Standards bodies explain why they think the law should be copyrighted and paywalled


If only there was some magical way that the public could pay for things…a way to, like, collectively pool our funds so that we could afford to pay professionals to support the public interest. Almost like one of those “taxes” that I’ve heard of…

Nah, that’ll never work. KICKSTARTER.


Why is letting an SDO copyright standards and profit from their publication “less bad” than paying for the development of these standards with tax money?

If I have to follow a standard, then it should be freely available to me. This SDO thing vaguely reminds me of the Vogon construction crew’s contempt for humans ignorance of the plans to destroy the earth in Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.


Should everyone pay for it, or only those people who build stuff to the standard? It’s an age-old question of taxes vs fees. We all pay for it one way or the other.

I personally am fond of visiting my public library to read a page of the code book if I need a tiny bit of expensive information.


Because when the government pays for things it influences them.

Perhaps those who benefit from the code rather than those who are required to implement it would seem more fair. The most effective way to do this still eludes us however :frowning:

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So they want to overturn Edict of Government?

Edict of government is a technical term in United States copyright law that refers to laws (in a wide sense of that term), and determines that they cannot be protected by copyright. It is based on the principle of public policy that citizens must have unrestrained access to the laws that govern them…


That statement makes me only MORE likely to support Public Resource.

They cover the substantial cost of developing standards? Bullshit. I’ve been an active participant in standards development. Participant companies and agencies cover the cost of standards development. We covered our own travel, testing, prototype development, every last pfennig. Standards conferences were sponsored by local groups or companies out of their own funds. Participating companies & agencies pay membership fee to join ANSI and ISO. The only thing that that ANSI or ISO pays for is the publishing & distribution.


It’s a valid question for a lot of things, but not really for laws. They’re laws, not benefits – things you HAVE TO DO, not things you get. It’s kind of what taxes are supposed to do: pay for the laws.


The people who are building stuff to the standards are having the standards imposed upon them by the rest of society. They (and their customers, etc.) bear the cost of complying with the regulation, and society benefits.If society wants to make this imposition, it needs to foot the bill for letting people know what the imposition is.

In addition, besides the people who build stuff, other people living in the same society have an interest in knowing what the laws are. One reason would be so that they can make decisions about whether to support legislators who choose to write these standards into the laws that regulate the economy in which they live.

One way or another, the government that incorporates these standards into laws should be obligated to make the standards available to the public.

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Under The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA), NIST compiles reports on standards used by the US federal government in contracts, regulations, etc. You can get an idea of the scale of the problem from those.

given that government is intended to be a way for the collectively agreed upon will of the citizens of a country to influence things, i’m not sure i really see the problem.

perhaps you think that only those who pay for something should influence it, rather than all those who are affected by it?

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In reality, there’s not much of an appreciable difference between the “user” and “beneficiary” in the case of building standards. It’s your right to develop your property (within the confines of the applicable codes), whether you add a porch, or build a mini-mall, or raise a skyscraper.

The situation now is probably most analogous to that in the music industry, where once the technical limitations of reproducing the product were a cost/nuisance barrier, it is now no longer the case. It is simply that the “product” that supported the business model of the code developers is no longer viable.

Code development and code publication are not (and should not be) synonymous. There can be a way to support one without being shackled to subsidy of the other.


sure would be nice if the government worked as intended.
makes me wonder what is needed to get from where we are (where corporations and fundamentalists are the only ones really active in government) to where we need to be (where everyone is active)

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We are talking about building standards here which are codified as laws. Besides the fact that everyone involved in the construction of a building is "forced " to follow these laws, almost everyone else is a beneficiary of those standards. As a society, we live in buildings, we work in buildings, we are entertained and receive medical attention in buildings. The safety and durability of these structures is a benefit to society as a whole.

P.s. I’m not sure what this “library” is you speak of. Is it some sort of building?

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I work for a mixed private/public funded nonprofit that researches, develops and test ways to make the professional development of early childhood teachers and caregivers better. We partner with a lot of national and state associations to write policy briefs, do trials, and start programs to improve practice. My boss has a refrain that clicked with me: “private money experiments, public money implements” Our private funders, who have a stated stake and interest in the well-being and welfare of children like to fund our projects that push the very edge of what could be best for children and the professionals that work with them. A lot of what we develop is way too advanced, to complex, or too experimental to be considered for codification in the law, but we find other incentives, and enthusiastic schools and organizations in the sate who want to implement them anyway, to be ahead of just “what the law requires”. And analogy could be the LEEDS environmental stamp, or energy star appliances. We charge fees for training and materials, but can often find private and public dollars to cover these and further incentivize. The state doesn’t dictate what we do, think or write but if they see something they like (that we’ve presented to them for funding) they will often fund piloting, and then eventually fund the rollout of new procedures as statute across the state. At this point, the development has all been paid for, and has been done by dedicated people who chose this line of work because they care about outcomes for children, not because they took a civil service exam, and rose through the ranks and ended up in some “child welfare” office. Simple statements about the suckiness of government, or the greed of private citizens doesn’t capture the full picture of what it takes for good policy to be developed, or how to move forward. I don’t have a tidy, related conclusion other than that…

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Unless I misunderstand the situation, ANSI and ISO aren’t the ones claiming copyright. It is the standards development organization that pay fees to ANSI/ISO like the one you worked with that are. ANSI/ISO are simply certifying standards development organizations, reviewing their standards and distributing them at a price set by the SDO.

West - Thomson Reuters does just fine publishing public domain statutes and court decisions. They do it by adding value. West’s digests, indexes, annotations and search technology are (along with the same services produced by rival Lexis/Nexis) are the standard for legal research. It would very nearly amount to malpractice to submit papers in court that were researched in any other way, even though one could do so.

And don’t try to tell me that standards are different from statutes because the former have development costs and the latter do not. The legislative history of a statute is essential to creating an valid, enforceable law, and that history is developed by the statute-creating body researching the reasons to create the statute, the potential effects of the proposed statute-- including revenue effects. Hearings are held, experts are consulted- the process works exactly like developing standards for things like building codes.

Well, yeah. SDOs are also supported by membership dues. Companies often spend big bucks on standardization for things like dues, participation costs (e.g., travel expenses for conference attendance) and having a staff of people that does nothing but standardization. So the member companies are best served if the SDO keeps the entrance fee (i.e., the cost of the standards) high enough to keep low-cost competitors from encroaching. It sucks, but that’s the way it works. UNLESS the standard incorporates a lot of intellectual property, in which case the standards are available for free. Guess how that works!

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