Federal Court rules standards do not lose copyright protection
A Federal Court ruled in February that standards do not enter the public domain, and do not lose their copyright protection, when they are incorporated by reference into regulations. The case involved a lawsuit filed by ASTM International, the National Fire Protection Association, and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers against Public.Resource.org, which had, over an extended period of time, posted numerous copyrighted codes and standards on its website. The Court permanently barred Public.Resource.org from any unauthorized use or distribution of certain of the plaintiffs’ copyrighted materials.
One of the key issues addressed by the court involved the public’s right to “know what the law is.” The court found that the current availability of the codes and standards in question — including on the websites of three standards developing organizations (SDO) themselves — was sufficient to satisfy the requirement that regulations be “reasonably available.” It rejected the notion that such access must be free of charge or more expansive than presently exists. In the court’s view, the existing balance that protects SDO copyrights while allowing reasonable access is consistent with Congress’ intent, as reflected in various legislation over the past 40 years. Any major change to this balance, said the court, must come from Congress rather than from the judiciary.
“Governmental entities in the U.S., at all levels, have long depended on ICC and other SDOs to provide the codes and standards that underlie the nation’s building regulatory system,” said International Code Council Chief Executive Officer Dominic Sims, CBO. “These codes and standards have helped produce the safest buildings in the world today, and have done so at essentially no cost to taxpayers and unencumbered by the constraints of governmental budgets. The recent court ruling was a major victory for all SDOs, and will strengthen their ability to continue to provide the high quality codes and standards which are so important to public health and safety in the U.S.”
The Code Council is proud to offer all of its codes and standards, as well as several custom state and city codes, on its publicACCESS site in a read-only format.