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Shape properties: AISC or individual shape producers?

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It is my contention that the numbers in your database are facts and are not
protected by a copyright.  Even if at some time they were considered
propriatary that does not provide any protection once the information was 

I believe that the form of the database may potentially provide protection
if you can make the case that there is more than one reasonable way to
arrange the data and that your form is unique.  Personally I believe that
it would be hard to make that case.  I will suggest that we will find other
member properties tables, that AISC does not own the copyright to,
organized the data in a similar manner which would undercut the claim to
uniqueness.  We might even find old tables by AISC, for which any copyright
has expired, that used the same organization, which would support the
position that even if the form of the tables were copyrightable that the
copyright on the form of the tables had expired.

I think that your argument that the tables are coprighted will be undercut
by the historical practices of your members and others who have published
shaped tables.  Correct me if I am wrong but i believe that ASTM  A6 has
tables of member dimensions.  If it can be shown that you were aware of
such tables, and you had not provided them with permission to use your form
and  had failed to defend your copyright then you might have difficulty in
enforcing any copright.

In the case of the electronic database you could be protected by a shrink
wrap license as a matter of contract law.

Much of your argument has to do with the value you have added.  This is
essentially the "sweat of the brow" argument that has historically been
rejected by copright law.  The best way that you can benifet from this
effort is to provide services to people that they are willing to pay for
even if the information is not copyrighted.

I would be interested in seeing the opinion of your attorney and hopefully
he will address the issues I have raised here.

Mark Gilligan

A question has been raised as to whether AISC can hold and/or enforce a
copyright on the shape dimensions and properties in the AISC Manual and
Database. Specifically, it has been asserted that this information is
available from producers directly and other sources. Also, it has been
asserted that the data can be calculated independently using equations and
procedure s that are in the public domain -- or simply typed from the AISC
printed text into a spreadsheet or similar program by hand.

It would be possible to obtain all shape information directly from a
producer, at least if you only want information on the shapes that producer
rolls. In many cases, the information they provide is obtained from AISC
reprinted by them with our permission. A few producers actually create
own data, but follow our procedures. A few do whatever they want to do.

As far as the AISC-published data is concerned, I believe there is a unique
value that AISC adds to the data we produce for the Manual and the AISC
Database. For simplicity, my explanation will be based upon W-shapes. A
similar process applies to other shapes.

To create the data that goes into the AISC Manual and AISC Database, we
collect physical dimensions from the mills as follows: depth, flange width,
web thickness and flange thickness. This information is provided by us
with the cross-sectional area (determined using the properly considered
fillet radius as explained later) to ASTM for inclusion in ASTM A6/A6M.

In addition to the dimensional information above, we perform a periodic
survey of producers to determine the industry-wide maximum and minimum
fillet radii that they use in the production of their shapes. The ranges we
determine consider both producer-specific variations (i.e., how much do
let the rolls wear before they replace or redress them) and inter-producer
variations (i.e., variations in what radius producer A and B use in their
mill practices). We include Ameristeel, Bayou Steel Corporation, Corus
(formerly known as British Steel), J&L Structural Inc., North Star Steel,
Northwestern Steel and Wire Company, Nucor Steel, Nucor-Yamato Steel
Company, Roanoke Electric Steel Company, SMI Steel Inc., TradeARBED and TXI
Chaparral Steel Company in this survey. We are the only entity with which
all those producers share this information. In fact, when they do share it
with us, they insist upon anonymity and confidentiality as they each
consider their radius practices to be proprietary. Said more simply, they
not want to tell each other how they make their shapes.

We then calculate the properties and dimensions we provide as follows.
Design properties are based upon the smallest fillet radius applicable for
given shape. Detailing dimensions are based upon the largest fillet radius
applicable for a given shape. In this way, no matter what mill you buy your
steel from, the design properties will not be overstated, and the detailing
dimensions, with proper detailing, will ensure proper fit-up.

There's been talk of reverse engineering and alternative engineering of the
numbers -- even typing them all in on one's own time. But in the end, I
believe that any solution intended to regenerate the AISC numbers would at
some point require the use of information that AISC builds into the shape
dimensions and properties it publishes. The design properties could be
closely estimated by ignoring the fillet radii entirely in the
but if this were done, the data would not conform to the dimensions and
properties as they are standardized by AISC. I don't think the detailing
dimensions could be recreated at all.