MDA Immersive Audio Demo’d, and Openly (Patently?) More

To copy directly from the Open Source Initiative website:

Open Standards Requirement for Software

The Requirement

An “open standard” must not prohibit conforming implementations in open source software.

The Criteria

To comply with the Open Standards Requirement, an “open standard” must satisfy the following criteria. If an “open standard” does not meet these criteria, it will be discriminating against open source developers.

  1. No Intentional Secrets: The standard MUST NOT withhold any detail necessary for interoperable implementation. As flaws are inevitable, the standard MUST define a process for fixing flaws identified during implementation and interoperability testing and to incorporate said changes into a revised version or superseding version of the standard to be released under terms that do not violate the OSR.
  2. Availability: The standard MUST be freely and publicly available (e.g., from a stable web site) under royalty-free terms at reasonable and non-discriminatory cost.
  3. Patents: All patents essential to implementation of the standard MUST:
    • be licensed under royalty-free terms for unrestricted use, or
    • be covered by a promise of non-assertion when practiced by open source software
  4. No Agreements: There MUST NOT be any requirement for execution of a license agreement, NDA, grant, click-through, or any other form of paperwork to deploy conforming implementations of the standard.
  5. No OSR-Incompatible Dependencies: Implementation of the standard MUST NOT require any other technology that fails to meet the criteria of this Requirement.

One can imagine that each phrase was fought over in countless hours of committee work. Let’s see how the Digital Standard Organization uses “open standard” on their site. Notice the differences and similarities. There will be a test…ongoing and on the floor of conventions and when you read PR everywhere.  Notice that the term is tied to Free in this usage, but that usage comes directly from:


The Digistan definition of a free and open standard is based on the EU’s EIF v1 definition of “open standard” with the language cleaned-up and made more explicit. Our analysis of the importance of vendor capture in determining the openness of a standard comes from this analysis.

Picking our way through their site:

Politicization of terminology

What is an open standard? The Wikipedia page shows many definitions, which specify characteristics of a specification, or of the processes that produce it and make it available.

To understand why there is no single agreed definition, and to let us build a canonical definition, we can start with two observations:

    1. The standardization process is driven by two conflicting economic motives. Established vendors see standards as a route to direct profits, while the market at large sees standards as a route to lower costs.
    2. As the economic has become digital, governments – both as users and regulators – have become engaged in the conflict between these two interest groups.

The definitions collected on Wikipedia can be grouped into those made by vendors, and those made by the rest of the market. The variation in definition comes from the various viewpoints expressed (e.g. W3C focuses on process while Denmark focuses on user cost).

We, the Digital Standards Organization, explicitly take the side of “the market at large”. We do not accept the definitions of “open standard” produced by vendor bodies, including W3C to some extent. We do not accept the attempts of some legacy vendors to stretch “open standard” to include RAND-licensed standards.

An open standard must be aimed at creating unrestricted competition between vendors and unrestricted choice for users. Any barrier – including RAND, FRAND, and variants – to vendor competition or user choice is incompatible with the needs of the market at large.

There is more at: Digital Standards Organization RationaleFinally, onward to another page, which nicely correlates with the OSI group statement above:

Definition of a Free and Open Standard

The Digital Standards Organization defines free and open standard as follows:

  • A free and open standard is immune to vendor capture at all stages in its life-cycle. Immunity from vendor capture makes it possible to freely use, improve upon, trust, and extend a standard over time.
  • The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organization, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties.
  • The standard has been published and the standard specification document is available freely. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute, and use it freely.
  • The patents possibly present on (parts of) the standard are made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis.
  • There are no constraints on the re-use of the standard.
The economic outcome of a free and open standard, which can be measured, is that it enables perfect competition between suppliers of products based on the standard.
What have we learned? There is a community usage of Open Standard with developers. It is clear in that group what they mean by the term. There is another usage that does not fit into the logical extension of anyone’s definition, but which is held tightly by those who want to exploit the words. 

How the term is used in the theatrical exhibition side of professional audio remains to be seen.
There will be more on this topic, but this should start the conversation, and give enough background for some moments of interest at CinemaCon 2014.

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