Getting IEC Standards For Free

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is an international body that issues standards on a wide range of electronics-related topics. How wide? Their mandate seems to span rules for household product safety to the specification of safety logic assemblies in nuclear power plants. Want to know how to electrically measure sound loudness? Test methods for digital door lock systems? Or maybe you’re interested in safety interlock systems for laser processing machines. There’s an IEC standard for that too.

Unfortunately, this information is kept behind a paywall. OK, it’s a lot more like a pay fortress. They really, really don’t want you accessing their documents without first coughing up. This is a shame.

The IEC doesn’t just make the standards in a vacuum, however. Before the scribes touch their chisels to the stone tablets, there are draft versions of the standards that are open for public comment by those knowledgeable in the field. And by “those knowledgeable”, we mean you, dear hacker. Head on over to the public commenting page, sign up, and you’ve got free access to every document that’s currently up for discussion.

Now, it does look like the IEC doesn’t want you sharing these PDFs around — they watermark them with your username and threaten all sorts of things if you use them for anything other than commenting purposes — so don’t go abusing the system. But on the other hand, if you are a private individual who knows a thing or two about a thing or two, we think you’re entirely right to look over their shoulders. Let us know in the comments if you find any gems.

They’ve even got a weekly update feature (in the registration pages) that’ll keep you up to date. And who knows, maybe your two cents, submitted to your country’s chapter of the IEC, will influence future international standards.

Thanks to [Johann] for the great tip!

22 thoughts on “Getting IEC Standards For Free

    1. Yes, including all that “intellectual property” that all the engineers here produce for their employers. There’s no reason that they should be paid for all their time and work. It needs to be done for free !!!! And HAD producing that lame article about “consulting” on your own, is nothing but money grubbing. We all know that you should do that work for nothing. After all, information needs to be shared and to be free!!

      Oh, and all those physics equations describing how a shock wave travels around the ‘tamper’ sorrounding a plutonium “pit” on a nuclear warhead. Yes, that information should be free to anyone who wants it (including America’s adversaries, that want to wipe us – America, off the face of the earth!).

      1. > Yes, including all that “intellectual property” that all the engineers here produce for their employers.

        Yes. The concept of intellectual property is unethical and should be abolished.

        > Oh, and all those physics equations describing how a shock wave travels around the ‘tamper’ sorrounding a plutonium “pit” on a nuclear warhead.

        Oh, do you think it’s such a secret? Cute. The US Army disagrees with you: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/jun/24/usa.science

      2. “Oh, and all those physics equations describing how a shock wave travels around the ‘tamper’ sorrounding a plutonium “pit” on a nuclear warhead. Yes, that information should be free to anyone who wants it (including America’s adversaries, that want to wipe us – America, off the face of the earth!)”

        Comparing that I quoted to standards is comparing apples to ranges, in an apparent attempt to use fear mongering, to get anyone like minded to ignorantly go “hell yea – that’s damned straight”. Yes there is cost in developing standards. Here in the US the National Electric Code is drafted by a for profit sector in the US. I haven’t expended the effort to follow the money in regards to the International Electrotechnical Commission, where I don’t need to to make my point, I probably may not try to do so. Most likely it’s reasonable to assume that for profit interests receive benefits from persons using their standards. I can’t understand why anyone who would profit from many following any standard wouldn’t make the freely available. Trade mark those standard that can be trade marked. Charge manufacture’s a license fee for them to be able to claim their product meets whatever standard they choose to meet. Yes the cost is going to be passed on to the consumer, but that’s how commerce works. Trying to keep secret knowledge would in time could be learned, is a dangerous false sense of security. Personally I expect the next use of nuclear weapon of mass destruction to be by one of the current nuclear power, not those who are now working to attain nuclear capabilities.

        1. I really can’t even begin to get into the mind of people who can’t understand standards should be freely available and used.
          It reminds me of those awards shows that are fundamentally advertisements who then are hysterically protected from being shared, it’s insanity and those in charge should be in treatment in a good psychiatric institution.

    1. Not period. It’s not as clear cut as that. There are many special purpose standards people put effort into which are advisory for small certain fields only (IEC has many such standards).

      Legally mandated standards on the other hand need to be in public domain. e.g. AS/NZ60079 which is a copy of IEC60079 should be given away and the government shouldn’t be making laws that force people to buy documentation in order to know how to stay in compliance.

  1. “Indian Standard”

    India often shamelessly copies international standards, puts a little preamble page up front and calls it “Indian Standard”. Then India law requires standards to be open…

    So for short, trying to google a IEC or EN number together with “Indian Standard” often turns up something useful.

    1. Not period. It’s not as clear cut as that. There are many special purpose standards people put effort into which are advisory for small certain fields only (IEC has many such standards).

      Legally mandated standards on the other hand need to be in public domain. e.g. AS/NZ60079 which is a copy of IEC60079 should be given away and the government shouldn’t be making laws that force people to buy documentation in order to know how to stay in compliance.

      1. What the? This reply has ended up attached to the wrong post!

        But since I’m here it’s worth noting that very few of these nationalised standards are shameless copies. Quite a few of them have very subtle and small changes in one or two lines that would almost go unseen unless you try and use two of the nationalised standards in different countries in the same time.

        But the vast majority of the text remains the same.

    1. What the hell are you on? The IEC standards are a wealth of great information, not just suggestive standards but implementation guides and best practices. “Don’t read it” is a sign of a closed mind not suitable for this site. Go somewhere else.

    2. P’ poor advice IMO. The standards, created by the private sector, that actual bureaucrats end up administering, are largely evidence based. They do have value in general and there is a monetary value in putting them in place.

  2. So who controls these people and why doesn’t somebody do something about their nonsense?
    They are called ‘non-profit’ BTW, there’s your first handle to force them to not be ridiculous.
    And they were created by the standard committees of a few countries, so why not have their government give a stipend and give it out for free like standards are suppose to be.

  3. It is sick that educational documents like this standards are protected by IP law. In my country (Poland) I can publish this PDF’s with my name watermarked and I will not brake any law if they are standards. You have sick law about IP.

    Praise Aaron Swartz for his movement to Open documents like this.

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