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Renamed: Code and Document cost and copyright - formerly: AISC

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You bring up an interesting issue. Assume that Hilti provides calculations
as examples for how to design their products. Is this a violation of the
AISC or ACI code for them to quote sections of the code in their design
Theoretically, if we could find all the proprietary materials that utilize
various sections of the code, we can develop our own standards for design
that is already published in codes without actually owning one.
Before I get flamed, let me say that I realize it does not eliminate the
complex discussions and conditions that change within a code, but if our
work is limited to the design of anchors, then we can obtain the information
we need from the anchor manufacturers rather material, trade or code

here is another one - while I am not advocating this, many engineers avoid
purchasing expensive codes or design guides and rely heavily upon the
reputation of software that designs and analyses based on code sections -
checking code compliance at the same time. What we have here is a code that
is converted to programming language and published as software where the
developer profits and the code agency or publisher does not.

The following is a post I sent privately to another engineer who develops
code. I have modified the post to avoid conflict of trust.

".....You have made your point well - believe me I understand it. I simply
don't agree with your logic. The problem is; How to reduce the cost of
documents to engineers while maintaining or increasing receivables necessary
to maintain the cost of overhead and development? Very simply, the software
industry has been doing this for years. While a full version of a product
may be too costly and too feature laden, the company will scale it back and
provide a Lite version for that portion of the market that they were unable
to sell to previously. <name withheld> and other like them, think that the
code or other documents are "monolithic" in nature and can not be separated
into installments. If an engineer wants to design only a one or two members
that require 1% of the code, you are going to sell him 99% more than he
needs. This promotes borrowing or copying sections from friends, associates,
libraries and other sources which, in your opinion, violates copyright
protection. Still, this segregates a large sector of the profession who will
avoid purchasing a code or document when all he or she really needs is a
reference from a page or tow.

Would providing a service that sells sections of the code at smaller
reasonable fees threaten the market that is currently forced to purchase the
entire document? I don't think so - in fact, it should increase revenue by
satisfying a sector of the market hitherfore unmarketable.

You mentioned the problem of providing all appropriate links that may be
reference in one section. In today's day and age, this is not really a
problem. As with computer programs, codes can be equated to flow charts that
track all references within a section and each subsequent sub-reference that
may be required to make an interpretation. The code is already written (per
se) so the process of filtering code references by need is not a difficult

If all I use in the UBC is Chapter 16, 18, 22 and 23 (and some Appendix) why
purchase more. If I need the rest, I can purchase them as I have a need. If
the need does not come in this code cycle, then I don't need to expend the
cost that I can use elsewhere. The incentive to purchase the entire code is
to sell the sections at a reasonable price, but one where the congregate
price of individual sections exceeds the cost of the full code. The choice
is up to the engineer to buy what he needs when he needs it, or to
anticipate that he will use much more during the year and invest in the
entire code or document up front.

Stephen King found that he could sell novels in Chapters of new novels over
the internet(as silent movie theaters catered to serials to bring people
back the next week). So did Steven Brill and Microsoft in their venture
Contentville (I think this is the name of it). The problem is that we have
engineers that don't think in terms of marketability and sales. The ideology
seems to set on one code to a limited market that also limits receivables.
Proper marketing attitudes deliver information in smaller doses to those who
need it at a reasonable price (and some at no cost) to reach a large portion
of the profession that has resisted the urge to pay excessive prices for a
net "need" of only 10% of the document content.

Marketing requires a business sense not an engineering degree. You asked the
following question:

"The best way that I could possibly get you to see the other perspective is
to ask how would you respond if I wanted you to provide your engineering
services for free or very little cost.  While I realize it is not the same,
it IS very similar, just drastically different economic scales/size of
"companies".  The best point that I can possibly make is that "not for
profit" does not mean loss money in the endeavor."

My answer may shock you.  I do have a sliding scale depending on the client.
Non-profit organization who provide subsidized low income housing pay 50% of
my full fee. I am a board member of one non-profit organization which builds
low income housing that provides pathway programs for students who don't
intend to go to college. I donate my time and design. I don't charge family
or close friends (at times I think this is a mistake, but feel best when I
can give without expecting to receive). Associates in the building industry
receive a 25% reduction of my fee - a professional courtesy. If it is
possible to solve a homeowners problem without investing more than a 15
minute phone call, I won't charge - call it neighborly. If a low or lower
income family is owner-building, I charge a reasonable fee but have been
known to work gratis to insure proper construction quality. Finally, I don't
try to compensate for the work I sell at reduced rates by increasing prices
to those who are more than able to pay my fee. I set my rates competitive
with local professionals (not low or high) and don't take advantage of
economic times or clients wealth.

I suspect many engineers do this as well - there is generally a return for
kindness but this isn't the reason for doing it. I live in this community
and will probably die here. I'd like to know that I was an influence in
helping my neighbors get the best home for the money. I found that when I
experienced some difficulties over the years, the same people I helped came
to offer their help to me. There is much more in life than how much "stuff"
we own. There is a respect to earn and I don't think it is any different for
the organizations which provide us the tools we need to design structures
with the materials their code refer to. In the case of trade organizations,
I believe they have a greater responsibility to the safety of the public by
providing the information that engineers and architects need to avoid
mistakes and errors. "

In conclusion, the issue is creative marketing to avoid segregating members
of the profession and to offer what is needed. As was pointed out by others,
the documents we are discussing are, essentially, are proprietary and are
priced without consideration for the wide range of practioneers representing
various size offices and limited design needs. We are, essentially, at the
mercy of the organization.

My advise is to stop arguing and start thinking about those of us in the
"trenches" who are designing buildings, bridges, infrastructure, towers,
foundations Start thinking like marketing firms and less like
hard-ass administrators who see no fault in the system and consider the
responsible party to be the inanimate organization rather than individuals
who spend the receivables that come from practicing professionals.

Dennis S. Wish, PE

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