Press Release Copyright Reform

Public Knowledge Files Amicus Brief in ASTM International v. Public.Resource.Org

January 11, 2016

Today, Public Knowledge, Knowledge Ecology International and the American Library Association filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in the case ASTM International v. Public.Resource.Org. The case concerns the questions of whether building codes standards incorporated by reference can be protected by copyright. Public Knowledge maintains in this amicus brief that the law in and of itself cannot be copyrighted and thus, ASTM International and other standards organizations cannot own a copyright on the law.

The following can be attributed to Meredith Rose, Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge:

“Free and unfettered access to the law has long been a cornerstone of American democracy. Plaintiffs’ claims are a blatant attempt to use copyright law as a bulldozer against the public domain. Their claim that incorporated statutory language is eligible for copyright protection because it is ‘creative’ (and can thus be ‘paraphrased’) ignores the fact that the words of the law are definitive; rephrasing the law is no substitute.

“More importantly, the public’s access to the exact text of the law is a fundamental right drawn from the Constitution. The plaintiffs purport to satisfy this critical public need by offering ‘reading room’ websites that make the law available. However, these websites are difficult to use and inaccessible to the visually disabled, therefore hindering true public access to the law. The law cannot be considered truly accessible when (in the words of one legal sage) it is ‘on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.’”

You may view our amicus brief for more information on this case.