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RE: Building Codes Online?

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Actually, a lawyer does have to "own" the law similar to how we have to
"own" the code.  Lawyers have to purchase their books and journals that
list the cases that have occured in the past that have set precedent
(thus, the "law") so that they can be prepared to fight for their client
in court.  Obviously, some lawyers cannot afford to have an extensive
library so they will do their research at some local law library, which
you as an engineer should also be able to do since the local library
probably has the local code on file (or the city or country building

Also, it is my understanding (and I could be wrong) that some police
officers are required to purchase their own bullets for their guns and
sometimes even their own guns that they use on the job.  They can list
this as a work expense when they file their taxes (at least for the feds),
just as you and I can list the purchase of a code book as an itemized
expense deduction (it is essential to our job is it not).

Thus, I would agree with Charlie that purchasing code books a necessary
part of our profession.  There are many professions that require them to
pay for things that are essential to their why should we be any
different?  I will admit that this can suck for an individual or small
company as it can be a financial burden, but I am sure that this is also
true for many other professions.  I am sure that there are lawyers out
there that wish someone would give them all the publications that they
need for free too.  And while I know we have been over this before, I will
state again that no one has said that you HAVE to be an engineer that
works out on their own.  You have made a choice to do what you do and how
you do it and that choice has its positve side and negative side.  This
would also be true if you had chosen to work at a large engineering firm
in LA.  Now, none of this does not mean that you cannot work to make
things better...only that somethings in life are not fair and that while
we might try to make it better, we will often not succeed.  Enough
philosophy for tonight.

Now, I will admit that this whole issue presents a nice potential legal
conflict.  A building code, as law, should be freely available to the
public, with the possibility of a slight fee for actual printing costs and
shipping costs, since the public is subject to this law.  On the
otherhand, since organizations such as ACI, AISC, etc created these
adopted and referenced codes, they have a right to the copyright of the
materials.  Thus, there is a nice little can the government
(state, local, federal...take your pick) be able to adopt something into
law that they did not create and be in a position to void the copyright of
the entity that created it?  Does this also mean that when you submit
drawings to the local government for a permit (which means they become
public record) mean that you no longer have the right to copyright the
information that YOU created on the drawings?  In my mind, the copyrights
would have to stand otherwise the government could unintentionally or
intentionally just take things that they did not create.

Now to solve this little conflict, I can think of two ways to go...1) the
government creates their own codes...this means they need to get their own
volunteers to create the techical "stuff" and volunteers or governement
staff to put it into useable format; or 2) the governement begins to
directly pay the code developing organizations to produce the codes that
they use which would provide an alternate source of revenue for these
organizations to do what they do without having to charge you or me for
the code publication.


Ypsilanti, MI

On Tue, 8 Oct 2002, Structuralist wrote:

> Charlie,
> There is no need to charge the professional community for a code that is
> created by volunteer members of that same community. The nature of the
> Volunteer implies that the code belongs to the professional community
> and it's copywrite laws are questionable as the Vreek lawsuit is
> persuing. In this case, the issue stems from modifications made by local
> jurisdications to the code that can not be copywrited (or at least until
> the supreme court of Texas overturns the Appeals ruling).
> I would agree that an engineer has an obligation to purchase his tools,
> but a building code is not a "tool" per se - it becomes a law and as a
> law it should become the property of the public so that they are not
> ignorant of it. A lawyer does not have to own the law - he or she only
> needs to reference it in a library or pay for a fee to use an online
> service created by a private industry.
> AISC has a right to obtain funds necessary to cover their expenses and
> overhead in the assembly of the code (as most of the code sections are
> drafted by volunteers as Rick Drake noted in his e-mail). However, there
> are other sources that may be tapped that will not require penalizing an
> engineer who learns his skill and then is expected to pay for a copy of
> the law he is expected to enforce. Do you think a police officer pays
> for the laws that he is taught to protect.
> Our tools are used to design for the welfare of the public. The law is
> not a tool - it is a guideline that changes over time which we must
> follow. Our investment is in the education we absorb to learn how to
> apply the changes for the benefit of the public. To charge us for the
> work that our peers have done voluntarily for the benefit of our
> profession is, in my opinion, unethical.
> Sorry to be so direct Charlie - I respect you and AISC a great deal
> after twenty years of practice, but my comments are meant to be
> constructive criticism based on an engineer who had been used to
> receiving our codes (laws) freely in the past or combined with the one
> code we needed to purchase at the time (UBC). I too don't agree that
> AISC has a right to empeach upon the professional community a protection
> of the physical attributes necessary to design steel. I do know that
> more than one software vendor has refused to pay a royalty to AISC and
> the issues have not been taken to court.
> If an engineer writes a piece of software that encorporates the design
> of a moment connection as described within the AISC ASD manual, will you
> make him remove the software from the market because he violated your
> copyright.
> I hope you see my point. Combined within software, a methodology can not
> be copyrighted, but AISC concludes that section properties manufactured
> by virtually all steel companies are exclusive properties of AISC. It
> doesn't make much sense.
> Respectfully (and I do mean that seriously)
> Dennis
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Carter, Charlie [mailto:carter(--nospam--at)]
> Sent: Monday, October 07, 2002 3:57 PM
> To: 'seaint(--nospam--at)'
> Subject: RE: Building Codes Online?
> Dennis,
> Responding to two posts in one....
> Thank you for your complimentary postings about AISC. I appreciate that
> very much.
> While I think you are correct below that there are costs that could be
> economized, I do not think it is as grand a savings potential as you
> seem to think. I do agree that some products seem to be well overpriced
> in the marketplace. I won't name names. Cough! D1.1.
> Fairly priced or not, though, I think there is no reason for a
> businessperson (engineers included) to think that someone else should
> buy them or give them the tools they need to earn a living. Buy them,
> use them, and charge what you should for the services you provide. Isn't
> that the way to elevate this profession?
> Charlie
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