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Apparently, PDF is an open standard, that can be implemented by anyone in any piece of software. If this is the case, why do you have to purchase the standard from ISO? The standard is ISO/IEC 32000:1:2008. It seems to cost about $380 to download the Portable Document Format specification. It also seems that a lot of the specifications cost money. Why would an open standard like PDF cost money to download? And how do we get free implementations of a PDF reader and/or creator, if the specification costs money?

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This may belong on SO. – Zian Choy Oct 7 '10 at 3:23
I considered that, but I thought that this might be more general than programming. – AniDev Oct 12 '10 at 22:06
up vote 1 down vote accepted

To answer the other part of the question: In ISO's terminology open standard doesn't mean that you can get it for free. It means that you don't have to pay anything to implement it. ISO claims that it finances itself from sales of standards. Also, there is competition between standards bodies. Some local branches of ISO may sell it for less money that you HQ wants. Also if there are multiple standard bodies involved, they may sell standard at different prices. It may be cheaper to get it from IEC than ISO, if you want to pay.

I found this out as I was searching for C and C++ standards on-line for free.

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Thanks for the info. I'll download it from Adobe. – AniDev Oct 12 '10 at 22:07

Free as download from

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Thanks, I found it. Though why would ISO sell it at all if it is legally available for free from Adobe? – AniDev Oct 12 '10 at 22:05

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