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ISO rules out code fee plan

The standards group distances itself from a proposal to charge for commonly used country, language and currency codes--after an uproar over the potential fees.

A key standards organization distanced itself from a controversial proposal to charge for commonly used country, language and currency codes, following an uproar over the potential fees.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) announced that it had no plans to start charging for the use of the codes, an idea that had riled other standards organizations including the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and Unicode.

Those standards groups, along with developers of software and markup languages, depend on the codes and have implemented them free of charge.

In a press release, ISO said the controversy had mischaracterized its plans and practices, but it did not say how. A representative for the organization was not available for comment.

"ISO is to continue with its established practice of allowing free-of-charge use of its country, currency and language codes," ISO said in the statement, which characterized the code controversy as "recently publicized misunderstandings of its current practice and intentions."

The statement goes on to say that no fee proposal is "currently being considered."

ISO typically sells copies of its published standards, including the codes, but the codes are also digitally distributed for free. The country codes can be found on the ISO Web site, the currency codes on the British Standards Institution site, and the language codes at the U.S. Library of Congress site.

Of particular concern to critics of code fees was the notion that the use of the codes beyond their purchase would incur a charge.

The standards group said it was considering offering "an optional software service package" that would help developers automatically keep their country codes up to date.

"However, no decision has yet been made to go ahead," ISO said in the statement. "And even if this option were developed, ISO will continue to allow use of its country, currency and language codes free of charge."