According to reporting on TorrentFreak, the Rotterdam District Court has issued orders to block access to online “shadow libraries” that are known to republish copyrighted works, including ISO standards, for free.

The libraries targeted include Library Genesis and Anna’s Archive, two websites that republish technical journals, scientific research papers and international standards which are often blocked for access behind subscription paywalls or expensive publishing fees. Anna’s Archive calls itself the “largest truly open library in human history,” while LibGen claims it is a “community aiming at collecting and cataloging items descriptions for the most part of scientific, scientific and technical directions, as well as file metadata.”

According to TorrentFreak, internet service providers (ISPs) previously signed a covenant whereby “if a court orders one company to block pirate sites, by agreement the other ISPs will follow suit.” Thus, the Dutch ruling will induce ISPs around the world to block the libraries, and not limit the actions to within the borders of the Netherlands.

As governments become more reliant on private publishing companies, like ISO, to produce standards under the guise of saving taxpayer dollars, the lines between national laws and privately published standards are blurred. US law, for example, requires that access to regulations and laws be free to US taxpayers; but the United States is increasingly relying on ISO standards to fill the gaps in those regulations, prompting standards users and tax groups to argue that ISO standards must then be made free to the public. ISO has refused.

The US Food and Drug Administration is now aligning its regulations with the ISO 13485 medical device quality management system standard, pushing ISO into an uncomfortable corner regarding its release of that standard as a commercial, paid product.

ISO has adopted a unique profit model, despite being a non-profit organization. If first organizes “committees” of international volunteers who submit their intellectual property, which ISO then retains as its own and sells at a profit. ISO then earns additional revenue by charging international member nations a fee to allow them to send their volunteers to committee meetings. Finally, ISO then forces the same member nations to pay licensing fees for the final standards — that their own volunteers wrote — if they intend on reselling them in their own countries.

The ISO revenue model has created wealth for its executives, while introducing conflicts of interest that result in a worsening of ISO standard content. Now, nearly all volunteers are private consultants who only surrender their time on ISO committees in exchange for bragging rights to sell their consulting services later; actual user organizations are nearly absent on ISO committees. Next, the pressure to increase the cover price of ISO standards — to generate even more revenue — has led to “stuffing” standards with irrelevant content, in order to increase page counts.

The original version of ISO 9001, published in 1987, was only 21 pages with no annexes. The 2015 version of the same standard grew to 40 pages, with a dozen pages of introductory content and annexes.

ISO released a subset of standards for free during the COVID pandemic, but only limited portions of the standards, and not its full library.

In the interim, taxpayers have had to rely on online libraries, such as the Internet Archive, Sci-Hub, and the two libraries covered by the Dutch decision, to gain access to text referenced in US laws and regulations. To date, Congress has not taken up the matter with any seriousness, but continues to tout the privatization of standards and offshoring of standards development to ISO as a tax-savings measure.

Typically, behind such court maneuvers are entertainment industry cabals seeking to expand copyright regulations, making access to scientific and entertainment media more difficult for those who cannot pay. In the case of the Dutch filing, the matter was coordinated by BREIN, which claims to protect “auteurs,” but actually works for publishing and media companies.

These actions generally have little practical effect, as website operators can alter their hosting strategies to circumvent the regulations. BREIN won a case against the popular torrent site The Pirate Bay in 2009, which ignored the ruling and continues to operate some 15 years later.


Surviving ISO 9001 Book

Why we report on these topics

Since 2000, Oxebridge has worked to improve ISO and related certification schemes by identifying problems and then proposing solutions. We report on issues affecting standards users because so few other news outlets do. Our belief is that in order to fix the problems in these schemes, we must first understand the nature and breadth of those problems. Our reporting aims to do just that. Elsewhere on the Oxebridge site you will find White Papers and other articles proposing ideas to correct these problems.