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  1. #1
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    Oct 2014
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    Default Code adoption and Intellectual Property rights

    Jerry Peck and I have been chatting about free access to building codes in the course of a thread that started out with a discussion of overfusing. I think it is more appropriate to keep this chat independent of that one.

    The last I saw from Jerry was a statement that jurisdictions pay lots for their copies of the codes they adopt. So they're pulling in the loot.

    Yes: I suspect that jurisdictions may be required by their statutes to keep one copy on hand for citizens to consult, at least theoretically. This price, though, is trivial, even though it be multiplied by the immense number of jurisdictions that do so. I say trivial, even though I wince when I pay for my own copies every few years. But I don't xerox my copies and distribute them freely. If the town did so with its copies of the building codes, so that no one needed to buy their own copies, I don't believe the ICC or NFPA or etc could survive. If the judiciary consistently agreed that adoption put these codes fully into the public domain, the same would be true.

    One could argue that if this is so, the Standard Development Organizations have to find themselves a different business model, or a different line of business altogether. I have seen the cost of similar changes over the decades during which i have volunteered with safety groups, and I believe we are the poorer for them.

    I've asked NFPA about their position on this and their experience in the courts. I imagine I'll hear back from them some time after Columbus Day.

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Default Re: Code adoption and Intellectual Property rights

    Quote Originally Posted by david shapiro View Post
    The last I saw from Jerry was a statement that jurisdictions pay lots for their copies of the codes they adopt. So they're pulling in the loot.

    Yes: I suspect that jurisdictions may be required by their statutes to keep one copy on hand for citizens to consult, at least theoretically. This price, though, is trivial, even though it be multiplied by the immense number of jurisdictions that do so. I say trivial, even though I wince when I pay for my own copies every few years. But I don't xerox my copies and distribute them freely. If the town did so with its copies of the building codes, so that no one needed to buy their own copies, I don't believe the ICC or NFPA or etc could survive. If the judiciary consistently agreed that adoption put these codes fully into the public domain, the same would be true.
    David,

    I'm not sure what the rest of the country is like, but every jurisdiction I have worked in Florida, including for private providers in Florida and around the Southeast, every building department had not only the one 'obligatory copy' for the public (while it wasn't actually 'just for the public', it was typically for the permit desk/front desk and was readily shared with the public, but ...

    The building official had a copy.

    Every Plans examiner had a copy.

    Every inspector had a copy.

    Others involved in the building department also had a copy.

    The smallest jurisdiction I worked for, a town which was about a 1/2 mile wide and at most 2 miles long (Atlantic Ocean on one side, Intracoastal Waterway on the other side, and an inlet on one end), with a permanent population of about 2,500 people, swelling to about 5,000-6,000 during the season) had the building official (who also served as a plans examiner), one inspector (myself, who also served as a plans examiner), yet we had a copy of everything for:

    the permit/front desk
    the building official in his office
    the building official in his truck
    the planning and development director in his office
    the inspector in my office
    the inspector in my truck

    That's at least 6 copies of everything ... for that small of a jurisdiction.

    I've also worked for larger jurisdictions and private providers, one private provider having 150 inspectors, likely 50 plans examiners, multiple building officials, multiple offices, with copies of everything for everyone, probably had 250-300 sets of everything for everyone who needed it.

    There is nothing cheap about that.

    No one in their right mind photo copies code books, the shear number of pages, trying to bind them together, the costs for ink, paper, and time, simply is not worth it, Not even for an individual (at least it was never worth it for me, I don't know about others).

    If the judiciary decided that the codes were public domain for free access, printing, searching, copying, etc. ... all the people I mentioned above would still be buying codes - either in an accessible electronic format (such as ICC Premium Editions) or in a printed format, it is up to the user to decide which is best for them, and it is up to ICC to determine the cost for each, but it is not cheap.

    Could/should a casual user be able to freely access the codes? Sure. And the ICC, with Florida as an example, charges the state to make the codes freely available online. For a number of year, Florida provided which was basically 'premium edition' access online, now one can still search (although not as convenient as it use to be), can still print, can still copy and paste, etc, but not a conveniently as it was 'back then'.

    ICC and Florida (in this example) agree to the cost, which is born by the state for all of the public to have free access to the required codes (ICC codes, not so with NFPA codes, and even less so with standards, but ... in my opinion ... if the document is adopted and the public is required to meet the document, then the document should be freely available from the adopting government (and it is between that government and the creators of the document as to what compensation there is for adopting the document and making the document freely available).

    However, David and I have danced around this mulberry bush a number of times now, is the music still playing, or has it stopped?

    Jerry Peck
    Construction Litigation Consultant - Retired
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Maryland, DC, and Northern Virginia, electrical only
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    Default Re: Code adoption and Intellectual Property rights

    It's a month and a half since, as an NFPA member, I asked them where to find their position on the IP issue. I haven't heard a response to that question as yet. Meanwhile, I noticed that Oregon has posted their electrical code online, for consultation, downloading, etc: 2020 OREGON ELECTRICAL SPECIALTY CODE - 2021-OESC-Presentation.pdf
    Their code, unsurprisingly, is the 2020 NEC with a few amendments.
    I started my electrical career in New York City, working under their own electrical code. I still have my copy, and I posted an image of its cover in Behind the Code.
    It was not the NEC. (And who knew from "online" in 1971?)


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