Court Hears Crucial Case about
Free Access to Buildings Standards
STM International, the Ameri-
can Society of Heating, Refrig-
erating and Air-Conditioning
Engineers (ASHRAE) and the National
Fire Protection Association (NFPA)—
all organizations that develop stan-
dards used in the glass, glazing and
exist in a world where it’s so easy to
make electronic copies.
Read-only publication’ doesn’t really
—Beverly Quail, Ballard Spar
fenestration industries—are suing Malamud told USGlass magazine via standardization system, but may also
public-records activist Carl Malamud. email. “It was a four-hour hearing, put some SDOs (standard developing
The U.S. District Court for the District which is really long. We have no clue organizations) out of business,”reads a
of Columbia heard arguments in the at all how long it will take the court to letter ANSI president and CEO Joe Bha-
case in early September.
The suit, originally ﬁled three years
In August, the American Bar Asso-
tia sent to the organization’s members.
ANSI argues that free, read-only ac-
ago, claims that Malamud and his or- ciation (ABA) approved a resolution cess could “devastate the market for
ganization, Public.Resource.org, vi- urging Congress to pass legislation that purchasing the standards from the
olated the Copyright Act by copying provides limited free online access to SDO, and will eliminate the primary
and posting standards that have been standards incorporated into state and source of funding for the development
incorporated into laws such as build- local construction codes, including of these standards,” according to com-
ing codes. The organizations contend those related to fenestration. Malamud ments the organization submitted to
that copyright protection is essential argued at the ABA’s annual meeting the ABA in June. That’s because tech-
because they spend a lot of money that the proposal wasn’t enough.
nology is surpassing the ability of
and effort drawing up codes. They also “The promulgation of the edicts of SDOs to safeguard their copyrighted
argue that the standards they develop government is at the heart of the rule material, ANSI says.“Professionals in-
are “necessary for a well-functioning of law,” he said, according to a report creasingly access and work in the ﬁeld
economy and a safe society.”Addition- from the ABA Journal. “Writing down with documents on mobile devices, as
ally, the organizations say they already the law is meaningless if we cannot opposed to desktop computers or hard
have “policies for providing interested read it, but we must be permitted to copies. Calling up a standard on a tab-
members of the public access to stan- do more than simply read the law. We let or a personal phone to‘read’ its con-
dards known to have been incorpo- must be permitted to speak the law, to tents is precisely how such standards
rated by reference into statutes and share [it] with fellow citizens.”
regulations.” Ronald Levin of Washington Univer-
tend to be utilized.”
Beverly Quail, a partner at Ballard
Malamud’s organization argues sity in St.Louis said the ﬁnal resolution Spahr in Denver, agreed during a debate
that it’s not fair to make businesses and came about after months of collabora- at the ABA’s annual meeting, according
the public purchase complete access to tion and compromise between the ABA to ABA Journal.She said“read-only pub-
laws they’re forced to obey.
and representatives of organizations lication” doesn’t really exist in a world
Legislatures and administrative that develop standards. According to where it’s so easy to make electronic
agencies have frequently enacted into the ABA Journal,Levin said the process copies.She also said many standards are
law, and enforced, construction, ﬁre, was inclusive, but not everyone who only of interest to a handful of people.
and other public safety codes,” Public. participated is happy with the result.
“They whine about having to pay
Resource.org writes in its answer to the One of those organizations was the $9,000 if you want to get a copy of the
lawsuit.“Public safety codes govern es- American National Standards Insti- nuclear power plant [standards],” she
sential aspects of everyday life. They tute (ANSI). It wanted ABA members said.“Who should pay for those plans?
often carry civil or criminal penalties. to reject the proposal, arguing that it Us, the general taxpayers, or the peo-
They are laws.”
went too far. ANSI said the resolution ple who are going to build the nuclear
“It’s very hard to know how it went,” “could not only jeopardize the U.S. power plant?” n
USGlass, Metal & Glazing | November 2016