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U.S. District Court Rules in Favor of Copyright Protection for Standards Incorporated by Reference into Federal Regulations


The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the coordinator of the U.S. standards and conformity assessment system, is very pleased with the recent U.S. District Court ruling in favor of ASTM International, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), whose standards are incorporated into federal law. The District Court Judge held that Plaintiffs' standards did not enter the public domain upon their incorporation by reference into federal regulations and did not thereby lose their copyright protection. The decision represents a victory for the standards community and prevents Public.Resource.Org from posting standards developing organization (SDO)-copyrighted codes and standards to its public website.

The ruling supports ANSI members and the standards ecosystem, and enables the plaintiffs to continue to develop high-quality voluntary consensus standards that support federal, state, and local agencies. These standards help assure health, safety, and quality of life for millions of individuals worldwide.

"As coordinator of the U.S. standardization system, ANSI has been a vocal proponent of copyright protection for standards developers whose standards have been incorporated by reference into regulation, as well as for providing reasonable access to such standards to interested users," said S. Joe Bhatia, ANSI president and CEO. "We were proud to submit an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in this case, and are pleased that the district court has found in their favor," said Mr. Bhatia. "The district court is aligned with the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS), the Office of the Federal Register (OFR), and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in their support of the need for copyright protection and a flexible approach for assuring the reasonable availability of standards that have been incorporated by reference."

Timothy G. Wentz, president of ASHRAE's board of directors, said in a joint statement with NFPA and ASTM International: "We and many other SDOs already provide free online access to many standards as part of our commitment to safety. Preventing the infringement of copyrighted material will allow not-for-profit SDOs to continue meeting the needs of the people and jurisdictions we serve."

Jim Pauley, NFPA president, said, "We are very pleased with the court's thoughtful and well-reasoned decision, which recognizes the importance of a time-tested process that serves governments and individuals well and is vital to public health and safety."

And Kathie Morgan, president of ASTM International, said, "The court's ruling means federal, state and local agencies can continue to rely on not-for-profit SDOs to develop voluntary consensus standards at the highest level of excellence and at minimal cost to government."

For more information about incorporation by reference, visit


As government utilizes voluntary standards for various purposes, its use of incorporation by reference (IBR) a process by which privately developed voluntary consensus standards are adopted into regulations requires that incorporated documents remain under copyright, but must be reasonably available to citizens affected by regulations.

In support of this, ANSI launched its IBR Portal, which provides access to many standards that have been incorporated by reference in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). These standards are offered at no cost in "read only" format, or are available via links to individual standards developers' access points.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


[email protected]

Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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