Public Resource kickstarting free, open publication of the world's safety standards


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It’ll be interesting to see what happens when someone is prosecuted for disregarding safety standards, and their defence is that they relied on an open copy. Would building insurance be granted to a person or a firm who has his home of place of work commissioned solely relying on text from pirated standards? The cost of these standards is surely ε to any legitimate business. Is there any project that has failed to go forward solely due to the cost of purchasing safety standards?

Is the intention of the project to produce a copy of record for academic study, similar to a library, or is the idea that trading business concerns will use the open versions to avoid buying their own copies?

Can these standards already be consulted free of charge in a public library, or inspected at the institutes who publish them?

How much does it cost to produce and maintain a safety standard? There’s probably legitimate full-time work for an editor to compile and manage these standards in each field, there’s also probably committee work involved in revising the standards and incorporating new knowledge.

I wonder if open access / uncharged access, in the absence of a government grant, is really the best approach? e.g. Music piracy does hurt the bottom line of artists who only publish studio albums (and more so their labels who fund a cohort of artists on the grounds that not all will achieve commercial success), however artists can compensate for the loss of income from record sales by touring, accepting piracy as free advertising for their more entertaining live shows.

I can’t see a safety standard going on tour to make up for lost sales to piracy, and I also think that standards for safe buildings and electrical wiring, medical equipment, etc. have an importance beyond the next Miley Cyrus album. If piracy of safety standards is effective and causes the maintenance of current safety standards to become uneconomical, who actually gains in the long run?

If paid music production stopped or diminished, life would go on. It’s not essential that we have music. If the system that produces safety standards go bust, we’ll impoverish our society in the long run, or, if we want to maintain publication of safety standards in an age where they can’t be sold to the public, we’ll end up shifting the cost onto the tax payer.

I wonder, from the many ‘disruptive’ activities that one could engage in, is disrupting the economics of publishing safety standards a particularly wise target?


In many cases the development of the standards in question was paid for by public monies, yet monopolistic “standards” organizations that provide no added benefit are allowed to charge outrageous reproduction fees. You think this is a good thing?

That if once you have paid him the Danegeld,
   You never get rid of the Dane

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I could BitTorrent a load of medical text books which represent the “secret” laws governing how to be a licensed surgeon - having those PDFs doesn’t make me qualified to start transplanting kidneys.

I think in Bangladesh, the problem was not that standards were unavailable due to their cost, and so that no one knew better, or that there is no government body tasked with enforcing them, it was the conscious decision by the factory owners to bribe the local government to ignore their duty to ask whether standards are being followed.

The headquarters of the business that owned the Savar factory was itself constructed without planning permission, was ordered to be demolished two years ago, and yet this order has not been enforced. It’s very naive to claim that transcribing free copies of a safety standard would alter the course of events in Bangladesh.


And if you bought them, you… still wouldn’t be qualified.

Besides, medical text books aren’t produced with public funds and their contents, geared towards training, don’t function at all the way a set of legally-inforced standards do. You don’t typically use legal standards to learn how to do something, you use them to learn what is legally required when you do that thing.

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Would some sort of wiki not be a good solution for this? Provide a platform (templates etc) for people to convert (and update) the standards. It would remove a lot of the grunt work and let the organisation concentrate on things like distribution, legal issues etc.

I think someone addressed that in a comment on a older posting. I shall quote him here.

"mle292 says:
July 13, 2012 at 6:56 pm
As a licensed construction trade worker, I must stress that there is a significant difference between a code book and a “manual.” A manual is a guide meant to help a user. Building codes are technical documents meant to limit an installation to an acceptable safe standard. Those documents are best interpreted by people who are familiar with the style in which they are written, and who are experienced with common, efficient methods for the relevant field.

Based on direct experience, I do not believe that the general public can
normally be entrusted with the leeway to interpret building codes
accurately and safely without oversight.

With all that said – Though I disagree entirely with the premise upon which your conclusion is founded, I still agree with the conclusion. Public codes should be publicly available. Charging a high fee does not prevent unadmittedly unqualified people from doing what they’re going to do, and an easily referenceable and citable document would make the enforcer’s task that much easier. "

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bzzt  bzzt  :::pesky copyright infringement lawsuits:::  bzzt  bzzt
SDO Complaint (8/26/13) | Public.Resource.Org Response (9/27/13)

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