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 codes.
- 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 and language 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.