regard is the decision by the W3C to encourage greater Third World participation through offering reduced membership fees to representatives of poorer nations.

3. It is in large part for this very reason that the thousands of SSO's that are in existence today originally came into being. With the advent of the modern industrial age, someone needed to decide how far apart the railroad rails would be, and how close together the screw threads. The eventual result was the creation of the modern, global consensus-based standards system. Luckily, the effort was a success, which explains why government and SSO's have evolved such a successful and symbiotic relationship.

4. For a detailed review of the United States role in supporting the consensus standards development process in an earlier issue of the Consortium Standards Bulletin, see: A Work in Progress: Government Support in Standard Setting in the United States: 1980 – 2004, Vol. IV, No. 1, January, 2005, at http://www.consortiuminfo.org/bulletins/jan05.php#feature. For a comparison of the United States and the Chinese approach in an earlier issue of the Consortium Standards Bulletin, see The Yin and Yang of China’s Trade Strategy: Deploying an Aggressive Standards Strategy Under the WTO. IV, No. 4, April 2005, at: http://www.consortiuminfo.org/bulletins/apr05.php

5. An excellent current example of this dynamic is demonstrated by the various wireless standards that have been, are, and doubtless will in the future continue to be proposed by one interest group or another. Some early competing standards have been abandoned (e.g., HomeRF), while others (such as Blue Tooth and Wi-Fi) have become established, but for the separate uses to which each is best suited. Presumably, this is a good result for the end-user, given that the marketplace was able to sort itself out effectively before many devices were purchased, and therefore few end-users were abandoned.



STANDARDS BLOG:

August 9, 2005

PATENT POOLS AND PRACTICALITY:
WOULD YOU GIVE A PENNY FOR THE GUY?

In times gone by, children in London would trundle scarecrow-like figures in wheelbarrows through the streets on November 5, and beg passersby for "A penny for the Guy?” The scarecrow was meant to represent Guy Fawkes, the ringleader of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, who sought to annihilate both King James I and the British Parliament as well. You wouldn't actually get anything in return for your largesse, but a penny would keep the children happy, and away from worse mischief.

Cut to the present. A long-running drama has taken a new and relatively unusual turn that is worth noting. The saga to which I refer is the protracted (and ultimately unsuccessful) struggle waged within EPC Global to maintain a royalty-free environment for RFID standards. And that new turn is the announcement today that a patent pool is being formed by some 20 companies in order to establish royalty rates and manage royalty payments on implementations of EPC Global RFID standards.

The announcement was made in a press release with a headline that could win an award for prolixity: "RFID Industry Group Proposes Patent Licensing Consortium; Group Invites RFID Patent Holders to Join; Modeled after MPEG-2 and DVD IP Licensing Programs; Conference Call Scheduled for Today at 12:30 p.m. ET." [Added Wednesday AM: An article in the New York Times today contradicts this headline, stating that Intermec Technologies -- which claims that it owns 145 RFID technology patents and is already in litigation involving some of them -- was not asked to join the new group.]

The press release tries to put the best face on the announcement that such a large group of patent owners will be charging a fee for the use of readers, and (more significantly) the billions of RFID tags that a mature industry could be expected to purchase per year. For example, the words "patent pool" are never used in the release (it speaks of the formation of a "patent consortium" instead). Similarly, the release states in part:

This consortium will be modeled after the successful patent licensing consortium formed and implemented around essential technologies in the MPEG-2 and DVD industries. As with those successful models, the RFID consortium is intended to provide a structured approach for holders of essential RFID patents to receive fair compensation for those patents, at a reasonable cost to the end-user, thus promoting rapid adoption of RFID. This approach offers competitive benefits by integrating complementary technologies and reducing transaction costs. It offers an effective alternative to time-consuming and expensive individual licensing agreements.

Is this all just self-serving spin, following on the failure of EPC Global to achieve a royalty free result? The answer will depend on whether you look at the world ideologically or pragmatically.

If you are in the former camp, and especially if you favor the open source model, then this is a great disaster, and the Dark Side has triumphed, because a new technology will be taxed. But let's look at the other side for a moment and see if the future is really all that bleak.

First, let's look at how a patent pool operates, when all owners of relevant patent claims agree to participate. When that happens, the following results can follow:

  • The participants decide on what royalty the market can bear without slowing adoption. Let's say that amount is one cent per RFID tag.
  • The participants then agree on a formula for dividing that one-cent among them.
  • They also agree on one licensing agreement, and appoint one licensing agent to administer the program. Implementers thus can have "one stop shopping" rather than having to negotiate agreements with multiple vendors.
  • Because there is a single point of licensing, the terms really are RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory), because there are no one-on-one negotiations and private deals between vendors and implementers.
  • When other companies are awarded patents, they simply join the pool, and the royalty that implementers are charged doesn't go up. Thus, there are still rewards for continuing innovation, while the price remains unchanged.
  • Because everyone is on the bus, the patent landscape is cleared, and all of the patent owners have an incentive to get behind the effort.
  • Most significantly, there is less likelihood of a destructive battle between two competing standards, because everyone can get a piece of the action (possibly on different parts of the technology chain, with one company making their profit on tags, and another on readers), even though there is only one standard.

The result, therefore, can be rapid adoption of inexpensive technology, with no threat of a standards war, but with continuing R&D and ongoing upgrading of the initial architecture. In other words, a new technology can enter the marketplace more quickly, more pervasively, and even more cheaply due to greater volume sales and price competition, and end-users can adopt that new technology with less risk.

Of course, in the best of all possible worlds, patent owners would make their patents available for free to achieve exactly the same result, and content themselves with a vast new market, competing with each other to offer valuable features and superior quality and service.

But we live in a different world, and it's not likely that we'll be able to do anything about that in the near future. For now, maybe a penny a tag for the Guy is a small price to pay to know that you're buying a VHS video player, and not a Betamax.

Bookmark the Standards Blog at http://www.consortiuminfo.org/newsblog/ or set up an RSS feed at: http://www.consortiuminfo.org/rss/

Comments? Email:

Copyright 2005 Andrew Updegrove


 

CONSIDER THIS:

[][][] August 23, 2005

#31 How do you Define a Wilderness? There are many different tools that qualify (in my mind, at least) as standards. One of the oldest is the humble definition, a simple device that establishes the exact meaning of a given word so that both the speaker as well as the listener can understand that word in the same way. In its oldest form, a definition was the answer to a child’s question “What does that word mean?”

Definitions can be simple and useful tools, or they can be powerful instruments of policy, because he who controls a definition has already won the first battle, and sometimes perhaps the war as well.

For example, consider this: what does (or should) the word “wilderness” mean?

Most of us would likely summon an image like this when hearing that word in a sentence:

Wilderness: An area of undeveloped land affected primarily by the forces of nature; an area where humans are visitors who do not remain.
highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0070294267/student_view0/glossary_s-z.html

This is a contemporary definition, however, that reflects a modern appreciation of nature. A thousand years ago, when wolves roamed all over Europe and most people throughout the world lived in isolated communities separated by untamed terrain, wilderness had a far different connotation, and represented a place of fear and danger, rather than a desirable area to be preserved. In times gone by, the word would have been defined as follows:

Wilderness: Area between cities, whether inhabited or not. Also called the Wilds.
home.comcast.net/~TheGM/SE/glossary.html

As I write this, I am on a hiking and camping vacation in Northwestern Nevada, one of the emptiest parts of the United States. In an area 120 by 160 miles, there are only 12 ranches and a 575,000 acre wildlife refuge. Besides the ranch buildings, there is not a home, gas station, or (needless to say) cell phone tower or fast food emporium. In fact, there is not even a paved road, except for state route 140, a two-lane affair that cuts through one corner of the refuge. The land is stark, big and beautiful, with much wild game, no cultivation, and, on any given day, only a handful of people present. The silence is enduring, unmarred even by the sound of a plane. But does that make it wilderness?

The answer depends, of course, on the definition.

Almost all of this land is public, but this public land is also committed to specific uses. The majority is controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which means (in these parts) that each of these acres has been leased to a rancher, in some cases several generations ago. These valuable rights to graze cattle have been handed down from generation to generation. Still, if you visit you will likely drive for many miles without seeing a single steer (they are likely at higher, cooler elevations at this time of year). But don’t be deceived: all of the land through which you are traveling has been profoundly altered as a result of over a hundred years of grazing (as has been the case with virtually every other acre of land west of the Mississippi that is not cultivated or part of a city, town or National Park).

Once, this land was covered with grasses and wild flowers that retained and made the most of the fertile earth and the sparse rainfall of the Great Basin, and grew four feet high. Today, as a result of grazing and fire suppression, the land grows primarily what cattle won’t eat. Characteristically, that means sagebrush, which periodic fires sparked by summer lightning would ordinarily suppress, and a sparse growth of cheat grass and a few other plants that grow sporadically in between the woody sagebrush bushes, provided that the land is not being over-grazed. Much of the soil has long-since washed away from most non-level areas, and the volcanic rock that forms the underlying geology of most of the state is often plainly visible through the cracks of the parched ground that remains.

Does that mean that this land is therefore undeniably not wilderness? To my surprise, I found a definition that clearly predates our modern usage of the word:

Wilderness: (1.) Heb. midhbar, denoting not a barren desert but a district or region suitable for pasturing sheep and cattle (Ps. 65:12; Isa. 42:11; Jer. 23:10; Joel 1:19; 2:22); an uncultivated place. This word is used of the wilderness of Beersheba (Gen. 21:14), on the southern border of Palestine; the wilderness of the Red Sea (Ex. 13:18); of Shur (15:22), a portion of the Sinaitic peninsula; of Sin (17:1), Sinai (Lev. 7:38), Moab (Deut. 2:8), Judah (Judg. 1:16), Ziph, Maon, En-gedi (1 Sam. 23:14, 24; 24:1
christianity.about.com/library/weekly/blT0003800.htm

For some, the argument might begin and end right there. Bring on the cows!

As I drove on a dirt road into this isolated tract, I happened to pass one of the few ranchers that live here, the owner of 20,000 acres of high, rugged mountains and broad and empty valleys. We had quite an interesting conversation and I learned a number of things that are germane to what a wilderness may, or may not be, depending upon your point of view. For one, he’s found 16 of his bulls (much more valuable than cows) shot dead and left on the spot so far this year, presumably by ecoterrorists that want the land to return to it’s original state. Clearly, their definition would run something like this:

Wilderness: Land that, together with its plant and animal communities, is in a state that has not been substantially modified by, and is remote from, the influences of European settlement or is capable of being restored to such a state, and is of sufficient size to make its maintenance in such a state feasible.
www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/publications/strategy/gloss.html

He also told me that he is planning to spray his entire ranch with an herbicide that would kill the sage brush, and that he would then burn the terrain every five years or so to keep the sagebrush from reestablishing itself, so that his ranch could return to grasslands of a more traditional character. He was also enclosing a large area of his land to keep his cattle out, in an effort to encourage it to return completely to its original natural state. Even without such intervention, however, state wildlife officials estimate that his land already supports 75 antelope, 25 mountain sheep and several mountain lions (all animals that tolerate little human interference, and that we associate with wild, isolated, natural habitats), not to mention herds of deer and many other types of wildlife. He also hopes to share his land with more people, inviting them in as visitors. Clearly, to him, “wilderness” (if that is a word he would use at all) would have a more nuanced meaning, perhaps as follows:

Wilderness: An area of land that has been least modified by modern technological society; the most intact and undisturbed expanses of our remaining natural landscapes. Also see Forest Management Zone.
www.forest.nsw.gov.au/education/glossary/default.asp

When I moved on from his ranch and into the Charles Sheldon Antelope Range, I expected to see a significant difference in vegetation, since the Range has not been grazed by cattle in many decades. To my surprise, there was more, rather than less sagebrush, and as I hiked I often found that the juniper trees that were attempting to re-colonize part of their traditional habitat had been cut down.

I learned the reason for these discoveries from the only person that I met during the several days that I hiked and camped in the wildlife refuge: a fire marshal who I found parked with his rig and crew on a cliff overlooking a wide valley of the Range, pre-positioned over the area that an approaching thunderstorm was most likely to ignite with its lightning strikes. He told me that sagebrush provides excellent cover for sage grouse, deer and antelope (he was right – I repeatedly flushed deer and grouse as I hiked), and that the Range was being managed to maximize game production for hunters. As a result, the fires that would normally help maintain the natural mix of plant (and therefore animal) life were being suppressed as quickly and consistently as possible, so that sagebrush, and therefore this small number of (literally) target species, could flourish.

Further, the wild horses that roam this state in their thousands are viewed as unwelcome competition for available grass. More than a third of the herd in the refuge, some 860 animals, are culled each year (hopefully to be adopted rather than slaughtered, provided that sufficient new owners can be found and qualified).

Superficially, the wide and empty Range must look and feel to its hunters (provided that they are not aware of the area’s historical flora and fauna) didn’t think too hard about it) as if it conforms to the following definition, something to make you feel like a good steward of our common natural heritage:

Wilderness: Land remaining in basically wild (i.e., undisturbed) condition, with few if any traces of human activities.
www.nrdc.org/reference/glossary/w.asp

But once again, the reality is that while the refuge is an enormous, empty haunting landscape, in fact it is being managed like any pasture.

Not surprisingly, there is a legal definition of the word “wilderness” in the United States today, and this definition controls what type of most-wild landscapes will survive for us and our children to enjoy. It is with this statutory usage that the exact definition of “wilderness” becomes critical, as well as contentious.

Legal definitions for statutory and regulatory purposes rightly incorporate the public goals that are being served by the legislative effort. For example, if preservation of natural habitats is a desired goal, then criteria such as sustainability become important, since islands of habitat that are too small cannot sustain the full complement of their native species, which go locally extinct. Here is one non-government definition that incorporates this concern:

Wilderness: An area of land generally greater than 1000 hectares that predominantly retains its natural character and on which the impact of man is transitory and, in the long run, substantially unnoticeable.
www.borealforest.org/nwgloss13.htm

Similarly, if human enjoyment of wilderness is a goal, or if making critical decisions about what terrain will be preserved and what will not, then these criteria must be included as well. Here is an example:

Wilderness: A part of our natural landscape that is sufficiently large and varied to constitute a more or less self-regulatory ecological unit, where human interference with the land, plants and animals is minimal, and where the beauty and character of the landscape has aesthetic, cultural or scientific significance.
www.ccfm.org/ci/gloss_e.html

What Congress eventually adopted as a definition of wilderness, as with any other piece of legislation, represented a balancing of the demands of competing interest groups. In this case, one of the issues that was in play was the ongoing struggle between those that wish to make economic use of public lands (typically these are people that live in proximity to the lands in question) and those that wish to enjoy the same lands first-hand while on vacation, or simply know that they are there and can read about them or see them on television (in the same way that fans of space exploration follow missions avidly, but do not expect to ever board a space ship). The great majority of these people live many hundreds of miles away. Naturally, as fate would have it, it’s also true that the former group (and most public lands) are located in “Red” states, while the latter live in the “Blue” ones, making the debate even more difficult and spirited than might otherwise be the case.

The definition contained in the statute that was eventually passed in Washington is summarized by one source as follows:

Wilderness: Areas designated by Congressional action under the 1964 Wilderness Act. Wilderness is defined as undeveloped federal land retaining its primeval character and influence without permanent improvements or human habitation. Wilderness areas are protected and managed to preserve their natural conditions, which generally appear to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature with the imprint of human activity substantially unnoticeable; have outstanding opportunities for solitude or for a primitive and confined type of recreation; including at least 5,000 acres or are of sufficient size to make practical their preservation, enjoyment, and use in an unimpaired condition; and may contain features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historic value as well as an ecological and geologic interest.
www.reo.gov/general/definitions_n-z.htm

The Wilderness Act was indeed a great accomplishment that has resulted in the preservation of many priceless landscapes. But one (to me) regrettable result of the compromises required to achieve its passage is that federally protected wilderness land may (and invariably is) leased for grazing purposes. Of all categories of public land, only National Parks and Monuments are off limits for leasing – National Forests and all other types of federal land are fair game (with a small number of specific exceptions made for particular pieces of land) for grazing, logging and mining, subject to compliance with other relevant laws and regulations. As administrations change, rules are added and subtracted, depending on the goals of the then-current administration. A recent example is the barring of construction of new access roads for logging and other purposes on certain lands by the Clinton administration, which was later reversed by the current administration.

Given the profound effect that grazing has on ecosystems (and especially so in the dry areas where most federal land is found), this means that the landscape may be empty, beautiful and a joy to visit, but it will never approximate what the same land looked like in its original natural state, nor will it have the full richness of biodiversity that once existed and could, for the most part, exist again. Only in a National Park or Monument may you see that type of landscape beginning to reemerge (Sequoia National Park is a splendid example, especially when the desert flowers are in bloom).

But solitude is harder to achieve in such places, given the heavy usage that many of these parks receive and the non-wilderness infrastructure of roads, campgrounds and interpretive facilities that have been put in place to support such heavy visitation. In other words, the landscape may be more faithful to the original ecosystem, but it is in other ways less of a wilderness.

So how much can a definition matter? At times, a definition can matter greatly, because a definition is a standard upon which laws can be based that determine which precious resources will be preserved, and how, and what we and our children will be able to experience in the course of our lives.

Comments? Email:

Read more Consider This… entries at: http://www.consortiuminfo.org/blog/

Copyright 2005 Andrew Updegrove

# # #

Useful Links and Information:

For more reflections on Northern Nevada, see the series of Newsblog posts beginning on August 16, 2005:
http://www.consortiuminfo.org/newsblog/blogcat.php?CID=28

For a very extensive list of definitions relating to conservation, see:
http://www.reo.gov/general/definitions_a-m.htm


 

ANNOUNCING:

CSB EDITOR RECEIVES ANSI

2005 PRESIDENT’S AWARD FOR JOURNALISM

 


On August 15, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the organization that accredits United States standards development organizations and represents the United States in the global standards organizations ISO and IEC, announced its 2005 Leadership and Services Awards, which recognize individuals “for their significant contributions to national and international standardization activities and ongoing commitment to their industry, their nation and the enhancement of the global voluntary consensus standards system.”

Included in the press release was the announcement that the 2005 President’s Award for Journalism would be given to Andrew Updegrove, the founder, editor and publisher (not to mention sole author) of the Consortium Standards Bulletin, now in its 31st issue, and ConsortiumInfo.org. This is the first time that the award has been given to someone that is not a professional, full-time journalist (previous winners include Brandon Mitchener of The Wall Street Journal Europe, and David Berlind, of Ziff-Davis ZDNet.com).

The Leadership and Service Awards will be given at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on October 5, in connection with World Standards Day events. The press release reads in part as follows:

Andrew Updegrove has been awarded the President's Award for Journalism, which recognizes outstanding journalistic work that helps to illuminate the role that standardization and conformity assessment activities play in improving the health and safety of Americans, while strengthening the competitiveness of U.S. business in a global marketplace. Mr. Updegrove acts as editor and publisher of the Consortium Standards Bulletin, which offers a wealth of information on standards and standards-setting, both online and in print. The Bulletin and website, ConsortiumInfo.org, have helped to raise the profile of standards and highlight their importance to commerce and daily life, as well as encourage greater support for their use and development.


 

FEATURED MEETING :

WORLD STANDARDS WEEK 2005:

STANDARD SETTING IN A CHANGING WORLD
THE GROWING INFLUENCE OF EUROPE AND ASIA

 

On October 5 from 2:00 – 5:00 PM, Kavi Corporation, ConsortiumInfo.org/ Gesmer Updegrove LLP, Virtual Management, and Jennings Strouss Salmon, will present an interactive analysis of the growing influence of Europe and Asia on technology standard setting organizations. The program takes place during World Standards Week October 3-7 in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the ANSI Annual Conference.

Attendance is free but registration is required.

The program will feature two sessions, each with its own panel of experts, on the following topics:

Session I: Focus on Europe:
This session will analyze the most important recent developments in European standard setting policy and practice, including:

ETSI Investigation: Recently it came to light that the antitrust arm of the EC has been conducting a formal investigation into ETSI's IPR policy, seeking to determine if the policy creates an undue risk of "patent ambush" (i.e., the assertion of so-called submarine patents), and/or favors the interests of certain corporate members over others.

  • What are the issues driving the EC action?
  • Will the EC apply the same scrutiny and criteria to standard setting organizations, whether or not they are headquartered in Europe?
  • Who may be next on the EC's list?
  • What should your organization or corporate representatives do (and not do) in the future to steer clear of anti-trust or IPR policy trouble in Europe?

Open Source: The EU and European national governments have been moving much more forcefully in favor of open source software than their counterparts in the United States. From cities (like Munich) to countries (like Norway) to EU agencies, the commitment to open source software has been rising. At the same time, the EU has finally defeated an attempt to amend its patent laws to permit "American style" software patents.

  • How far will this trend go?
  • What does it mean for U.S. software vendors and users?

The panel will analyze the effect of these events and trends and will attempt to paint a clear picture of what it these developments mean for international vendors, and the standards development community as a whole.

Session II: Focus on China
After years of relative uninvolvement in global standard setting, China, Korea and Taiwan have awakened to the strategic importance of technology standards, Each country, and China in particular, has become very active in pursuit of alternatives to paying royalties to western companies.

  • Is their strategy solely one of using standards to create trade barriers?
  • How effective will/can the WTO process be to influence China's standards policies?
  • How important is it to actively engage Asian players in existing SSO's?
  • If Asian governments and companies do become more involved,, what are the risks and rewards of engagement?
  • What are the practical and operational issues SSO's will face as they reach out to Asian member companies and make them equal partners in developing technology standards?

The panel will review the history of several current Asian standards initiatives (WAPI, TD-SCDMA) in detail in order to illustrate the impact of events to date, and predict what can be expected in the future.

For further information , see the seminar website

To register for this free seminar , go to the registration form.


 

THE REST OF THE NEWS

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Standards and Government

One billion [RFID public transport] smart cards are expected to be eventually deployed within this sector   [August 8, 2005]

 

Zhang Qi, director-general of the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry ...Full Story

As our focus in this issue is on the interplay between standard setting and the implementation of government policy, we begin this month’s selection of news items and commentary with a range of stories that illustrate the various ways in which Europe and countries in Asia are making an impact in the standards arena, in large part as a result of the greater degree of coordination between their standards sector and the government.

Asia: The stories below run the gamut of showing the importance of Asian countries as markets and testbeds, the fencing that is going on as they assert their influence, ongoing intellectual property clashes, and specific standards-based technologies (RFID).

Korea plays essential role in wireless broadband
The Korea Herald, July 27, 2005 -- Korea will be the world's staging ground for wireless broadband service, says the marketing vice president of an international communications group. "Korea plays an essential role in the world's wireless broadband market. It is expected to become the first practical staging ground for WiMax-based service in early next year," said Dr. Mohammad Shakouri, vice president of marketing and board member of the WiMax Forum, a non-profit corporation formed to promote and certify compatibility and interoperability of broadband wireless products. ...Full Story

The China Card
AIM Global, July 26, 2005  -- The scheduled meeting earlier this month between representatives of Chinese ministries involved with RFID and representatives of the U.S. government and various RFID groups, organized by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), was cancelled by the Chinese due to "visa problems." Some insiders believe the meeting was cancelled because the Chinese feel that U.S. interests are too closely tied to those of EPCglobal. Others feel it's just politics as usual. Whatever the reason, it's a clear indication that the Chinese want a strong voice in deciding how RFID will be used in global trade. And, if Wal*Mart can be viewed as a 5,000 lb. gorilla (that's used to getting what it wants), China may well be a 10,000 lb. gorilla. ...Full Story

Push for protection
By: ZI MU
The China Daily, August 9, 2005
 -- Never underestimate China's ambition to shed its status as a technological backwater. This country is on the rise. But the drive to internationalize China's technology sector has been overshadowed in recent years by a barrage of lawsuits against Chinese firms over intellectual property rights (IPR) infringements. ...Full Story

RFID and China
By: Harold Clampitt
RFID Journal, August 8, 2005
 -- China is the manufacturing capital of the world and the largest market for technology. Currently, the country is home to 95 million Internet users. With usage growing faster then 20 percent a year, China will have more Internet users than any other country by 2006. ...Full Story

Edward Zeng’s RFID Strategy
Red Herring, August 8, 2005 -- Controversy clings to Edward Zeng like white on rice. To his admirers, the 43-year-old founder and CEO of Beijing-based Sparkice is a visionary and a survivor. At 26, he went from a promising young cadre in the State Planning bureaucracy to an accidental Tiananmen Square refugee. Finding himself in Japan on that fateful day in June 1989, he took the opportunity to enroll in a Canadian graduate school, where he sold T-shirts door-to-door to pay the bills. ...Full Story

Europe: Much of the action in Europe recently has focused on supporting the open source licensing model, as well as avoiding the patent entanglements that would complicate software generally, and open source in particular.

European Union Public Licence Version 01
IDABC, August 3, 2005 -- EU's IDABC Programme has just released the 'EU public licence' (EUPL), a draft open source software license designed to provide legal certainty for software owners and users in the European context. The aim of the EUPL is to encourage public administrations throughout Europe to publish the software applications they develop and that could be used by others. According to the statement of scope of the rights granted by the Licence: The Licensor hereby grants You a world-wide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, sub-licensable licence to do the following, for the duration of copyright vested in the Original Work: ...Full Story

Norwegian Minister says that all public sectors need to make a plan for the use of Open Source by 2005
Open Source News July 22, 2005 The Norwegian government is taking large steps in their software policy: everybody in the public sector has to develop a plan for use of open source solutions within 2006. The Norwegian Minister of Modernization, Morton A. Meyer, presented new plan for information technology in Norway called “eNorge – the digital leap", where one of the points concerned open standards and open source. The details are not yet finalized, but the plan stipulate these objectives for standardization and open source: ...Full Story

Europe Votes for Innovation, Not Patent Laws
By: Jim Rapoza
eWeek, July 18, 2005 -- The fight to keep software patents out of Europe could change the patent landscape in the United States, too. The last few months have been mainly filled with bad news for those who support innovation in technology and fight against bad laws and policies that mainly serve to prevent innovation. Things were looking pretty bleak, and the fight to keep software patents out of Europe looked like it was going to go down for the count as well. But then finally it happened: good news! The members of the European Parliament stood their ground, showed up in force and soundly defeated the software patents proposal (648-14, with 18 abstentions). ...Full Story

Legislation and Advocacy

It was a mess. Better no directive than a bad directive   [July 6, 2005]

 

Tony Robinson, spokesman for the Socialists, after the decisive (and final) defeat of a bill to permit software patents in the EU ...Full Story


On the other hand…We have only a few items to note regarding the intersection between government and standards in the United States. The first is a happy example, showing how private sector standards and legislation can be combined in order to solve important problems in contemporary society. But the second shows how the legislative side of the equation is struggling (thus far unsuccessfully) to provide the type of patent laws that will allow important standards-based technologies to be deployed most effectively, and to permit the United States to be competitive in the global marketplace. Whether or not you think that the final item is a demonstration of public/private success in projecting the United States intellectual property regime abroad in support of domestic industry or a step backwards will depend on what you think about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Standards Play Role in U.S. Energy Bill
ANSI News and Publications, New York, NY, August 2, 2005  -- After several years of development and dispute, the complex and controversial Energy Policy Act of 2005 (H.R. 6), or more simply known as the U.S. Energy Bill, was passed on July 28 in the House of Representatives. Expected to be signed into law by President Bush this week, this first comprehensive energy bill in thirteen years includes several elements in which standards play a significant role. The U.S. Energy Bill mandates the adoption of reliability standards for the electricity transmission grid, provides incentives for grid improvement and reform of transmission authorization rules, and includes language that would create an electric reliability organization (ERO). ...Full Story

Fixing the Patent System: Patent System's Problems Defy Easy Solutions
Michael Kanellos
CNETNews.com August 6, 2005 --
 Lawyers, companies, inventors and politicians all agree that the nation's patent system is in desperate need of reform. They cite concerns about proliferating litigation, questionable licenses and a potential decline in American competitiveness. The question is how to reform: For all the complaints, little consensus has emerged on how to fix the system. In the worst-case scenarios, misguided reform efforts could unleash unintended consequences.... The issue is coming to a head in Washington, where committees in the House and Senate are planning hearings on a host of proposals to change the nation's patent law and how the Patent and Trademark Office operates. The ideas being proposed run a wide gamut, from forcing patent holders to license their inventions to others, to the elimination of software patents altogether. ...Full Story

Copyright lobbyists strike again
B y: Declan McCullagh
CNETNews.com, August 1, 2005
 -- You wouldn't know it from a political debate veering between labor standards in Nicaragua and the evils of protectionism, but one major section of CAFTA will export some of the more controversial sections of U.S. copyright law. Once it takes effect, CAFTA will require Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua to mirror the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's broad prohibition on bypassing copy-protection technology. This prohibition, of course, has been problematic in the United States. Courts have interpreted it as barring news organizations from linking to DVD-descrambling utilities, and lawyers have invoked it to stifle discussion of security vulnerabilities and even prevent conference presentations from taking place. ...Full Story

Intellectual Property Issues

You can create it. You can sell it. You can license it or you can sit on it. It is not the job of the patent examiner to delve into the psyche of the inventor   [August 6, 2005]

 

Former U.S. Patent Office Director James E. Rogan, on suggestions that patents should only be issued to those that would implement their inventions ...Full Story


Meanwhile, out in the trenches: While Congress is struggling with how to reform the patent laws and the Patent and Trademark Office, the action continues unabated in the marketplace and in the courts, with well-financed private companies utilizing the existing system to maximum effect, and the courts struggling to do what they can to clarify the way that the existing system is intended to operate.

Why Bill Gates Wants 3,000 New Patents
By: Randall Stross
NYTimes.com July 31, 2005 --
"EXCITING," "uninteresting" and "not exciting" don't seem like technical terms. But they show up a lot in United States patent application No. 20,050,160,457, titled "Annotating Programs for Automatic Summary Generation." It seems to be about baseball. The inventors have apparently come up with software that can detect the portions of a baseball broadcast that contain what they call "excited speech," as well as hits (what I call "excited ball") and automatically compile those portions into a highlights reel. If the patent is granted, after a review process that is likely to take three years, it will be assigned to the inventors' employer, Microsoft. [free site registration required] ...Full Story

Amazon files for Web services patent
By: Dawn Kawamoto
CNETNews.com, July 28, 2005
 -- Amazon.com has received a public airing of its patent application for an online marketplace where consumers search and pay for Web services. The patent application, filed last year and published Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, marks the online retailing giant's latest attempt to make inroads into consumers' wallets. Amazon, in its latest filing, is seeking to patent its idea for creating a marketplace where third-party Web services providers can link up with consumers. In its role as an intermediary for the marketplace, Amazon would collect a fee from companies providing the service. In its filing, Amazon notes that after receiving a customer's payment for a third-party Web service, it will provide 'at least some of the obtained payment for the subscriptions to the third-party Web services provider that registered the... service'. ...Full Story

Federal Circuit Case Addresses Patent Interpretation

Gesmer Updegrove July 20, 2005 -- On July 12, 2005, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in a case that has had patent attorneys holding their collective breath. In Phillips v. AWH Corp., the Federal Circuit attempted to clear up years of confusion and inconsistent rulings, explaining how the operative language in patents is to be interpreted. The Court also spoke to the standard to be used on appeal, when deciding whether trial courts have interpreted “patent claim” language correctly. While the topic seems to be one only an inventor or his lawyer could love, viewed in context, the Phillips decision represents an important milestone in a ten year journey that has transformed patent jurisprudence. The journey started in 1995, with the Federal Circuit Court‘s decision in Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc. The Federal Circuit concluded in that case that the scope of a patent should not depend on facts and circumstances particular to the inventor, but rather, it should be divined exclusively from the official patent documents themselves and from objective references, such as treatises and dictionaries. Divorcing patent claim interpretation from traditional factual inquiry meant two things. First, it meant that judges, not juries, were responsible for deciding what the terminology used in a patent claim actually meant. Second, it meant that a court hearing an appeal of that determination (i.e., the Federal Circuit) need not give any deference to the trial court’s conclusions. The appeals court was to reach its own conclusions de novo – a Latin term essentially meaning “from scratch.” ...Full Story

New Initiatives

A Parmesan standard could have a damaging effect on the intellectual property rights of producers and traders inside the EU.... What will be next?”   [July 11, 2005]

 

EU Commission Position Statement on parmesan cheese ...Full Story


Every day a new dawn: Although new initiatives usually gain less airplay than completed efforts because they have yet to prove their importance, they are the broad end of the funnel that eventually creates important news, and no more can come out the narrow end than enters the broad one. Here is a selection of the many new initiatives announced in the last month in a variety of areas.

Mozilla Foundation forms for-profit corporation
NewsForge, Mountain View, CA, August 3, 2005 -- The Mozilla Foundation, a non-profit public benefit software development organization, today announced it has formed a wholly owned subsidiary company to be known as the Mozilla Corporation. The Mozilla Corporation is a taxable subsidiary that serves the non-profit, public benefit goals of its parent, the Mozilla Foundation, and the vast Mozilla community. It will continue to leverage resources from diverse sources to create and distribute great open and free-of-charge end-user products -- such as the popular Mozilla Firefox Web browser and Mozilla Thunderbird email client -- that promote choice and innovation on the Web. ...Full Story

Openstream(R) Contributes Speech Components to IBM-Apache Open Source Framework
Yahoo Finance, New York, NY, August 1, 2005 -- Openstream announced today that it has contributed speech components for stock market applications to the Apache Foundation. Companies wanting to develop stock or trading applications for the North American Stock Exchanges can use these Reusable Dialog Components within the IBM-Apache RDC framework. The RDC initiative, led by IBM and its partners, drives the speech and voice application business from its proprietary, vertical roots into the horizontal world of standards-based development. ...Full Story

Smart Active Label Consortium Drives Extension to ISO RFID Standards; Work Will Add Battery Assist and Sensor Functionality to ISO 18000 Series
BusinessWire, Wakefield, MA, August 1, 2005 -- The Smart Active Label Consortium (SAL-C), a non-profit group that promotes the benefits and uses of Smart Active Label technology, today announced that the global standards body ISO (International Organization for Standardization) has authorized a new work program based on SAL-C's contributions. ISO's IEC JTC1 SC31 committee, the body responsible for the creation of the RFID air interface and data structure standards used in supply chain and asset management, approved a work program that will add battery assist and sensor functionality to the existing ISO 18000 series of RFID standards. The new initiative is a direct result of SAL-C's input to SC31 describing the benefits of this functionality to the RFID community, together with a Technical White Paper outlining how the extension could be achieved. ...Full Story

New security standards seek to establish trust
By: Colleen Frye
SearchWebServices.com, August 4, 2005
 -- Industry cooperation around security in a Web services world has taken several steps forward recently with the announcement that three more specifications in the IBM/Microsoft Web Services (WS-*) Security Roadmap are being submitted to OASIS in September, and a successful interoperability demo involving multiple federated identity protocols. Both took place at the Burton Group's Catalyst Conference last month. WS-Trust, WS-SecurityPolicy and WS-SecureConversation build on WS-Security, which was ratified by OASIS in 2004. WS-Trust and WS-SecureConversation were co-authored with vendors such as Actional Corp., BEA Systems Inc., Computer Associates International Inc., Oracle Corp., RSA Security Inc., VeriSign Inc. and others. ...Full Story

Open Source

Last year, there was a lot of smoke but no fire when it came to Linux on the desktop," he said. "It is not the sexy story that it used to be."   [August 9, 2005]

 

Jeremy White, Desktop Linux Consortium head and CEO of CodeWeavers ...Full Story


Where to begin? As always, there was plenty of action in the open source world in the past month. Major trends and events included: continuing action by strong supporters of open source, such as IBM and Novell, with the first acting to support the attractiveness of the open source FireFox browser, and the latter agreeing to open source its flagship Linux distribution; organized counterattacks on the patent front, with RedHat agreeing to fund patents relevant to open source projects in order to prevent others doing so, and the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) creating a “Patent Commons” that would be the reverse of a patent pool: instead of pooling and licensing patents out, it would pool non-assertion pledges by those that owned patents; and news that a new consortium would be formed to support Debian, the second most popular Linux version. And finally, we note that the open source battle is not only global, but local. Our last note under this heading notes the country-by-country effort (in this case, Egypt) of major vendors like IBM to press the open source attack in every market.

 

IBM Contributes Open Source Code to Make FireFox Browser More Accessible
IBM Press Release
Marketwire.com August 17, 2005
 -- IBM today announced that it is contributing software to the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox Web browser to make it easier for more users -- including those with visual and motor impairments -- to access and navigate the Web. In addition to contributing code that will make it possible for Web pages to be automatically narrated or magnified, and to be better navigated with keystrokes rather than mouse clicks, IBM is contributing Dynamic Hypertext Markup Language (DHTML) accessibility technology to the upcoming Firefox Version 1.5. This will allow software developers to build accessible and navigable "Rich Internet Applications" (RIAs) -- a new class of applications that are particularly visual and interactive. DHTML will also allow users to efficiently navigate content more easily using keystrokes rather than a mouse. ...Full Story

Novell to open source Suse
By: China Martens
InfoWorld, August 3, 2005
 -- Novell is planning to open up a version of its Suse Linux (Overview, Articles, Company) operating system to users and developers, unveiling its OpenSuse project at the LinuxWorld show next week in San Francisco, a company executive confirmed Wednesday. "We're making OpenSuse available for anyone anywhere," said Greg Mancusi-Ungaro, director of marketing for Linux and open source at Novell (Profile, Products, Articles). "We've learned from customers that it's still very, very hard to get Linux unless you're a technical user." Novell will rename its Suse Linux Professional flavor of Linux, Suse Linux, and will open source the operating system, hosting those efforts at a new Web site http://opensuse.org/, according to Mancusi-Ungaro. ...Full Story

Open-source allies go on patent offensive
By: Stephen Shankland
CNETNews.com, August 11, 2005
 -- Two Linux allies are taking a leaf out of their opponents' book as they try to prevent software patents from putting a crimp in open source. Red Hat will finance outside programmers' efforts to obtain patents that may be used freely by open-source developers, the top Linux seller said Tuesday at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here. At the same time, the Open Source Developer Labs launched a patent commons project, which will provide a central list of patents that have been donated to the collaborative programming community. ...Full Story

Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) Announces Patent Commons Project.
The Cover Pages, August 10, 2005 -- On the second day of the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, Open Source Development Labs CEO Stuart Cohen announced a new OSDL Patent Commons Project "designed to provide a central location where software patents and patent pledges will be housed for the benefit of the open source development community and industry." Several leading companies (e.g., Computer Associates, IBM, Nokia, Novell, RedHat, Sun Microsystems) have already contributed patents and pledged patented technology to the "open source community," attempting to create a framework for patent-free software development. To date, no formal legal entity has been designated to coordinate the patent pledges, contributions, and legal declarations that would provide the structure for a patent pool. ...Full Story

Linux vendors cosy up to Debian to push into enterprise
By: Matthew Broersma
TechWorld, July 27, 2005
 -- Several Linux vendors have confirmed they are participating in a project to turn Debian into a serious force in the enterprise. The appearance of the Debian initiative, called the Debian Core Consortium (DCC) is a blow to the Linux Core Consortium (LCC), announced last summer and backed by Progeny, MandrakeSoft and Turbolinux. However, the LCC says it is forging ahead with its own plans. The DCC, is to be formally announced in August at the LinuxWorld conference, according to Progeny Linux. Progeny, whose chairman Ian Murdock also founded Debian, is spearheading the DCC, with other members including Credativ, Knoppix, LinEx, Linspire, Mepis, Skolelinux, Sun Wah Linux, UserLinux, VA Linux and Xandros. A number of other companies are considering joining the project, according to Murdock. ...Full Story

Taking Aim
By: Waleed El-Shobakky
Business Today, July 24, 2005
 -- IBM Egypt heavily promoted Linux software at its annual forum in Cairo in September, announcing that the software will be playing a central role in a number of IBM's products and services. The move should come as no surprise considering that IBM Egypt's mother company is the heaviest investor inan open-source consortium that includes Dell, Hewlett Packard and Oracle. ...But it may be much tougher to crack the market in Egypt, where Microsoft seems to hold a special place in the IT world. ...Full Story

But not all were smiling in Happy Valley: Of course, the march of open source, as with any other business trend, is not without its potholes and rainy days. A few examples appear below.

Linux on the desktop--almost there again?
By: Michael Singer
ZDNet.com, San Francisco, CA, August 9, 2005
 -- Despite their best attempts, Linux software companies say they are still having a hard time luring average consumers away from the Windows environment--but that may not necessarily be a bad thing. Windows still dominates the PC world. About 90 percent of all desktops, laptops and even PDAs are powered by Microsoft, according to reports by Gartner and IDC. Even with all the hoopla last year about Linux progress, the buzz over breaking the Windows stronghold has died down considerably. ...Full Story

HP exec decries proliferation of open source license types
By: Paul Krill
InfoWorld, San Francisco, CA, August 9, 2005
 -- Decrying the proliferation of open source license varieties, a Hewlett-Packard executive on Tuesday urged IBM (Profile, Products, Articles) and Sun Microsystems (Profile, Products, Articles) to abandon their own licenses and back the GNU GPL (General Public License). The existence of too many types of open source licenses could cause interoperability problems, said Martin Fink (Overview, Articles, Company), the vice president and general manager of HP NonStop Enterprise Division, Open Source and Linux (Overview, Articles, Company) Organization. Fink made his remarks during a presentation at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo. ...Full Story

Roots: We include this item for both historical and sentimental reasons. In the early 90’s I helped spin the X Consortium out of MIT, and represented it until the project downsized and was merged into The Open Group. The X Consortium was crucial to the evolution of both Unix and open source, and its license agreement (now popularly referred to as “the MIT license”) is still one of the most popular licenses in the world that meets open source requirements. The organization was led by Bob Scheifler, one of the great leaders in the open source/open standards movement, whose role in the X Consortium in many ways prefigured that of Linus Torvalds in the Linux community.

LinuxWorld Profile: X.org
InfoWorld, August 8, 2005 -- Leon Shiman, Secretary, X.org is on hand for a number of LinuxWorld programs including the Linux and Open Source and Government Day (the third in the LinuxWorld series) as well as representing X.org in the .org Pavilion. X.org is unique among the major open source projects both because of the history of it’s use and the underlying technology that underlies all of the Linux desktops. It’s a layer that’s necessary to have a windowed desktop. The X.org organization is really the precursor to the community. The people that founded the project still contribute today (nearly 20 years) later,and X is neutral--vendor, platform, and OS independent. It runs on everything and is network transparent. ...Full Story

Open Source/Open Standards

The answer lies in the "O3 zone:" open source, open standards and open systems   [July 22, 2005]

 

Guy Cross, Oracle director, Business Development, Oracle Asia Pacific Linux Business Unit, on what vendors are rallying behind ...Full Story


Culture Shock: For some time, we have been reporting on the not always happy intersection of open source licensing needs and traditional open standards licensing norms (see What Does “Open” Mean? ). One such collision occurred recently when the Apache Software Foundation wished to include WS-Security, a security standard supported by OASIS, an open standards group. Unfortunately, the feature was available under a license arrangement that included term that did not meet open source requirements. For more background on Apache and WS-Security (and links to a lively debate on the contentious convergence of open source and open standards), see the multiple entries at our news Blog on July 15 and before.

Web Services Specs Meet Open Source
By: Darryl K. Taft
eWeek.com July 22, 2005
-- As the Apache Software Foundation, Microsoft Corp. and IBM sort out licensing issues around making the WS-Security specification open-source-friendly, the issue becomes something of a precedent for how Web services specifications will evolve in the open-source world. Meanwhile, IBM and Microsoft have announced plans to submit three additional Web services specifications to a standards body, and Hewlett-Packard Co. has announced that three Web services specifications it turned over to Apache have now left the incubator stage. ...Full Story

Pushing the envelope: Meanwhile, the applicability of open source continued to be explored in diverse areas, bringing new opportunities for friction over the interface between open standards and open source. Here are two examples.

Does an open virtualisation standard mean open source?
By: Manek Dubash
TechWorld, August 11, 2005
  -- These guys have been talking to each other. Over the last two weeks, there has been a rash of announcements from a number of leading vendors pledging support for new open virtualisation standards. The plans pointedly do not involve Microsoft and could be seen as encircling the Redmond giant in the booming virtualisation market, which most observers see as becoming of growing importance over the next few years. ...Full Story

Doors 'open' to hardware
By: Richard Goering
Electronic Engineering Times, July 28, 2005
 -- Is "open" hardware a disruptive technology that will foster the kind of collaboration that Linux brought to the software world? Despite the recent demise of one prominent open-source programmable-logic effort, advocates think so. Given the increasingly prohibitive costs of developing hardware from scratch, open hardware is an attractive possibility. But the road is not easy, and new business models will be needed to support it. ...Full Story

Semantic and NextGen Web

This is too important to be left in the hands of diplomats   [August 1, 2005]

 

Part of the response of Paul Twomey, President and CEO of ICANN, to the question, "Is it a possibility that Internet governance could come under the umbrella of the United Nations?" ...Full Story

We said it and we meant it: When Tim Berners-Lee announced his commitment to create the standards necessary to enable the Semantic Web, it was hot news for a while. Predictably, press coverage fell off as the long process of standards development (now largely completed), and then market uptake (just beginning), ground on. In our June issue of this year, The Future of the Web , we committed to provide continuing coverage of the uptake of Semantic Web standards to help create the next generation of the Web. So, as promised, here are this month’s examples of the wide range of little-noticed efforts and developments that are underway in this arena.

From Web page to Web platform
By: Martin LaMonica
News.com August 19, 2005 --
 What do you get if you cross Google Maps with an online gas-price tracker? A shift in the way the Web works. The advent of the Web 10 years ago opened up vast banks of information to anyone with an Internet connection. Now, clever programming tricks that use data from public Web sites are letting developers mix up that information to suit consumers' particular needs. They also portend big changes for site owners--at least, for those who want to take part in the next stage of the Web, called Web 2.0 by some. ...Full Story

IBM Open-Sources New Search Technology
By: John Pallatto
eWeek, August 8, 2005
 -- IBM plans to release as open-source a sophisticated new search and text analysis technology that is able to find relationships, trends and facts buried in a wide range of unstructured data, including e-mails, Web pages, text documents, images, audio and video. Called the UIMA (Unstructured Information Management Architecture), the technology is able is able to go beyond the keyword analysis typically used by most search engines to discern the semantic meanings within text and other unstructured data, said Nelson Mattos, vice president of information integration with IBM in San Jose, Calif. IBM implemented UIMA in its WebSphere Information Integrator OmniFind Edition as part of its enterprise search platform, which Mattos said was the first commercially available application for this technology. ...Full Story

Topic Maps and RDF, having long ago agreed to agree, finally find themselves on the same page
The Cover Pages, August 2, 2005 -- Extreme Markup Languages 2005 opened with a bang Tuesday, August 2. The conference, which five years ago famously witnessed an RDF/Topic Maps shootout turned treaty-signing, showcased two dazzling efforts to make the alternative relationship technologies interoperable. Not surprisingly, given the preferences each camp has in its own approach, one presentation gave RDF/OWL the dominant role, the other Topic Maps. On first examination, both seem viable routes to this long desired goal. ...Full Story

Smart software tutors students
BetterHumans, July 27, 2005 -- Ever get bored sitting in a classroom full of students? Or perhaps you were one of those struggling to grasp new concepts being explored while the instructor raced on to new, additional material. A new training system developed through an EU project will soon change all of this and bring the instruction down (or up) to suit individual students' needs. The Diogene system uses advanced semantic Web technologies, such as metadata and ontologies, to manage the training information. This allows it to intelligently infer when a student is showing signs of struggling and automatically recommend remedial coursework to get a student back on track or to fill in gaps that may have occurred in the student's normal coursework progression. ...Full Story

Computers graduate in education
Information Society Technologies, July 25, 2005 -- Computers will increasingly behave like real teachers thanks to a recently completed EU project that developed an information and communication technology (ICT) training system that chooses course materials appropriate to the topic and the student....The system uses advanced technologies, like metadata and ontologies, for information management. Metadata is 'information about information', a means of archiving Web languages, while ontologies are the formal specifications of a system. Combining the two allows a computer to match up course materials with a topic....Diogene includes innovative features like dynamic learning strategies and semantic Web openness. The first means that teaching adapts to the student's progress, while the semantic Web gives data a label that can be understood by machines. ...Full Story

ASK-IT: a large project in its early steps
ClickPress, July 24, 2005 -- ASK-IT (Ambient Intelligence System of Agents for Knowledge-based and Integrated Services for Mobility Impaired users) Integrated Project (IST-2003-511298) aims to establish Ambient Intelligence (Ami) in semantic web enabled services, to support and promote the mobility of the Mobility Impaired (MI) people, enabling the provision of personalised, self-configurable, intuitive and context-related applications and services and facilitating knowledge and content organisation and processing. ASK-IT will during a 4 years period develop an environment that will advance mobile devices as personal guides in leisure, sport, education, work, socialisation and tourism and will allow effortless movement of the Elderly and Disabled people across Europe. ...Full Story

In support of PubChem: towards open chemical information
EurekAlert, July 17, 2005 -- An XML-based approach to the communication of chemical information in the biomedical literature would prevent the loss of crucial information and facilitate the re-use of data and would be easily achievable using existing open tools and resources. A commentary article published today in the Open Access journal BMC Bioinformatics argues that it is time chemistry followed in the footsteps of bioinformatics and structural biology and moved towards the creation of an open semantic web facilitating access to chemical information. ...Full Story

Come again???? The following surely must be the most bizarre and surreal interview to which Tim Berners-Lee has ever been subjected. Rather like asking the inventor of penicillin if he ever loses sleep because someone might inject it using a dirty needle. Berners-Lee fields the questions with his usual quick wit, but we would have liked to see the look on his face as the questions were asked.

Berners-Lee on the read/write web
By: Mark Lawson
BBC Online, August 9, 2005
 -- In August 1991, Sir Tim Berners-Lee created the first Web site. Fourteen years on, he tells BBC how blogging is closer to his original idea about a read/write Web. Berners-Lee: "[The Web is] a new medium -- it's a universal medium and it's not itself a medium which inherently makes people do good things, or bad things. It allows people to do what they want to do more efficiently. It allows people to exist in an information ...Full Story

Story Updates

The conversion of 'I think it's unique' to 'I will buy it' is much higher for HD-DVD   [August 19, 2005]

 

Steve Nickerson, Warner Home Video Sr. VP of Market Management, on the results of a Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD consumer preferences study ...Full Story

Bury the hatchet or fight on? There were new developments in the last month in two ongoing sagas involving high-stakes standards competitions. In the first, the two opposing camps in the IEEE WLAN 802.11n competition decided to combine forces, as reported below. Of course, as soon as this problem was solved, news broke that a rival proposal for mesh networking had also been presented in the 802.11 Working Group. And in the long and bitter struggle over the next generation DVD standard, the HD-DVD and the Blu-ray camps, as always, fought on, although they did happen to both pick a common security feature for inclusion in their respective offerings. Who will eventually prevail? A recent marketing study indicates that the HD-DVD forces are winning (at least) the Air Wars, for now.

Broad approach for high-speed WLAN standard
By: Matt Hamblen
TechWorld, August 1, 2005
 -- Warring factions of vendors have finally reached an agreement to co-operate on development of the next high-speed wireless LAN standard. IEEE standards officials this week said that the planned joint proposal could be ready for an initial vote in November. The three factions said at an 802.11n task-force meeting held this month in San Francisco that they are "working together to create a single merged proposal," according to a short statement from the task force issued by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The proposed standard is expected to be available at an 802.11n meeting in California, during the week of Sept. 18 and should be ready for review and a possible vote by the entire 802.11 working group in November, said Nancy Vogtli, the working group's publicity chairman. ...Full Story

ASK-IT: a large project in its early steps
See Mesh? SEEMesh Proposed
By: Eric Griffith
EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet, July 21, 2005
 -- The IEEE 802.11 Working Group meeting in San Francisco continues this week, and news comes that in addition to the proposal to the Task Group S (TGs) for mesh networking from the recently formed Wi-Mesh Alliance, competition has come in the form of another consortium of companies. This one is backed by a series of big names including Intel, Nokia, Motorola, NTT DoCoMo, and Texas Instruments. Dubbed SEEMesh—short for Simple, Efficient and Extensible Mesh—the group is not talking about details of the proposal: requests from Intel and TI went unanswered today. ...Full Story

DVD camps agree anti-piracy standard
By: Ken Young
VNUnet.com, August 10, 2005
 -- The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) has announced that it has selected the Advanced Access Content System (AACS) as its protection scheme for next generation DVD media. The anti-piracy measures include a watermarking and digital rights management update scheme to secure discs against copying. By choosing AACS, the BDA matches the rival HD-DVD (backed by the DVD Forum), which has chosen the same system. ...Full Story

HD-DVD Claims the Brand Advantage
By: Melissa J. Perenson
PC World August 19, 2005
 -- Never underestimate the power of a name. That's the single greatest takeaway I found in a recent study offered up in support of HD-DVD, one of two competing formats in the race for a next-generation disc format with the capacity required for high-definition content. And according to this study, HD-DVD's familiar sound is going to serve it well in the coming format war--which is not a surprising conclusion, considering the study was commissioned by HD-DVD's backers.In July I looked at research released by the Blu-ray Disc Association, the group pushing HD-DVD's rival format. Unlike the more abstractly focused Blu-ray Disc study, which for the most part asked consumers to express general preferences regarding next-generation optical technology without getting into specific formats, the Warner study specifically pitted HD-DVD against Blu-ray Disc. ...Full Story

It hasn’t been from want of trying: The Sender ID saga has been one that has mirrored many other trends in the industry, such as the clash between traditional licensing terms and open source requirements, and much blood has been spilled in blogs and elsewhere over how that conflict arose and ultimately resolved. But if it isn’t adopted, then it will have been for naught.

Sender ID's fading message
By: Joris Evers
CNETNews.com, August 9, 2005
 -- At the start of last year, Bill Gates told the world's elite at an annual conference in Davos, Switzerland, that the problem of spam would be solved in two years. But if the Microsoft chairman was betting on Sender ID to play a major role in achieving that goal, it looks like a losing bet. The Microsoft-backed protocol to identify e-mail senders aims to stem spam and phishing by making it harder for senders to forge their addresses and by improving filtering. ...Full Story

Standards are Serious (right?)

Consumers may have mistakenly purchased a blow dart gun thinking it was a decorative walking stick, posing the risk of injury if someone used the gun for its intended purpose   [July 28, 2005]

 

Consumer Product Safety Commission recall notice for a 51" African blow dart gun and darts, because the product might be used for its intended purpose ...Full Story

All work and no play…Just because standards have serious implementations doesn’t mean that they can’t be used for recreation as well. In some ways, the mark of a successful standard is it’s percolating into all types of products and uses throughout society, such as that described in this story.

OGC Standards Enable Armchair Captains to Track Rolex Fastnet Races
Open Geospatial Consortium August 12, 2005  -- There's a bit of invisible magic enabling the mapping website that shows the current positions of the sailing vessels in this year's Rolex Fastnet race from the Isle of Wight to Plymouth. Visitors to http://www.netandsea.com/fastnetrace/ see colorful maps from Netency with regularly updated data on 10 of the 250 yachts. But what pulls all the data together underneath? Elegant open geospatial standards. Netency has covered a series of races on its website since January of this year. The Rolex Fasnet Race is the fifth. How does the company "custom build" a website for each race? It takes advantage of Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC) standards that make calling one map as easy as calling another, no matter what software in the background. Netency can call different background maps for different races from different servers across the world. The real time data on boat locations and winds are automatically overlain to create the real time maps. "OGC specifications were really an important part of the architecture from its conception, in particular the OGC Web Map Service (WMS). The standard provides such flexibility to the website architecture. We can change the rendering of map by just referencing another WMS server!" noted Didier Caillon, the technical lead at Netency. ...Full Story

 
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