Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Australian Standards blocked from open access

Standards Australia and SAI Global have received the results of arbitration over the publishing and distribution rights for Australian Standards. The result is that SAI Global has exclusive publishing rights for standards issued by Standards Australia, even those standards developed by a third party. The effect of this would appear to preclude the provision of any SA endorsed standards in an open access format free online.

To avoid such issues, when asked to help draft a standard, I now first check that the standard will be available open access online. If the standard is not going to be free online, then I decline to take part in the development. Organisations such as W3C, IETF and OASIS make their standards freely available. Versions of these standards may later be made into government endorsed standards, but the text remains available.

The agreement between SA and SAI Global seems to preclude open access to standards, even where those standards were made by an independent body and then put through the SA process. I will therefore be declining to take part in any standards making through Standards Australia. I recommend that my colleagues in the ICT industry also consider withdrawing support for SA processes, due to the detrimental effect this closed process will have on the Australian ICT industry.

I will be asking the professional bodies I am a member of to withdraw funding and support from SA and transfer it to other standards making bodies which do not impose restrictions on access to standards. Also I will be asking my professional bodies to ask the Australian Government to withdraw endorsement and funding from Standards Australia for standards making.
Mr Michael McHugh, Arbitrator (and former High Court Justice), has published his decision in SAI Global’s application that Standards Australia only proceed with Australian Standards developed by third party accredited Standards Development Organisations (SDOs) where exclusive publishing rights for SAI Global have been secured.

Revenues derived from accredited SDOs have historically not been material but the arbitration addressed a long-standing point of disagreement between the parties on interpretation of the commercial-in-confidence Publishing Licence Agreement (“PLA”) of 2003.

Standards Australia contended to Mr McHugh that the PLA did not require Standards Australia to secure exclusive publishing rights for SAI Global for Australian Standards to be developed by third party accredited SDOs.

In his written award dated 23 June 2009, Mr McHugh has not accepted Standards Australia’s view and has confirmed that, under the PLA, Standards Australia must not permit or knowingly allow SDOs to develop Australian Standards without securing for SAI Global exclusive rights to publish, distribute, market and sell those Australian Standards.

Standards Australia will consult with relevant stakeholders in relation to Mr McHugh’s decision.


Standards Australia entered into arbitration with its publisher and distributor, SAI Global, in July 2008 following the failure to resolve differences over the publishing and distribution rights for Australian Standards written by autonomously accredited Standards Development Organisations (SDOs).
This is a long-standing issue with Standards Australia in discussions with SAI Global since late 2005 regarding relevant terms of the commercial-in-confidence Publishing Licence Agreement (PLA) of 2003.

Central to the dispute has been the publication and distribution rights for Australian Standards developed by SDOs that have been accredited by Standard Australia’s autonomous Accreditation Board for Standards Development Organisations (ABSDO) and which have been approved by Standards Australia to be identified as 'Australian Standards'.

The Productivity Commission raised concerns in its 2006 review of Standards Setting in Australia that the publishing agreement could create a disincentive for organisations to become accredited Standards developers.

Under a long-term agreement, SAI Global continues to hold publishing rights to Australian Standards produced by Standards Australia. ...


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