I’ve just published a post over on the OSS Watch team blog on open source and open standards, introducing a new OSS Watch briefing paper on the topic.
This is where my CETIS and OSS Watch roles cross over! The post linked above is from a policy point of view, whereas the briefing paper is more aimed at developers and project managers. But what does this look like from a standards wonk viewpoint?
We often espouse the virtues of having open source implementations (or reference implementations) for driving adoption of standards, however there can also be barriers to open source that may be less obvious.
The paid publishing model often used by de jure standards organisations is definitely a barrier in the sense that developers are less likely to browse the standard and decide to use it, however I think on the whole its far less of an obstacle than a lack of clarity on the issues of patent licensing, copyright, conformance claims, and trademarks. If the standard is critical for interoperability, paying $120 for the specs isn’t as big a deal as potentially getting sued by Oracle or IBM for patent infringement.
For major standards setting organisations like W3C its not much of an issue, as developers generally know they can implement W3C standards freely, whether or not they really understand the legal detail. However, for less well known standards-setting communities and consortia, its necessary to clearly spell out their position if they want to encourage open source implementations.