Carl Malamud lawsuit: The fight to make building regulations truly fee | New Republic
" ... Carl Malamud believes this more strongly than most. The open-government activist, who pushed the Securities and Exchange Commission to post corporate documents online and C-SPAN to make its video archive more widely available, has been either scanning or painstakingly re-typing and posting standards on his website Public.Resource.org for anyone to download. He started back in 2008 with California’s codes, and had posted 10,062 standards as of the end of last year. When the standards developers ask him to stop—as six have done so far—he politely refers them to the 2002 decision in Veeck vs. Southern Building Code Congress International, in which a circuit court judge ruled that 'as law, the model codes enter the public domain and are not subject to the copyright holder’s exclusive prerogatives.' Malamud typically doesn’t hear back after sending his response. But the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association, which publishes standards relating to ducts and ventilation, wasn’t satisfied. In February, they followed up with a letter protesting that that the 9th Circuit had ruled differently back in 1997, and the decision still holds. Malamud, with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, fought back with a complaint against SMACNA, asking that a judge resolve the legal question once and for all: Does the public have the right to the law, or doesn't it? 'This isn't a public statute,' says Vince Sandusky, SMACNA's president. 'It's a copyrighted document that was developed by SMACNA. We are fulfilling a very important role that government and others have not taken on. It's not a small task. We are entitled, as a matter of sound public policy, to a revenue stream that allows us to do that.' Malamud points out that SMACNA already benefits from the fact that they essentially get to write the law, with the participation of government bureaucrats. 'In most cases their members benefit hugely from the fact that these standards exist,' he says. 'For example, if you're a sheet metal contractor, it's a wonderful thing that every building must be tested for leaks periodically.' The case hits the U.S. District Court of Northern California in June. If the court decides to rule on the merits, its decision wouldn't just make it easier to bring your house up to code. It could also force one of the fastest changes to an entrenched business model in judicial history—a model that shouldn't have been allowed to take root in the first place ..."