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Old 10-16-2009, 03:42 PM
jschneid jschneid is offline
What's HL7?
Join Date: Oct 2009
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Default open-source and HL7

I'm confused about an apparent incompatibility between HL7 and open-source licensing. Maybe someone here can help.

HL7 Inc. is protective of its copyright on standards such as v2 and v3 messaging, the RIM, etc.

Confusingly, the HL7 bylaws prohibit individual members from using HL7 protocol specifications to develop software products for healthcare information exchange:
(from HL7 bylaws section 03.02.02)
The use of the protocol specifications by an individual member not associated with an organizational member in the development of software products specific to the exchange of healthcare information or the interoperability of such information is strictly prohibited and may be grounds for revocation of membership.
However, the HL7 bylaws also say the information content of HL7 protocol specifications is in the public domain and promoted for use by any interested party:
(from HL7 bylaws section 02.03.02)
The information content of HL7 protocol specifications shall be in the public domain and be actively promoted for use by any interested party. The protocol specification documents and other productions thereof shall be the intellectual property of HL7. HL7 expressly reserves sole right to publish and sell the documentation of its protocol specifications, and shall exercise all applicable copyrights to said materials.
The bylaw quoted above is the only HL7 written policy I've found which grants permission for anyone other than HL7 Inc. to develop software using HL7 protocol specifications. Beyond this, I haven't yet found a clear written description of HL7 policy toward software implementations of HL7 standards.

Because the HL7 bylaws exhibit an apparent lack of internal consistency, I'm not quite certain how to interpret them.

HL7 also distributes software and other content on its GForge site (http://gforge.hl7.org/gf/), but the license associated with that content is not open-source.

By my understanding, Mirth Connect has its own implementation of HL7 protocols.


1. Did Mirth developers obtain explicit permission from HL7 to develop software based on HL7 protocol specifications? Is permission, or HL7 membership, required for development and distribution of this type of software? What about redistribution of essential HL7 artifacts such as XML schemas? (How is HL7 compatible with open-source?)

2. Does HL7 have a clear, written policy that describes how software developers, who may or may not be HL7 members, may use HL7 standards in software?

Information to help answer these questions would be greatly appreciated.
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