I started this a number of times as your comments to respond to what we are
seeing in the Internet industry requires a rather broad answer. It boils
down to a number of very simple ideas and I think the companies who helped
to start this thread realize that the purchase of information perceived to
be public domain or at least perceived to be intended to be available to
engineers for free are not well received when a fee is attached.
1. When a company sells information electronically that was sold previously
only to compensate for hard publishing and shipping cost, it is perceived as
taking advantage of those they intended to represent. You can't gain respect
from those at the end who are entrusted to promote your industries product
when you charge them for the tools.
2. While you can expect to amortize the cost of research and development,
companies should be more sympathetic to the hardships they cause smaller,
independent designers and help our industry by making useful information
available without charge.
3. The issue related to the AISC database boils down to an ethical issue. Is
it ethical for a non-profit organization to protect information used to
define a standard simply to protect a potential monopoly from the sales and
royalties paid by those who use the values to produce software. The majority
of engineers who entered this discussion disagree with AISC. They believe
that the AISC is creating a dual opportunity for income. AISC obtains a fee
from the Mills for each ton of steel sold or produced. They also collect
from design engineers for the licensing of the industry standards which is
used to design steel, thus promoting the production and sale of steel and
which yields more royalty or fee to AISC for that steel designed or sold.
The AISC essentially collects from both ends on the use of the database and
in the eyes of those who have the lowest profit margin, the practice is not
4. While giving information away is a good gesture to the design industry,
we should not absolve any non-profit organization of the prospects of abuse
by charging for information that was, at one time, sold only to recoup the
cost of publication and shipping. An example of this is the documents sold
by APA. With few exceptions, virtually every item that they have can be
obtained as a free download off the internet, or purchased in paper by
engineers willing to pay a few dollars for the hard copy. This promotes the
use of wood products and encourages engineers to design wood products
5. AITC has announced that they too will make their information used in the
design of wood available on the Internet for free. This again, sends a
message to the engineering community that provides support and appreciation
for promoting the industries materials.
6. Light Gauge Steel is not supporting the ideology of free information.
However, here there is a rational explanation as the industry is new to the
idea of a standard and the manufactures of Cold-formed steel have yet to
agree on an industry standard. The research and development is coming from
private and industry donations as well as through the dues of paid members.
Understanding this limitation, I have been happy to invest $100.00 a year to
LGSEA which is used in the development of an industry standard. I realize
that the 500+ members are not going to generate sufficient funds to cover
the work that LGSEA must do to establish an industry standard and the sale
of materials may be the only way to do this. However, it is interesting to
note that members of LGSEA can download any of the LGSEA documents for free
from their secured website. Non-members pay, members do not (although there
are design guides and standard details which are made available for sale to
7. I have been receiving newsletters and design information from the Masonry
Institute for years - all of it free of charge. Yes, I purchased the Masonry
Handbook by James Amrehn (sorry about the spelling of his name) but this was
a necessity as is the Steel Manual or the ACI code and UBC. These support
the industry research and development costs but don't take advantage of the
professional community by seeking out all the loose change in our pockets.
(I keep seeing this commercial on TV where a couple who had not planned for
their retirement invite family and friends over just to retrieve the change
that falls from their pockets between the cushions of the sofa's)
There is a line between reasonable expectation and abuse in the sale of
information. Books are purchased as tools, Technical Documents and research
publications are information expected to be released as errata's or
corrections to the manuals we purchased, they are not improvements but
corrections. Databases for standards - even if converted from paper input is
a tool that is necessary to promote the sale of materials which generates a
royalty or fee based on the tonnage sold - is not considered ethical as it
attempts to profit from both ends of the industry at the same time.
There needs to be those within the industry who are able to identify the
difference between grasping an economic opportunity and doing what is
responsible and fair to those who are trained to promote your industry.
Dennis S. Wish, PE
From: Bill Polhemus [mailto:bpolhem(--nospam--at)swbell.net]
Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2001 6:45 PM
Subject: Re: Copyright Infringement
Bill Polhemus wrote:
"Ironically, those organizations and institutions that have sought to use
Internet to provide "free" information (paid for typically by advertising,
e.g.)are now having to HEAVILY retrench!
For example, virtually ALL the electronic and print media that now have a
presence on the 'net--major newspapers, news magazines, cable news outlets,
network news divisions, etc.--have found that they are MONEY-LOSING
They are all trying to figure out how to back away gracefully, reducing
online staffs, reducing expenditures, even making some portions of their
content "by subscription only".
They tried to adopt the broadcast model of "free content paid for by
advertising" to the Internet medium, with apparently desperately
[N.B.: Now, whether this is REALLY because it "failed" where broadcast
"succeeded" is a matter of conjecture, since being an interactive medium,
Internet "knows" if the advertising has snagged a customer or not. I
few years ago when they first began using realtime electronic sales
services in music stores, where each sale was electronically transmitted via
landlines to a central information clearing house, it absolutely DESTROYED
longstanding credibility of Billboard Magazine, the music industry trade
For one thing, Billboard had for a long time downgraded the popularity of
Country & Western music, and played up Rock titles. When they had REAL,
per-transaction data finally available, it was found that, suddenly "Country
king" and Rock music not NEARLY as popular as the "conventional
usually isn't--had long held].
I know I've gone far afield here, but my point is this: While the Internet
have "upset the applecart", the fact is that "the times they are (STILL)
a-changin'". I think that "professional organizations and associations" to
Dennis alludes are probably already finding deep disappointment with the
"reception" their online sales are getting relative to the expense of
maintaining the online sales channel.
I may be completely wrong in this, but the near-collapse of Amazon.Com (yes,
surprisingly it is still on the ropes) and other such outlets tells me I