Charging for the use of ISO Codes


Fully vaccinated are you?
From: Janet Daly
Date: Fri, 19 Sep 2003 16:55:09 -0700
To: www-international at

Dear Readers,

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

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

Best regards,

Janet Daly


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

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

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

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

(broken link removed)

[0] ISO Commercial Policies Steering Group Meets at ANSI
(broken link removed)



Text of message to Oliver Smoot


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

Dear Dr. Smoot,

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

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

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

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

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

Best regards,

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

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