30 September 2003
ISO issues the following statement in response
to recently publicized misunderstandings of its current practice
and intentions regarding its widely used country, currency and language
- ISO is to continue with its established
practice of allowing free-of-charge use of its country, currency
and language codes from, respectively, the ISO 3166, ISO 4217
and ISO 639 standards, in commercial and other applications.
- There is no proposal currently being
considered by ISO to impose charges for use of these codes, including
on the World Wide Web and in software applications.
Based on international consensus reached within
the ISO standards development system, these codes reduce the confusion
that could be created if there were multiple, conflicting codes
in common use. The development of the Web and of electronic commerce
has been facilitated by the existence of the ISO standardized codes
and their use has become pervasive.
ISO encourages such developments by making
the two-letter country codes contained in ISO 3166 available free
of charge on ISO's
Web site, along with a great deal of regularly updated information
related to the codes and their use. The ISO Web site also has hyperlinks
to the sites of the British Standards Institution (BSI) and the
US Library of Congress - where the currency
codes are, respectively, publicly available.
The full ISO 3166, ISO 4217 and ISO 639 standards
from which these codes are drawn are available from ISO and its
members on a sales basis, as a contribution to supporting the standards
development process. However, ISO and its members do not charge
for the use made of the codes contained in these standards, subject
to this being consistent with ISO's copyright. For example, ISO
does not charge organizations for the inclusion of the country codes
in their Internet domain names, and ISO does not charge banks for
using the currency codes in their electronic financial transactions.
If a user of the codes, such as a software
developer, wishes to claim that its product incorporates the codes
in conformity with the ISO standards (which could be perceived by
the market as an added value), then it would have an interest in
buying the standards to make sure that this is indeed the case.
But this is a "one-off" transaction for purchase of the
standards; ISO does not subsequently charge a fee for use of the
codes in the software product and has no plans for doing so.
Like many organizations, ISO continually reviews
its practices and products in order to provide added value to its
customers. With regard to ISO 3166, ISO is considering a proposal
to develop an optional software service package that would facilitate
incorporation and maintenance of the country codes in IT products.
The service package being considered would include regular updating
of the codes, which would add value to products because they would
be conforming to the International Standard ISO 3166. The service
package being considered would be a charged option. However, no
decision has yet been made to go ahead and even if this option were
developed, ISO will continue to allow use of its country, currency
and language codes free of charge.
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