Let’s start off my quoting my 30-year-old self, in the depths of the pandemic of 2020, unemployed and ranting about standards:
You might think that if certain rules apply to all companies of an industry that those rules should be freely available. Like law. Law texts are freely available. That makes sense. Because everyone in a country must comply with the law. And it’s easier to comply with the law if you can read it for free.
Currently, that’s not the case for the standards you need to comply with if you’re manufacturing a medical device, such as medical software. The ISO 13485, for example, is PDF file which you have to purchase to a price anywhere between 30€ and 150€, depending on which shady website you choose (check out our article on accessing standards to learn how to save money).
That might be changing. It seems that two organizations have taken on this fight with the EU - public.resource.org and Right to Know. I checked out their website and, from what it seems, they 1) don’t have fancy websites, 2) get straight to the point and 3) prefer to take real legal action instead of ranting on a website (which would be me). For all of those points, I respect them a lot.
Based on my broken understanding of the EU legislature, they filed a complaint with the EU Advocate General. And now, that Advocate General, a person named Laila Medina, has looked into the complaint and actually arrived at a similar conclusion:
“Advocate General Medina considers that, for the purposes of EU law in general and for the access to EU law in particular, and, given [Harmonized Technical Standards] indispensable role in the implementation of EU secondary legislation and their legal effects, they should, in principle, not benefit from copyright protection.”
So this is a fancy way of saying that those standards should be free.
If you like what those organizations are doing, check out the websites of public.resource.org and Right to Know and consider donating to them as they are nonprofits (I hope I got the links right - please correct me if I’m wrong!). The Right to Know people also seem to run a website called TheStory.ie on which they posted their own announcement of the EU Advocate General opinion.
What’s next? Building again on my broken EU legislation understanding, the next step now would be that the EU judges (?) have to deliberate (?) the case and arrive at some sort of conclusion (?). I don’t know when that will be and what we can expect.
But it’s cool to see other organizations fighting to fix these broken aspects of our current system, and that there’s a democratic process to give those complaints a fair chance based on their merit.
Who knows, maybe we’ll have free standards in the future.