Moving goalposts, estoppel and antitrust law. (derives from Re: Chess symbols, ZWJ, Opentype and holly type ornaments.)

From: William Overington (
Date: Fri Jun 21 2002 - 05:38:08 EDT

>> In view of the fact that some people are unwilling to let my
>> ideas be discussed in this forum upon their academic merit but simply use
>> ad hominem attack almost every time I post (before many people can have
>> chance to sit down and, if they wish, have a serious read of my ideas),
>> it seems that their objection is really about the Unicode Consortium
>> included the word published in section 13.5 of chapter 13 of the Unicode
>> specification, ...
>Speaking here as an editor of the Unicode Standard, I do not
>find the word "published" in section 13.5 of the book.

In section 13.5 of the file ch13.pdf obtained from the Unicode web site on
28 May 2002 there is the following sentence.


Assignments of character semantics in this sub-area could be completely
internal, hidden from the end users, and used only for vendor-specific
application support, or they could be published as vendor-specific character
assignments available to applications and end users.

end quote

That sentence, in section 13.5 of chapter 13 of the Unicode specification,
contains the word published.

> Perhaps William
>was thinking of the subheader "Promotion of Private-Use Characters".

No, I was thinking of the sentence quoted above, stated quite clearly in the
Unicode specification.

>Since -- despite the explicit text that follows in that section -- some
>people seem to be getting the wrong idea about private-use character
>assignments as a step towards standardization, it is quite likely that
>the editorial committee will be rewriting that section for Unicode 4.0,
>to provide further clarification for users.

Oh, do they so seem?

Or is it Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh they seem to think that the specification means
what it states rather than what big business would now like it to mean so
the goalposts will have to be moved in case ordinary people think that they
can have a say in standards work and the "not representing an organization"
discrimination might get abolished?

I feel that any attempt to delete the word published from the standard would
need to be investigated for possible antitrust law violation. As the
standards need to get past ISO and that has, I think, on it delegations
exercising powers delegated by national governments, then European Union
Antitrust Law may well protect at least those of us within the European
Union against such goalpost moving. I am unsure about whether since the
Maastricht Treaty whether the laws have been recodified, yet in terms of the
Treaty of Rome, the relevant Articles are Article 85, Article 86 and Article

An important aspect of standards work is that it is a conditional exception
to general legal prohibitions concerning monopolies and agreements over
trading practices between businesses. So, while the Unicode Consortium acts
in a manner favourable to consumers, (in that, for example, it is good for
consumers that all equipment and software from various manufacturers uses
the same agreed code point for some particular symbol) agreements between
businesses is allowed. However, that allowance of agreements between
businesses does not continue if changes are made which start impacting upon
other people's opportunities. The word published is in the standard, that
is the opportunity which has been provided and that has lead to my
publishing my collections of code points. When people sit around a table to
discuss the possibility of revising the standard, they need to remember that
they are there with certain powers yet certain obligations to the public as

I have exercised the rights granted by the specification and published some
code point assignments.

I have the opportunity to try to make founts and to try to distribute them,
perhaps trying to sell some of the founts if I choose, perhaps as shareware,
perhaps otherwise.

I say that the use of the word published in the Unicode specification is
clear and that in the event of any attempt to remove that provision from the
standard that estoppel would apply.

I feel that it is also important to remember that the various fount
technologies are not international standards and so claims by others that I
should not be defining code point meanings in the Private Use Area
(exercising rights granted by an international standard) because there exist
some proprietary advanced fount technologies which are not international
standards is incorrect logic.

>> I feel
>> that the fact that I am trying to use the Unicode specification as it
>> rather than on some nudge nudge wink wink understanding of how some
>> feel that it should be interpreted is at the root of the problem.
>If parts of the Unicode Standard are unclear and are leading to
>misinterpretations or incompatible interpretations of how characters
>should be used -- including private-use agreements for private-use
>characters, then airing those issues is certainly germane to this
>discussion list.

The specification says what it says. If it is to be changed for clarity
that is one thing, yet if a claim of changes for the sake of clarity is used
as a smokescreen for moving the goalposts so as to marginalize opportunities
of individuals because it is inconvenient to big business then that is
another matter entirely. Claims that people did not understand it properly
can be used to help people, not to move the goalposts.

William Overington

21 June 2002

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