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ANSI White Paper Examines Copyright Implications of Voluntary Consensus Standards in Regulation

Should standards be free? What if they are incorporated by reference into federal legislation, rules, or regulations? Should people have to pay for "the law?"

These questions have long been subject to discussion and debate within the standardization community. In an effort to formally examine this issue and provide clarity, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has published a white paper examining the copyright implications of incorporating voluntary consensus standards by reference into regulation.

The document, Why Voluntary Consensus Standards Incorporated by Reference into Federal Government Regulations Are Copyright Protected, is intended to educate U.S. standards developers, government officials, and other stakeholders about the importance of copyright in standards. It affirms that every standard is a work of authorship and is copyright protected under U.S. and international law, giving the owner certain rights of control and remuneration.

The paper discusses the significance of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA), landmark legislation requiring federal use of voluntary consensus standards wherever practicable, and the Office of Management and Budget issued Circular A-119, which guides the consistent application of the Act across federal agencies and departments.

In consideration of the significant costs associated with developing, maintaining, and distributing standards, the white paper endorses an approach that balances the standards developer's right to copyright protection with the public's right to reasonable access to the standard. The white paper also contains a bibliography of relevant materials pertaining to governmental use of voluntary consensus standards.

The full text of the white paper is available here.

The paper was approved by the ANSI's Intellectual Property Rights Policy Committee (IPRPC). The IPRPC is responsible for developing ANSI positions on issues relating to the incorporation of essential patents or other proprietary intellectual property in national, regional, or international standards, and developing positions relating to exploitation rights to the copyright in standards and the recognition of copyright protection for standards by courts, legislation, regulatory bodies, and industry.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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