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RE: Building Codes Online?

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Hugh
Peter Veeck has indeed won his case in appeals - for now. It is likely
that the case will make it to the state supreme court. For the legal
review of the case and links to supporting cases that led to the 9 to 2
decision of the appeals court go to:
http://www.techlawjournal.com/home/newsbriefs/2002/06b.asp

There was something that I read that surprised me and which I disagreed
with. The following argument was made by the Appeals Court - Three Judge
Panel:
"A divided three judge panel affirmed in an opinion issued on February
2, 2001. The majority wrote 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."

What bothers me about this is that the majority of codes are written by
volunteers who are industry professionals. They are not writing this
with the intent of having the provisions copywritten and sold by a code
publishing company like SBCCI or ICBO or ICC - they are writing these
codes for use by professionals in the industry. SBCCI takes this work,
presents it to a council of voting building officials and then publishes
the results. If they choose not to publish and sell paper volumes, they
can easily publish an electronic version to post once without having the
labor and material cost for books to be sold.

I've volunteered thousands of hours of my time the SEA with the intent
of improving the code for the benefit of the industry. I knew it would
be published and sold, but that was because I believed there was no
other choice. In most cases I obtained my copies of codes as a final
draft of something I worked on. I suppose I was in violation for using
the final draft instead of purchasing the full document, but I
considered it the price I was paid for my efforts.

I think the process has become much more complicated and convoluted.
Because of this, I believe that the process of writing codes should be
returned to the professional community to create. We should provide the
jurisdictions the codes that we feel are practical and reasonable from
the perspective of what we have historically designed.

A good example of this is the 91-UBC which contained all of the
information we needed to design wood, steel, concrete, and masonry. This
disappeared in the 94 UBC and although it did not appear in the BOCA or
SBCCI codes we had it as part of our codes for longer than I have
practiced. 

The removal of these provisions created revenue for the industry
organizations such as ACI, AISC, MIA and other groups. It increased the
cost of practicing engineering for many of us - and with the growth of
independent and small firms caused by lay-off's, cut backs and much more
- caused a hardship to many.

How about the inclusion of code methodology in computer programs. When
has a software vendor paid ICBO, SBCCI, BOCA or ICC for the rights to
insert the code into a computer software that thousands can use?

Personally, I support Peter and would hope that the codes adopted within
each jurisdiction may be published for free access of anyone who wishes
to design. The goal is not the financial gain of the publishing company,
but the correct use of the code to insure safe structures and proper
design.

Dennis S. Wish, PE

-----Original Message-----
From: HBAP(--nospam--at)aol.com [mailto:HBAP(--nospam--at)aol.com] 
Sent: Sunday, October 06, 2002 10:18 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: Building Codes Online?


Anyone notice the "News Brief" in the September issue of Building Design
& 
Construction under the title "Court decision threatens code developers' 
copyrights"? It reports (see page 11) that Texas retiree Peter Veeck
posted 
portions of their locally adopted building code on his Website.
Predictably 
it promptly went to court, with SBCCI, NFPA, ANSI, and others jumping 
(probably frantically) into the fray. The news brief stated that the
Fifth 
Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower courts ruling in Veeck's favor
that 
once a copyrighted code was adopted by a governmental jurisdiction is
was in 
public domain and therefore not subject to copyright protection. You can
read 
an excerpt at www.bdcmag.com under "Legal Briefs". However, go to Google
and 
type in "Peter Veeck" and numerous references would indicate that he DID
NOT 
prevail. Having access to building codes online would obviously
devastate 
revenue from code publishers, and be vigorously resisted, but be a boon
for 
the rest of us, and is probably inevitable given the likes of Veeck.. 

Hugh Brooks, SE
Retain Pro Software

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