SMACNA Abandons Air-Duct Standard Copyright Claim

Originally published: 07.08.13 by HVACR Business Staff


SNA FRANCISCO, CA — The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SMACNA) has conceded that it will no longer use copyright claims to try to stop Public.Resource.Org (Public Resource) from publishing safety standards that have been incorporated into law.

Public.Resource.Org is a non-profit organization that acquires and makes available online a wide variety of public documents such as fire safety codes, food safety standards, and other regulations that have been incorporated into U.S. and international laws. Such documents are often difficult to access otherwise, meaning the public cannot read them, much less comment on them.

In January, SMACNA demanded that Public.Resource.Org take offline a federally mandated air-duct standard, claiming the posting violated SMACNA’s copyright in the standard. On behalf of Public.Resource.Org, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit, asking a federal court to declare that the standards became part of the public domain once they were incorporated into law. As a result of this legal action, SMACNA has agreed to publicly affirm it will no longer claim copyright in the standards.

“Whether it’s the Constitution or a building code, the law is part of the public domain,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. “We’re glad SMACNA is abandoning its effort to undermine that essential principle.”

In today’s technical world, public-safety codes are some of the country’s most important laws. Public access to such codes can be crucial when, for example, there is an industrial accident, a disaster such as Hurricane Katrina, or when a homebuyer simply wishes to independently consider whether his or her house was built to code standards. Publishing the codes online, in a readily-accessible format, also makes it possible for reporters and other interested citizens to search, excerpt, compare and copy them.

“It’s about time standards development organizations recognized that if a technical standard has been incorporated into federal law, the public has a right to read it, speak it and copy it freely,” said Public.Resource.Org founder Carl Malamud.