On September 25, 2017, the Cyberlaw Clinic and local counsel Catherine Gellis filed an amicus brief on behalf of members of Congress Zoe Lofgren (D-CA 19th District) and Darrell Issa (R-CA 49th District) in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The brief supports defendant-appellant Public.Resource.org (Public Resource) in the case American Society of Testing Engineers (ASTM) et. al. v. Public.Resource.org, Case No. 17-7035 (D.C. Cir.). The appeal — a consolidation of two district court cases, both filed by standard developing organizations (SDOs) — addresses the copyrightability of the law and standards incorporated therein. The crux of the case is whether the text of applicable law may be shared freely by non-profit organizations like Public Resource.
When model codes and standards become part of federal, state, or local regulations, the text is often not reproduced in the location where the law is published. Rather, citizens interested in reading the content of enacted statutes and regs must access the incorporated materials via the SDOs’ publication channels. These may come with high access fees or remain incompatible with online accessibility tools for the disabled. Public Resource acquired copies of a number of standards and codes, made them public, and was sued for copyright and trademark infringement by the SDOs.
The Clinic previously filed amicus briefs on behalf of legal scholars in support of Public Resource in both cases brought in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The district court ruled in favor of both sets of plaintiffs-appellees, the “ASTM Plaintiffs”—ASTM, National Fire Protection Association, Inc. (NFPA), and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)—and the “AERA Plaintiffs”—American Education Resource Association (AERA), American Psychological Association (APA), and the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME), finding copyright and trademark infringement in the publication on Public Resource’s website of model codes and standards incorporated into law.