A copy of the Dr. Dobb's Portal logo, here for decorative purposes only. Dr. Dobb's Portal August, 2006
Article on DDJ site

The ITU logo, here only for decoration.

International standards are good, we all love them, sure. But if you aren’t lucky enough to be employed by a big company or a university, getting your hands on these standards can be a real pain. Typically the standards bodies sell electronic copies of their work for fairly high prices, justifying it as one of the only ways they can subsidize their activities.

Just an example, if you want to buy a hardcopy of the C++ standard, you can end up paying as much as $US 175 for the privilege - which is a killer if you are just doing this for personal use.

This turns into a FAQ in public newsgroups and forums when the uninitiated start operating under the idea that they ought to be able to just find a copy on the web. This thread on comp.compression is a classic example, where Nils Haeck is looking for free copies of some of the JPEG documents.

But oddly enough, later on in the thread Nils sheds a piece of light on the discussion, disclosing a piece of news that I hadn’t heard before. It turns out that the ITU has a program in which individuals can get up to three free electronic copies of their standards documents per year. This is exciting!

I thought I’d give it a try by first signing in at the ITU Bookstore . You’ll note on this page there is a button that says: I wish to REGISTER in order to download up to three (3) Recommendations free of charge. Yes, I certainly do. I selected the button and went to the registration page. The registration, shown below, has a bit of a problem being rather corporate-oriented, so I tried to steer it into the notion that I am an a company of one:

A screen shot of the registration page on the ITU site. Of note is the drop-menu asking for my ITU membership, which I am answer as 'NOT a member of the ITU'
Figure 1 - The registration form

All went well and the ITU blessed me immediately. My email was almost instantaneous, and I was ready to shop.

A screen shot from the ITU site that says 'Application for Customer ID Successful'
Figure 2 - The ITU loves me

Just to test the system, I first downloaded a spec I knew I would find handy, JPEG 2000 image coding system: Core coding system . Sure enough, a few minutes later I had my personal copy in hand. Now I just have to decide where to spend my precious remaining two downloads:

It’s nice to at least have a choice, isn’t it? Now if we could get the ISO and ANSI to adopt similarly enlightened policies the world would be a much better place.