Public Resource is being sued for publishing building standards that the public is legally required to follow. These standards were developed by private-sector industry bodies who make millions off of access fees charged to the public. In other words, a large block of American law is privately owned, secret, and accessible only for a fee. Three Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) are suing and they've released a statement to the media explaining why the law should not be free for all.
The SDOs underwrite the substantial costs of developing standards, in whole or in significant part, by relying on revenues from the sales and licensing of their copyrighted standards. This funding model allows SDOs to remain independent of special interests and to develop up-to-date, high quality standards.
An article in the Washington Post's Wonkblog by Lydia DePillis delves more deeply into the issue:
There are various pieces of administrative precedent and case law in different courts that support either side. Essentially, though, it’s a question of principle vs. practicality: Code is law, Malamud says, and it’s owned by the public. But good code is also expensive, the standards development groups maintain, and charging for copies is the least bad way to pay for it.
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