Safety first: senators introduce bill to protect standards copyright
Managing IP is part of Legal Benchmarking Limited, 4 Bouverie Street, London, EC4Y 8AX
Copyright © Legal Benchmarking Limited and its affiliated companies 2024

Accessibility | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Modern Slavery Statement

Safety first: senators introduce bill to protect standards copyright

US capitol map washington dc

Safety standards wouldn’t lose copyright protection when named in law, so long as they were accessible for free online

Senators introduced legislation yesterday, March 16, to ensure that safety standards do not lose copyright protection if they get incorporated into a law that references their name – so long as the standards remain freely available online.

The Protecting and Enhancing Public Access to Codes (Pro Codes) Act of 2023 was introduced by Democratic senators Chris Coons and Sheldon Whitehouse and Republican senators John Cornyn and Thom Tillis.

According to a summary of the bill, non-profit standards development organisations, which create standards on safety matters such as fire safety or building codes, sell copies of their work to professionals to finance their activities.

Governments often incorporate these standards into laws that reference them by name.

But according to the bill’s summary, those standards are at risk of losing copyright protection when they become law.

Dain Hansen, executive vice president for government relations at the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials Group in Washington DC, said in a statement that his organisation has helped create rigorous codes and standards.

“With a growing list of challenges threatening the resiliency of our water systems, it is essential that the intellectual property of these codes and standards remain protected so that our communities can continue to benefit from the safety, innovation, and [efficiencies] embedded within,” he said.

Tillis said in a statement that standards should continue to be eligible for copyright protection.

“I believe the Pro Codes Act strikes the right balance to ensure those developing safety standards are able to afford to do their crucial work, while providing the public with free digital access to these standards,” he said.

The introduction of this bill comes amid a battle between non-profit organisation Public.Resource.Org, which focuses on sharing public-domain materials, and various non-profit standards development organisations.

Public Resource was sued for copyright infringement after it had distributed safety standards online that had already been incorporated into law.

The District Court of the District of Columbia ruled against Public Resource in 2017. But, in 2018, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed the decision and remanded it back to the district court under the fair use doctrine.

The district court then ruled that Public Resource could reproduce 184 standards in their entirety and partly reproduce one. However, the court prevented the publication of other 32 standards.

The plaintiffs, which include American Society for Testing and Materials, National Fire Protection Association and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, have appealed the case back to the Court of Appeals.

Meanwhile, the Pro Codes Act has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, which will have to release the bill if it’s going to advance to the full Senate.

more from across site and ros bottom lb

More from across our site

The firm also plans to build an entertainment practice group and up its IP and antitrust offerings with a focus on foreign clients
An intimate understanding of a client’s sector is essential to winning new business, a survey of over 28,000 corporate counsel reveals
Counsel say a Federal Circuit ruling on the obviousness test for design patents may increase the time IP owners spend defending their rights
With INTA Annual Meeting over for another year, here are a few things Managing IP learned after attending IP’s biggest party
We provide a rundown of Managing IP’s news and analysis from the week, and review what’s been happening elsewhere in IP
Four sources reveal which tools they have been using – or building – to help them with a range of tasks from invention generation to claim sufficiency
Managing IP reveals Wednesday's highlights, including a discussion on how AI is helping lawyers improve their "gut instinct" trademark decisions
Managing IP reveals Tuesday’s highlights, including an illuminating discussion celebrating women in the workplace and the challenges that remain
Dana Northcott, INTA’s 2024 president and associate general counsel for Amazon's IP team, talks about her work for the association
Managing IP reveals highlights from the INTA Annual Meeting, including law firms’ diversity and ESG concerns and a new beginning for a Chinese firm
Gift this article