ISO seeks fees for the use of country codes

Although the proposal is just in the early stages, an article from CNet reports that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is planning to start charging for the use of its character set and country code naming standards.

People in the software and Internet industry are up in arms over the proposal which would impose fees on the use of codes that are used in everything from web browsing and document notation to currency coding.

Although it end up being a tempest in a teacup, it does illustrate a growing fascination that organizations have with attempting to license technology which is already in widespread use and raises a question as to whether this bait-and-switch type tactic for licensing is something that the international community is going to accept for the long haul.

There are other high-profile versions of this problem, such the GIF patent situation (based on Unisys's patent for LZ compression that expired this spring). Although the article draws similarities to the problem with SCO, I'd argue that is a different type of problem. The folks at SCO claim that it was recent versions of Linux that are infringing and that they just didn't know about the problem until recently. This situation is much more disturbing in that it is a highly respected standards organization with established practices and they are looking at changing the pricing model after the standards have been established and are in wide use.

Hopefully, they will change their tune before this gets any further. If not, I think we're going to have to add this to a growing list of things that require modification in international intellectual property laws.