As I’ve mentioned before, building codes are highly technical documents, reflecting the latest research in structural behavior. As such, building codes are generally authored by private organizations of engineers, architects, and other experts, rather than by the government. If a jurisdiction wishes to adopt one of these codes, they do so by reference (passing a law which states which code will apply) or by obtaining a license. This method goes back to 1905, when the National Board of Fire Underwriters created the first National Building Code.
These organizations, such as the International Code Council (ICC) or the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), fund their operations by selling copies of the codes they develop. However, common sense (and legal precedent) says that you can’t copyright a law – that if someone wants to pass out photocopies of the code, or host it for free on their website, there’s no legal means of stopping them. Someone suing someone else over the issue thus seems almost inevitable. Surprisingly, it took almost 80 years for that to happen, until the case of BOCA v. Code Tech.
Read the rest of this entry »