Interoperability in the Digital World:
Open Standards, Open Source, Property Rights and Markets

Grand Hotel Duomo
Milan, Italy
February 11, 2005

The Progress & Freedom Foundation will have President Ray Gifford and Senior Fellows James DeLong, Tom Lenard and Solveig Singleton in Milan, Italy, on February 11th, for an all-day conference titled "Interoperability in the Digital World: Open Standards, Open Source, Property Rights and Markets." The event, co-hosted by PFF with Istituto Bruno Leoni, will be held at the Grand Hotel Duomo, in the heart of one of Europe 's most industrious cities. The focus of the conference will be discussing efforts by private industry to find a middle ground between exclusive control and total openness in digital age standards.

The Istituto Bruno Leoni (IBL) is a nonpartisan research and educational center of classical liberalism. Named after the great law scholar Bruno Leoni (1913-1967), an Italian giant in the classical liberal tradition, the Institute seeks a radical shift of the intellectual climate in Italy . The mission of IBL is to restore a high place for theory in the social sciences, encourage a revival of critical sense, promote the free and enterprising commonwealth, and counter the political philosophy of statism in all its forms.

IBL propose effective public policies for enhancing Italian and European competitiveness and growth through freedom in the fields of antitrust and competition policies, environmental issues, globalization, healthcare. Thanks to the energy of its dynamic staff, IBL has rapidly gained credit as one of the most respected Italy 's public policy institution. IBL enjoys widespread attention in the Italian media. IBL's Board of Trustees is composed by Carol Erickson Martino, Franco Forlin, Galeazzo Scarampi del Cairo, Adriano Teso, Tito Tettamanti. IBL's Honorary President is economist Sergio Ricossa, former Vice President of the Mont Pelerin Society. In 2004, IBL was awarded a Templeton Award for Institute Excellency from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.

European policymakers in recent years have been wrestling with intellectual property in the digital age, and their actions affect not only hundreds of millions of Europeans but the global digital economy. Some groups have pushed for policymakers to mandate the use of open source or other interconnection mechanisms. This approach recognizes only half the problem, the need for openness, while ignoring the need to maintain incentives for innovation and investment. In practice, the approach may also frustrate interoperability because its very openness encourages tweaking and forking, which can result in version proliferation and incompatibility.

A superior route relies on the creativity of private companies acting within free markets, with governments playing their classic role of defining and enforcing property rights and protecting the integrity of the market. In this approach, the business world is free to develop its own routes to interoperability and openness, relying on standard-setting processes, contracts, and property rights.