Why Charge for Standards?
The question regarding free electronic access to
standards is one we are often asked.
Though the electronic development and
dissemination of standards does reduce costs such as printing, warehousing, and
shipping hard-copy standards, the cost of producing and distributing - as well
as maintaining - standards and standards-related information remains. Most
expenses related to standards development and maintenance remain regardless of
the method of distribution.
Summarized below are several of the factors
impacting the final price of a standard.
1. Supporting the standards development process.
While most of the people working on standards
development are volunteers, standards developers incur expense in the
coordination of these voluntary efforts. From the time a new project is started
through the final balloting and adoption of a standard and the subsequent
maintenance procedures, much effort is involved in supporting the volunteers
who actually write the documents. Meetings are scheduled; minutes and draft
documents are distributed; and there remains a constant requirement for public
notification about the activity. For international standards, the cost of
standards also covers the cost of operating the ISO and IEC central
Hundreds of staff employed by ANSI and Standards
Developing Organizations (SDOs) across the nation provide direct support for
the domestic and international technical development activities of the
2. Supporting the standards users.
Once a standard is written and approved, users
need to know it is available for their use. Catalogs and indexes must be
created and maintained, whether in print or electronic format. Users may also
need help in identifying the particular standard that is applicable to their
need; this often goes beyond the kind of information available in a catalog or
database. Directly charging for this kind of support would impose a barrier to
the dissemination of the information in the standards, which is what the user
ultimately wants. In light of this, operational expenses are recovered through
the sale of standards.
In addition, considerable resources are expended
in educating federal, state, and local government regulators and legislators as
to the value and integrity of voluntary standards, and often, defending in the
courts a standard and the process under which it was developed. Standards sales
also support the staff time required to promote the global acceptance of
international standards. These are important values for the users of standards
who rely on marketplace acceptance of these standards to operate commercially.
3. Intellectual property and commercial value issues.
The information contained in a standard is the
intellectual property of the developing organization. When others want to use
this property, they are expected to pay a fair value for it. If incorporating
the content of a standard is deemed necessary in the development of a product
or service, obtaining this intellectual property should be seen as no different
from obtaining any other component of the product.
4. Electronic dissemination
While less expensive than paper-based
development and distribution, electronic standards do incur production,
warehousing and distribution costs in terms of manpower, facilities and
We hope this information provides some insight
as to why there is a charge for standards, regardless of the distribution