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Standards and Antitrust (was: seduced by markup)

> (As to the latter point, I have never understood why the W3C was allowed
> to escape prosecution under the Sherman Antitrust Act.  I know the
> theory: that TimBL has absolute authority, and therefore W3C is
> technically not a conspiracy in restraint of trade.  But that doesn't
> change the fact that it is indeed a conspiracy that has allowed multiple
> market leaders to collude in secret sessions with the net result of
> restraining trade, once TimBL says "OK".)

Heh, that's an awfully big and important topic to put in parentheses near the bottom of a long post.

The theory has nothing to do with TimBL's personal status. There is a long history of voluntary trade associations making standards affecting their industry, and in some cases governments making compliance to these standards mandatory, without violation of anti-trust or competition law.

IEEE offers guidance to members of standards activities here:


Of course competition law varies from one country to another, and it's probably stronger in the US than in most other countries (despite the patent situation, where patents are the biggest restraint on free competition you can imagine). But I think in all cases governments realise that it's in the public interest, indeed in the interests of free trade, to have standards that encourage the interoperability of products from different vendors. (How could phone companies compete with each other if their networks didn't interoperate? You would very quickly get one company with a monopoly.)

Michael Kay

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