Skip to main content

ISO Codes

Document Type IAB Statement
Title ISO Codes
Published 2003-09-26
Metadata last updated 2023-08-09
State Active
Send notices to (None)

To:  "Oliver Smoot, President, ISO" <>
Date: September 26, 2003.

Mr. Smoot,

In ISO Council document 36/2003, and further in note AIC021-03: “Public availability of country, currency and language codes”, there is a proposal for charging of ISO codes from ISO Infrastructure Standards such as ISO 3166 (country codes), ISO 4127 (currency codes), and ISO 639 (language codes).

The IAB also wants to point out the very good cooperation between the IETF and ISO which has made it possible to use the named standards in protocols used on the Internet such as HTTP, SMTP and the domain name system itself where delegations of country codes is done according to ISO 3166.

Having ISO charging for these codes would force the Internet Community not only to change existing protocols, but also start a discussion whether ISO 3166 country codes can be used as a basis for domain names in the future.

It is the view of the IAB that use of such codes must be royalty free.

Best regards,

Leslie Daigle,

Chair, Internet Architecture Board.

ISO Response

To: Ms. Leslie Daigle, Chair, Internet Architecture Board
Date: October 6, 2003
From: Oliver R. Smoot, President of ISO

Dear Ms. Daigle,

Thank you for your e-mail of 26 September 2003.

I appreciate your concerns, which I believe are generated by a misunderstanding that I shall attempt to dissipate.

Firstly, however, please allow me to reassure you on the central point of your concerns:

  • ISO is to continue with its established practice of allowing free use of its country, currency and language codes from, respectively, the ISO 3166, ISO 4127 and ISO 639 standards, in commercial and other applications.
  • There is no proposal currently being considered by ISO to impose charges for use of these codes, including on the World Wide Web and in software applications.

The development of the Web, and of electronic commerce, has not only been facilitated by the existence of the ISO codes – based on international consensus – but has stimulated their diffusion worldwide. The use of the country codes in Internet domain names is a striking example.

ISO encourages this synergy by making the two-letter country codes contained in ISO 3166 available free of charge on ISO’s Web site, along with a great deal of regularly updated information related to the codes and their use. The ISO Web site also has hyperlinks to the sites of the British Standards Institution (BSI) and the US Library of Congress – where the currency and language codes are, respectively, publicly available.

The full ISO 3166, ISO 4127 and ISO 639 standards from which these codes are drawn are available from ISO and its members on a sales basis, as a contribution to supporting the standards development process. However, ISO and its members do not charge for the use made of the codes contained in these standards, subject to this being consistent with ISO’s copyright. For example, ISO does not charge organizations for the inclusion of the country codes in their Internet domain names, and ISO does not charge banks for using the currency codes in their electronic financial transactions.

If a user of the codes, such as a software developer, wishes to claim that its product incorporates the codes in conformity with the ISO standards ( which could be perceived by the market as an added value), then it would have an interest in buying the standards to make sure that this is indeed the case. But this is a “one-off” transaction for purchase of the standards; ISO does not subsequently charge a fee for use of the codes in the software product and has no plans for doing so.

Like many organizations, ISO continually reviews its practices and products in order to provide added value to its customers. With regard to ISO 3166, ISO is considering a proposal to develop an optional software service package that would facilitate incorporation and maintenance of the country codes in IT products. The service package being considered would include regular updating of the codes, which would add value to products because they would be conforming to the International Standard ISO 3166. The service package being considered would be a charged option. However, no decision has yet been made to go ahead and even if this option were developed, ISO will continue to allow use of its country, currency and language codes free of charge.

I hope that the above assurances and explanations answer your concerns and dispel any erroneous interpretations of ISO’s current practice and intentions with regard to our country, currency and language codes.

Yours sincerely,

Oliver R. Smoot

This page is maintained by the IAB Executive Director for the IAB.