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UK: Open Standards Must Be Restriction Free

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the keeping-it-free dept.

Open Source 90

Glyn Moody writes "There has been a big battle in the UK over whether open standards should be Restriction/Royalty-Free (RF) or Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND). That matters, because open source can't in general implement FRAND standards (there are legal hacks that can be applied in a few special circumstances.) First it seemed that RF had the upper hand [.pdf], but later comments from officials cast doubt on that. Now we have the definitive answer from the UK Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude: 'The Government require that their ICT should be built on open standards, wherever possible, to improve competition and avoid lock-in to a particular technology or supplier. Fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) specifications may present some difficulties for the open source software development model in terms of patents and royalties. To deliver a level playing field for both open source and proprietary software, open standards are needed.' Will UK government use of open source finally take off, or is this a hollow victory?"

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3.. 2.. 1.. (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375378)

Waiting for the "disallowing proprietary standards will impede innovation!" reply...

Where are the lobbyists when you kneed (I wish!) them?

Re:3.. 2.. 1.. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375774)

It does say "wherever possible". If some technology really needs new application protocols or storage specifications then so be it. As long as they are properly documented, I don't see the problem.

Opensource and open standards are different things (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37375398)

While both discussions are worthwhile to have.

Opensource vs closed source and open standards vs proprietary they not the same discussion.

As archivist I am a full supporter of open standards but don't really care whether my software is opensource or closed... as long as I can still look at my archives in 10-20-50 years.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (5, Insightful)

jspayne (98716) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375604)

As archivist I am a full supporter of open standards but don't really care whether my software is opensource or closed... as long as I can still look at my archives in 10-20-50 years.

And how useful is that standard to you if no one can afford to pay for the license required to implement the software to read your archives?

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375910)

If no one can afford to pay for the license required to implement the software then that you break the FRAND as the pricing would not be Fair and Reasonable.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37376262)

If no one can afford to pay for the license required to implement the software then that you break the FRAND as the pricing would not be Fair and Reasonable.

who decides what price is "fair" and what price is "reasonable"? Do I have to take someone to court if it isn't? How mutch time and money will that cost me?

FRAND is a joke. ban it.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37376608)

If no one can afford to pay for the license required to implement the software then that you break the FRAND as the pricing would not be Fair and Reasonable.

Right. A copyright term of "the rest of the author's life, and then another 95 years, and then until the start of the following year" is also officially considered to be fair and reasonable (in the United States). It's 70 instead of 95 years in the European Union but still officially fair and reasonable.

So that's the FR in FRAND for you.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377794)

Who said anything about copyrights? These are patents, and patents run out in a much shorter time frame.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#37389616)

Sure they do. Of course, by the time they expire, the standards are 'upgraded' to include the use of patents that have just been awarded.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382544)

It the rest of the life of the author plus 70 years not 95. And that's only for non-corporate authorship. For a corporation or business, it's 95 years from publication or 120 years from the creation, whichever come first.

But I'm not sure how many people consider that reasonable expect for those with a finger in the pie.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (2)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375834)

They're related in this case due to the licensing involved in implementing a standard that includes patented components. Under FRAND licensing, patent-holders pool patents and agree to license them in a uniform way, but not for free. This makes it impossible to distribute software that implements the patents for free, which makes the general way open-source projects are run impossible.

I suppose it depends in part on what you define as an "open standard" to begin with. Is something really an open standard if it cannot be implemented without paying patent licensing fees?

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#37376548)

They're related in this case due to the licensing involved in implementing a standard that includes patented components. Under FRAND licensing, patent-holders pool patents and agree to license them in a uniform way, but not for free. This makes it impossible to distribute software that implements the patents for free, which makes the general way open-source projects are run impossible.

Typical terms are: You can use these patents for free to implement this standard, as long as you agree that all your patents can be used for free to implement this standard. This is without doubt fair, cheap, and not compatible with GPL because of the restriction "to implement this standard". The problem is not the cost, the problem us the specific terms in the GPL license. Now of course some people will like terms that are free, cheap and not GPL compatible.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#37376646)

Typical FRAND licensing doesn't imply royalty-free (that's what "royalty-free" licensing is). It's common to impose a few cents royalty per copy, or something of that sort, with the fee shared out among consortium members. That's how the MPEG standard is managed, for example.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (1)

grahammm (9083) | more than 2 years ago | (#37378224)

In which case they should not include the term 'Non-Discriminatory' in the title as it is blatantly discriminating against implementations (such as open source) which are freely distributable.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37380410)

In which case they should not include the term 'Non-Discriminatory' in the title as it is blatantly discriminating against implementations (such as open source) which are freely distributable.

"Non-Discriminatory" means that the same terms are available to everyone, not that the terms have to work for everyone. What you're claiming is that the terms aren't reasonable, but the reality is this: for 99% of the world, FRAND patent licenses used in open standards are fair and reasonable, and the only reason they aren't 'reasonable' in your eyes is FOSS puritanism.

Good luck getting the whole world to restructure laws around FSF ideology.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37375916)

So you do care whether your software is open source or closed. Only the open source software will still be available to you in 50 years. It might be a bit of a PITA to get it back up and running again, but it's possible. It's even more of a PITA to do your own support, but it's possible.

Proprietary software support can be dropped at any time whenever it is no longer profitable to support, or even if people just feel like it, at which point you're SOL.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37380500)

So you do care whether your software is open source or closed. Only the open source software will still be available to you in 50 years. It might be a bit of a PITA to get it back up and running again, but it's possible. It's even more of a PITA to do your own support, but it's possible.

Proprietary software support can be dropped at any time whenever it is no longer profitable to support, or even if people just feel like it, at which point you're SOL.

If you actually need to ensure that some bit of software can still run 50 years from now, I don't care whether it's OSS or closed, your best bet is to try to make sure it can function inside a virtual machine, and hope that 50-years-in-the-future VMs or emulators will still support the machine architecture you're using. In 50 years, every language and instruction set used today could well be a long-forgotten joke. 'Doing your own support' is a bit impractical if it involves recreating the entire toolchain and system environment needed by your software from scratch.

A more likely scenario is that data needs to be preserved for 50 years, in which case the best bet is to ensure that it's stored in the simplest, best documented formats possible.

Re: every language a long-forgotten joke (1)

neonsignal (890658) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382086)

In 50 years, every language and instruction set used today could well be a long-forgotten joke.

hey man, are you dissin' COBOL?

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (2)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#37376068)

Opensource and open standards are different things

But closely intertwined. In particular "open" standards can be divided into two main categories.

Open and unencumbered standards where anyone can implement the standard without having to sign license agreements or pay royalties.
Open but encumbered standards where anyone can buy and read a copy but to implement the standard legally you have to sign a patent license agreement and pay license fees.

Of couse there is the further complication that thanks to how patents work it is impossible to be sure a standard is completely free of patent encumberenaces. You can only say that there are no known encumberances. Even being older than the typical lifetime of a patent isn't surefire protection in some countries.

as long as I can still look at my archives in 10-20-50 years.

And the best way to maximise the chance of that is to have the widest support possible for said standard. FOSS projects generally can't afford to pay patent license fees and even if they could the patent licenses are generally incompatible with major FOSS licenses. Sometimes FOSS projects implement encumbered standards anyway (either illegally or through basing the project in a country where the encumberance doesn't apply) but a few legal threats could easilly cause the project to pull the feature (yes you can go on using the old version for a while but as the underlying platforms move on that is likely to get harder and harder).

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37376280)

Open and unencumbered standards where anyone can implement the standard without having to sign license agreements or pay royalties.
Open but encumbered standards where anyone can buy and read a copy but to implement the standard legally you have to sign a patent license agreement and pay license fees.

You're confusing Open and Free. You seem to think Open means Free. It does not. Open does not have any relation to fees other than they are fair. 0 fee is fair, and so is $100 billion per copy, as long as its the same for everyone.

Stop trying to project your agenda on everyone else by using open to mean something it does not. You clearly want 0 cost, so you want free, not open.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#37376910)

$100 billion per copy??? If I download that please don't count it as a lost sale. :)

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (1)

Confusador (1783468) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377024)

I think you're a bit too defensive about this. GP clearly laid out the distinction that there are open standards that are free and those that are not. He then went on to argue that the ones that are free are better, which is the question at stake in this article. You're welcome to disagree with that, but you're going to need an argument to do it, since he laid his views out fairly and clearly.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (2)

SkunkPussy (85271) | more than 2 years ago | (#37376716)

Open source software means that if the original developer goes out of business, then somebody else can take it over. Also it means that the software can be ported to whatever devices people use in 50 years, instead of having to keep alive an archaic 2011 PC.

Open source has huge implications for archiving.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37378122)

Open source software means that if the original developer goes out of business, then somebody else can take it over. Also it means that the software can be ported to whatever devices people use in 50 years, instead of having to keep alive an archaic 2011 PC.

Open source has huge implications for archiving.

And that's where you make the thinking mistake.
If in 50 years from now the vendor is out of business I don't care because with an open standard I can just implement the standard in a new program and read my data anyhow, not only that but implement it in whatever we're using then.

Being able to read, write, and think hieroglyphs is moot when you have a Rosetta's stone and can just translate them to your own language.

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (1)

SkunkPussy (85271) | more than 2 years ago | (#37401706)

how can you be sure the vendor is following the open standard without access to an open source implementation of it? If it turns out in 50 years time that he wasn't following the standard correctly, what do you do?

Re:Opensource and open standards are different thi (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37379446)

If you give it a bit of thought, you DO care. If the only software that reads a format TODAY is closed and proprietary, will it even exist in 50 years? If you can come up with a copy and an emulator to run it on, can you come up with a license key?

If your software stack is all Free software, you don't need a key and quite possibly won't need an emulator. The Free nature of the software means you can legally keep copies in any form and format shift and port incrementally.

Islands need standards (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375402)

It is a good thing because they are an island, which is where people have bad hats so they needa standared to measure the hats independently of any one particular hat, dogfart. Sort oflike if there was a bridge to New Fork the place would be a dump becauseof your moms and all her stupid freinds would be htere all the time. Dogfart

WHO CARES OF BRITAIN ANYMORE ?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37375404)

It lost all its territory and all it's got left is a rock in the north sea !! What good is it for anyway ?? Absolutely nothing !!

Re:WHO CARES OF BRITAIN ANYMORE ?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37375410)

Say it again? Britania? Brazil? Tuttle?

Re:WHO CARES OF BRITAIN ANYMORE ?? (0)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375412)

What good is it for anyway ?? Absolutely nothing !!

You're thinking of "war". Easy mistake to make.

Re:WHO CARES OF BRITAIN ANYMORE ?? (2)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375712)

Before I even consider your grammar (or lack there of) the answer is simple. They are still the worlds 6th largest economy [wikipedia.org] . They are also the part of the european union, and has some say in how that is run. If enough countries in the EU say that open standards are required by law - guess what? All the countries in the EU will use open standards. Considering the EU is the largest economy, even bigger than the States. So yes, they are still relevant.

Re:WHO CARES OF BRITAIN ANYMORE ?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37375746)

Fuuny, last I spent it was them sterling pound, not them dole-for-east-euros. Me, I wait for russian rueble to be trade in for deutcher euro.

Re:WHO CARES OF BRITAIN ANYMORE ?? (0)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375862)

Actually, the Euro is legal tender in the UK.

Re:WHO CARES OF BRITAIN ANYMORE ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37375970)

Actually, it's not.

Re:WHO CARES OF BRITAIN ANYMORE ?? (1)

Suferick (2438038) | more than 2 years ago | (#37376038)

Actually, it isn't. Banks and shops are not obliged to accept the Euro. Some large traders do, presumably at highly profitable rates, in the same way that US dollars are accepted in some countries. You will sometimes see goods priced in both currencies, but this is largely because they are designed also to be sold in ROI.

Re:WHO CARES OF BRITAIN ANYMORE ?? (3, Interesting)

andymadigan (792996) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375826)

Population of 62 million. Imports of 750 billion USD. They do better on the Ease of Doing Business Index than the U.S., plus they'll probably be the last European country to sever ties with the U.S. as the E.U. moves to become a larger economic power than the U.S. and China. That's assuming the E.U. survives another 10 years of course (and assuming the U.K. stays in the E.U.).

By the way, that import statistic (probably the most important in this case) means they import nearly twice as much per capita as the U.S. In addition, their trade deficit is 10% of their imports. The U.S. trade deficit is 33% of their imports.

So yeah, their decisions on standards like this are pretty important, economically speaking.

Re:WHO CARES OF BRITAIN ANYMORE ?? (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382346)

That's assuming the E.U. survives another 10 years of course (and assuming the U.K. stays in the E.U.).

Assuming the EU survives another *one* year is starting to look like a shaky bet the way things are going at the moment.

Re:WHO CARES OF BRITAIN ANYMORE ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37376094)

You forget, the Falkland Islands. Even more rock for the Queen and her subjects. One of the so-so B2 boards.

Perverted standards... (5, Interesting)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375414)

organised by Microsoft and their little weasels subvert this measure... Just ask Brazil about what Microsoft was up to in their fight against .odt usage by Brazilian government departments... Just remember what Microsoft got up to when the State of Massachusetts wanted to mandate open formats for documents... Just watch Microsoft start their little tricks to get OOXML manddated in UK Government because it's an ISO standard... a standard which is impossible to implement by third parties because of the legacy backwards compatibility required by the binary blobs that they were able to get away with and an ISO standard which should never have been accepted in the first place if it hadn't have been for Microsoft's behind the scenes shenanigans in perverting national standards bodies.

Re:Perverted standards... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37375634)

'The Government require that their ICT should be built on open standards, wherever possible...

Bold text being the keyword. Orgs are not gonna scrap their Active Directory and Exchange-servers if they can avoid it, business as usual.

What they SHOULD do is come up with a complete implementation that will satisfy their requirements, instead of gunning for partial facing out of existing programs. Doing things slow in these regards will just draw out the pain of transition, making dumb, mid-level leadertypes stand on their heels and get the project scrapped in an iffy because it messes up their established work-practice.

Re:Perverted standards... (0)

regimechange (2287586) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375764)

Yes Microsoft is not without blame but....just because Microsoft offers politicians money and perks, does not mean then need to accept them. Government is not the problem, the people _in_ government are the real problem.

Re:Perverted standards... (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375956)

Government is the_people_in_ government

Re:Perverted standards... (2)

regimechange (2287586) | more than 2 years ago | (#37376618)

When you have corrupt, traitors in power, it seems like government is the problem. Problem is, people keep voting corrupt traitors in to replace the existing corrupt traitors thinking somehow things will be different.

Re:Perverted standards... (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377744)

There often (usually?) aren't any alternatives. And it's usually impossible to be certain that they're as evil as you might guess they are. The evidence is hidden, or sufficiently obscured that those who want to believe otherwise easily can, and with reasonable justification.

Re:Perverted standards... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37376012)

ISO has been proven not to be a standards body.

Re:Perverted standards... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37396152)

To be complaint " open source software should not render by technology, separation or access gate its "technology or code" in such as a way as to make third party backward compatible coding impossible, difficult, or obscure .. ".

Open ISO.... (3, Interesting)

kulnor (856639) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375482)

A good place to start would be with ISO. Few know that most ISO standards are licensed products: http://www.iso.org/iso/licence_agreement [iso.org] Yes, you technically need to pay if you want to use standard country codes.... *K

Re:Open ISO.... (3, Informative)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375652)

No, you are not. You could even compile your own list of country codes (from wikipedia, e.g.), and publish it. What you cannot do is to buy a copy of an ISO standard, and print out 10 copies for your friends.

But yes, I too wish it wasn't so. That would in practice mean that the price of being a member of ISO for a country would have to rise significantly, with the obvious consequences.

Re:Open ISO.... (1)

kulnor (856639) | more than 2 years ago | (#37376166)

You're right, thanks for the clarification. But isn't then WIkiPedia doing exactly that? Republishing without licensing? What about all the other web pages listing ISO classifications?

Re:Open ISO.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37376598)

I think he is saying that the list is not copyrighted (nor copyrightable, being a fact), however, the presentation of that list provided by ISO is copyrighted.

The Data are free, but the document is not. If you take the data out of the document, that is fine, but you can't just reprint the document.

Re:Open ISO.... (1)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | more than 2 years ago | (#37376616)

You can only copyright an expression of an idea, not the idea itself. So the list of ISO country codes --- not much to copyright there. The format, how the table is set up, perhaps, if it isn't done too generically.

Re:Open ISO.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37378268)

This does depend on the country - in the US facts are not copyright-able so a collection of facts cannot have any copyright other than decorative or presentation features. In many EU countries facts are also not copyright-able but there are things called "database rights" (eg the UK's version [legislation.gov.uk] ) wherein a collection of facts cannot be derived from somebody else's collection of facts without permission.

For example, if you make a telephone directory by asking a bunch of people for their name and number then that is OK, but if you just scan and OCR the phone company's directory then that is not OK.

Much information on the internet relating to IP silently assumes that everywhere has laws similar to the US, which is not really the case.

'Spartacus' star Andy Whitfield dies at 39 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37375490)

Andy Whitfield, the 39-year-old star of the cable series "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," has died.

Re:'Spartacus' star Andy Whitfield dies at 39 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37381100)

And we all know how much you like to watch movies about... gladiators.

Ask the wrong question and.... (2)

Manip (656104) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375562)

You're asking if Open Source will "take off" in the UK government but last time I checked Linux servers were already heavily used within UK government organisations (although, granted, Windows Server is also).

Re:Ask the wrong question and.... (2)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377530)

Yup, here in the bosom of the NHS IT programme I can tell you we are using Linux, Apache, PHP, MySQL, Python, Bazaar, Git, Subversion, Trac, Eclipse, etc.

For internal tooling projects I'll use essentially any open-source licensed code that I can lay my hands on to do the job, rather than shell out for commercial components that inevitably don't quite fit our needs and don't provide great support. To be honest... by the time you go through the utterly barmy procurement process for these things - you could have spent the same effort getting things running with an OSS library, and ended up with both something that works well AND the valuable accumulation of extra knowledge and skills. I once waited 13 weeks for a tool purchase (VB6 code analysis tool, alas, no open equivalent) - by the time it arrived, I'd done most of the work manually.

Our commercial partners tend to be rather cagy about copyleft licenses like GPL, but they all like BSD-style licensed code (not least because they can just take our splendid efforts and sell them back to us in their shiny new products...)

FRAND? (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375614)

Why can't open source be fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory? All of those adjectives apply to any open source license better than they apply to any proprietary license.

Re:FRAND? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37375664)

The key word is "standards". If a standard can't be implemented without licensing patent XYZ, and the FRAND terms for licensing patent XYZ are a one-off payment of 10000 pounds, how many open source projects are going to be able to come up with the dough?

Re:FRAND? (3, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375770)

That would be fine. We're talking about open source, not community-developed software. This is government IT procurement, not your basement Linux server. The problem is that open source software, by definition, must allow unlimited redistribution (point one of the Open Source Definition). A one-off payment of £10K is fine, as long as that covers all copies of the software and of derived works. A FRAND standard, however, could require a 10p payment per copy of the software. This is impossible, because you'd be requiring everyone who distributed a copy of the software downstream to pay 10p to the standards body (or you'd be required to pay it, with no limit on the potential number of copies).

Re:FRAND? (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375722)

Especially considering software patents are not legal in the UK

Re:FRAND? (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375932)

Especially considering software patents are not legal in the UK

Not true! They're legal, but significantly harder to get than in the US.

Re:FRAND? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375874)

Because much of open source is discriminatory: If you're dealing with GPL code, there is the restriction that any reuse of that has to be GPL'd (LGPL sorta doesn't have that effect, and BSD obviously doesn't).

Re:FRAND? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37376532)

reuse of that has to be GPL'd
        Not quite true. any distribution of GPL'd software, outside
an organization must be GPL'd. If you want to develop software
for use of your company there is no problem.

Re:FRAND? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37376636)

You might want to look up the word discriminatory [learnersdictionary.com] . Since everybody has to follow the same rule with the GPLed code, the licence is not discriminatory.

Re:FRAND? (1)

Confusador (1783468) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377058)

Except BSD suffers from this issue just as much as GPL. If the 'fair and reasonable' terms say that the producer owes .02 $CURRENCY for each copy made, then I can't put it under a license that allows you to make as many copies as you want without paying the fee.

Re:FRAND? (2)

StormReaver (59959) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375876)

Why can't open source be fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory? All of those adjectives apply to any open source license better than they apply to any proprietary license.

Yes, but that is not what FRAND means. That term is like The People's Republic of China -- an inversion of meaning. Here is what it actually means:

Fair -- you pay us as much as we want. That's fair, right?
Reasonable -- isn't it reasonable to pay us whatever we want?
And -- there's more coming, so bend over.
Non-Discriminatory -- we're going to make everyone else pay through the nose, so what makes you so special?

Re:FRAND? (3, Informative)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375958)

Fair - We control the standard however we cannot restrict you too much on how you decide to use it.
Reasonable - The pricing should not be enough to put you in the poor house however you may pay something to compensate for our work
And - (we need a vowel in our acronym, so it sounds like a word)
Non-Discriminatory - We cannot make sure that particular groups get advantages while others don't.

Re:FRAND? (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377924)

By charging, they are ensuring that larger commercial groups can afford the licenses, while shutting smaller or open source groups out of the market. Anything that is not free is by very definition discriminatory. They're not discriminating based off race or religion, they're discriminating based off wealth.

Re:FRAND? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381874)

Anything that is not free is by very definition discriminatory.

Are you being discriminated daily when you're expected to pay for housing, food etc?

Re:FRAND? (2)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382190)

I am being discriminated against by caviar producers. I can't afford to subsist on caviar alone, but that doesn't matter, because there are alternative food sources.

Now compare that to something like broadcast TV. There is only one form of broadcast TV, as mandated by the FCC. That form requires the use of MPEG2 video and AC3 audio, both of which include patented technology. If I want to produce a piece of software or hardware that can play back broadcast TV, I have no option but to license those technologies. They have achieved a government enforced monopoly. I can't afford to write free software to use those broadcasts, because I would have to pay the licensing fees out of pocket, and thus they are discriminating against free software.

In cases where this is to be an enforced standard, the standard should either use technologies that are guaranteed to be licensed freely, or the government should seize the patents using eminent domain, compulsory purchase, expropriation, or whatever you want to call it, and release the technology into the public domain.

Re:FRAND? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382268)

In cases where this is to be an enforced standard, the standard should either use technologies that are guaranteed to be licensed freely, or the government should seize the patents using eminent domain, compulsory purchase, expropriation, or whatever you want to call it, and release the technology into the public domain.

I can agree with that. Most certainly, if the government mandates some standard, any expenses associated with it being usable by all members of the public should also be borne by that government - i.e. if it decides to adopt a standard that requires licensing, it should acquire a blanket license for the use of that standard (but only for that country... others can have their own arrangements).

I don't think eminent domain is needed here, though. It's a simple matter of negotiating with the license holder. If they demand too much for such a blanket license (or refuse it outright), then you simply move on to the next suitable standard.

Re:FRAND? (1)

Karellen (104380) | more than 2 years ago | (#37376874)

FRAND is in respect to the licensing of the standard, not the software.

If a standard is licensed in a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory way, then the licensor can impose a term such as "you owe the standard author $0.10 for every unit you ship." If that licensing term applies to anyone who wishes to distribute any software that implements the standard, it is fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory.

However, such a licensing term on the standard, which is still FRAND, makes the standard unimplementable as Free Software, because the developers suddenly need to pay the standard owner for each copy of the software distributed. Further, anyone else who wishes to redistribute the software to help their neighbour, while permitted to do so by the software license, is suddenly in breach of the standard licensing terms and legally liable to the standard owner.

Re:FRAND? (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377950)

It can be fair and reasonable, but it is absolutely discriminatory. As you state, free software cannot afford the licensing, because they are not making any money to offset the license fees. They restricts the field only to commercial players.

Re:FRAND? (1)

Karellen (104380) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380778)

The word discriminatory has a different, more specific, meaning in legal documents - like standards licenses - than the meaning you are ascribing to it.

Re:FRAND? (1)

yacwroy (1558349) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377426)

Does RF imply FRAND?

Having no restrictions at all is Fair.
It's also Reasonable to charge nothing (at least from an implementer's perspective, which is what counts here).
Everybody is charged nothing and not restricted in any way, so it's Non Discriminatory.

So there's nothing actually bad about FRAND compared to nothing, but RF is at least equally as good (from an implementer's perspective).

Is that 100% accurate? (I haven't been following this debate).

Re:FRAND? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37379732)

The open source is, it's just that the FRAND patents are only fair and reasonable for proprietary software.

For FRAND to be actually FRAND, license fees would need to be a percentage of sale price with no minimum.

Open Standards (4, Interesting)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375636)

I don't care about open-source so much (despite being a heavy advocate for its use and even contributing myself). That's neither here nor there in terms of government projects and it's hardly likely to make a difference either way.

But when you define a standard, say a document interoperability format, etc. then you should damn well be able to do what you like to implement it, and shouldn't have to license anything or pay any money to use it.

I don't care if we standardise on Word 2000 format - so long as there is a way for EVERYONE, even Joe Bloggs who works in government department X and is sick of dealing with the software's inconsistencies, to knock up something that can do a better job because he has a copy of the standard and EVERY POSSIBLE VARIATION that could occur in a file like that. I don't care if he then goes on to leave government, start a company and sells the software he makes back to government - that's just healthy enterprise.

Schools have a "common transfer format" file for telling other schools which pupils they are sending there. It's a simple standard, works perfectly and everywhere and it doesn't matter one iota what software is on the other end. I've seen the file import straight into large management systems, and hand-edited some of my one to pipe through batch files. The point is that it's either standards-compliant or not. If my utility/application can't handle a standard-compliant format, then it's NOT standards-compliant. If it can, it doesn't matter WHO made it or how much it cost.

What I care about is that the standard should exist and do what a standard should do - be a definitive, complete, reference to a particular way of doing things that ANYONE can become compliant with. It really wouldn't matter if every dentist in Britain used a different piece of healthcare software (as they no doubt do for finance, PAYE, taxation, etc.) - if they stuck to the standard, it would all just work and then you'd have some true competition to get into dentist's surgeries form software companies.

Open source is another matter entirely, to do with transparency and code-security (both arguments of which have a point but are really things that matter infinitely less than just giving the locked-in proprietary vendors a kick-up-the-arse by making them deal with standards-compliant competitors).

Open standards, however, are a no-brainer. The only reason NOT to have an open standard is to give one of the bidders an unfair advantage. That's it.

Re:Open Standards (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37375814)

Open source is another matter entirely, to do with transparency and code-security

More to the point, it's to do with lock-in and long-term support. Open source software is supported as long as you're willing to pay for the support. Proprietary software is supported as long as you are a sufficiently valuable customer for the company not to be able to make more money by ignoring you. If the original provider goes out of business or doesn't want to support your deployment anymore, then with open source you can always get someone else in, and there are big companies like IBM and HP that will happily modify existing open source code for you, as well as a lot of small companies. With proprietary software, you're fucked. You have to either upgrade to the new version (at a cost defined by the provider, with no competition), or you have to switch to something new.

Re:Open Standards (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#37376016)

Sorry, that assertion isn't necessarily true.

If there's only one guy paying for support for package X, it won't be long before the maintainer of package X (the larger / more complex it is, the WORSE) is actually spending more time on fixing it than they are being paid.

At that point, support becomes incredibly expensive or non-existent. Just because it's open-source doesn't automatically mean that herds of students will turn up to maintain it for you. Though you *should* be able to hire a programmer (at incredible expense) who might be able to do that for you (but, again, it's whether that's cost-effective or not), that's no more a solution than keeping the old system running on a virtualised environment or similar.

Proprietary software is worse, I agree, but OS doesn't "solve" that problem, it just makes it slightly more convenient to handle. There may be absolutely nobody (not even a paid programmer) who wants to put the time/effort into understanding and fixing that code (and OS projects die all the time because they get too big and complex, or the focus changes, and people stop contributing).

Example: If someone dumped OpenOffice/Gnome/KDE/CUPS/etc. on your lap and said "I'll pay you to maintain that because the original authors won't", the answer would not be an automatic "yes" unless you were literally able to charge the Earth and employ dozens or even hundreds of programmers. Hell, even a large IT department, all of former programmers, wouldn't want to take on even quite simple applications let alone things that the company *relies* upon exclusively to do those jobs.

When support drops, it drops whether you're paying or not, and whether the code is OS or not. There's a reason that commercial companies bow out of offering support, backwards compatibility, etc. - because it's just not cost-effective in many cases. Even in government terms, IBM aren't going to be wandering in and picking up the slack of thousands of programmers - it's more cost-effective to just develop a complete replacement (and there having the original OS code *may* help). But if you have open standards, any replacement wouldn't NEED to have a single line of code in common with any other.

For myself personally - if I was to assume that every software I use commercially suddenly became unsupported and all the original programmers weren't willing to make my needed changes for "free", then I'd have to go elsewhere - there's no way on Earth I can maintain even the simplest of applications on a professional basis, no way that my employers would want to bring in programmers in order for us to do that, and no way that any of that would cost less than just buying "next version up" even if it was hideously crippled but did what we needed it to do.

OS plays a big part in my life, but I see no need for pointless evangelism. Having an OS application suite isn't going to keep me going forever - it just gives me more control and freedom and greater negotiating rights. In ten years time, there is *no* guarantee that LibreOffice (with all the support in the world) will be at all useful in a modern workplace even if, today, it can do a damn good job of replacing MS Office.

Re:Open Standards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37376750)

So... it's a better system than anything else, but since it's not perfect it's pointless to promote it?

Re:Open Standards (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37376966)

Don't forget that we're talking about government IT here, not you in your basement. A cheap project costs a couple of million. For that price, you could hire the entire development team of something like OpenOffice.org for a couple of years to work on the features that you need. For smaller things, I can point you to half a dozen small businesses within 20 miles of here that will happily take contracts to add features to or fix bugs in pretty much any open source project that you need - if it's one that they haven't used before, then it will be more expensive, of course. For bigger projects, IBM or HP will happily deliver a team of people to do the work for you for a few months - or longer.

Re:Open Standards (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377616)

The NHS had, until recently, an enterprise-wide license agreement for Office. We employ just shy of 1.2M people. Imagine what could be done for LibreOffice with some small fraction of the cost of a few hundred thousand Office licenses.

Re:Open Standards (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37379910)

Nobody said anything about that support being free, just that you can get it if you're willing to pay a fair price. With proprietary software, that isn't the case. You can easily be in a situation where you're willing to pay many times the fair price and still can't get any support for an EOLed proprietary product. Reasons vary from "we're not doint that anymore", vendor is out of business, or vendor wants everyone to take their next lap on the upgrade treadmill and it's megabucks this time around.

Third parties make that untenable (1)

louarnkoz (805588) | more than 2 years ago | (#37376240)

This is a vexing problem because not all patent holders participate in the standard making. If a company participates in the standard making, the standard organization has leverage: guarantee that others can use your patents under reasonable conditions, preferably free, or we will not consider your contributions. But if a company does not participate, the standard making organization has no leverage at all.

Consider for example what happen to Wi-Fi. The IEEE has a fairly detailed patent policy, and the Wi-Fi standards have been very successful. But after millions of cards were sold, CSIRO came out of the blue and asserted a patent on indoor OFDM that they said covered Wi-Fi. The resulting lawsuits have costed millions.

continuing confusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37377018)

I doubt that the UK can single-handedly change either the policies of the major standards institutions (ISO, IEC, ITU, to name three in the computing field), or the meaning of words. "Open" refers to the ability to participate in the formation of standards, and the level play field of contribution and impact. Open-source means the co-operative ability of anyone to contribute to source. These are independent, and independent also of whether there is IPR (encumbered) and if so, whether there is a payment to license it (royalty-free). Confusing the terms is helpful only to those who want to confuse the discussion.

Newspeak Alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37377386)

"FRAND" seems to be a neologism to make RAND sound better. The Wikipedia article for it has been created by a single purpose account. RAND means the same thing and nicely translates to "random and discriminatory" if you are the activist type.

Irony! (1)

Baloo Uriza (1582831) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383822)

The irony in this criticism is that Ordnance Survey isn't open itself, which was the impetus for the creation of OpenStreetMap.
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