The U.S. Court of Appeals agreed that an association does not lose its ability to copyright model building codes once they’re adopted by a municipality.

In an announcement in the Contractors News & Views newsletter published by PAMCANI, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed than an association does not lose its ability to copyright model building codes once those codes are adopted by reference by a municipality. The decision upholds a U.S. District Court decision favoring the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI), which had sued an individual that posted its model code on his Web site. ASAE joined the American Medical Association; American National Standards Institute; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers; American Society of Mechanical Engineers; National Fire Protection Association, Inc.; Texas Municipal League; and Underwriters Laboratories Inc. in an amicus brief arguing in favor of SBCCI’s position. According the Fifth Circuit in its decision:

“We believe that if code writing groups like SBCCI lose their incentives to craft and update model codes and thus cease to publish, the foreseeable outcome is that state and local governments would have to fill the void directly, resulting in increased governmental costs as well as loss of the consistency and quality to which standard codes aspire. A second glance at the names of the amici supporting SBCCI’s position in this case provides an idea of the potential sweep of a contrary holding that the authors of model codes could not enforce copyrights in their works once the ultimate reason for their very creation is realized. As amici state in their brief supporting SBCCI, ‘these codes and standards are widely used and adopted by local and state government and federal authorities throughout the United States who do not otherwise have the necessary facilities and resources to develop these safety standards independently.’”