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Bill would protect copyrights on voluntary standards incorporated into government regulations

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Washington — Bipartisan legislation recently introduced in the House would provide copyright protections for voluntary standards when they’re incorporated into mandatory standards developed by OSHA and other agencies.

The Protecting and Enhancing Public Access to Codes Act, or Pro Codes Act (H.R. 6769), was introduced Feb. 18 by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and is co-sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). The copyright protection of standards would apply to any incorporation by reference “in full or in part, into any federal, state, or municipal law or regulation.”

One stipulation is the owner of the copyright must make the work available for free “in electronic form on a publicly accessible website.”

National Fire Protection Association President and CEO Jim Pauley states on the NFPA website that “some special interests” in recent years have contended that a copyright is forfeited when a governmental body incorporates by reference a privately developed standard.

“We strongly disagree with this campaign to destroy copyright protection for our works,” Pauley writes. “Our creation and updating of these works provides critical public benefits. Like any other copyright owner, we’re able to fund the creative process by publishing, selling and licensing our standards. Again, the public benefits are enormous: We don’t depend on subsidies or contributions from government or those affected by our standards. This ensures we can be independent and put safety first.”

 

The American National Standards Institute “strongly supports” the bill as well.

“The U.S. standardization system is a powerhouse of productivity that leverages the expertise of all stakeholders in a particular area to develop standards and codes that drive progress and innovation safely and efficiently,” ANSI President and CEO S. Joe Bhatia said in a press release. “It is the most effective standards system in the world, and the public-private partnership that enables voluntary standards like those developed by ASHRAE, IAPMO, ICC, NFPA, UL and many other organizations to be incorporated into law is vital to our nation’s competitiveness, health and safety, and quality of life.

“The passage of the Pro Codes Act would help to ensure the U.S. standards system’s future strength and ability to continue vital work for the benefit of every citizen.”

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

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