Thursday, May 27, 2004
Copyrights for Building Codes
What the Supreme Court's Refusal to Decide Means Now and Prospects for the Future:
When the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from the 5th Circuit’s en banc opinion in Veeck v. Southern Building Code Congress International, Inc., it left unresolved a number of issues of concern to construction professionals. Veeck held that privately developed building codes lose important forms of copyright protection when adopted by state and local governments.

At one level, the Supreme Court’s refusal is surprising: The 5th Circuit’s opinion conflicted with a number of other circuits, presented an important nationwide question and drew an unusual six dissenting votes from en banc panelists. The Supreme Court had signaled its interest in the matter by asking the Solicitor General for the U.S. government’s views.

(The en banc decision of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is at 293 F.3d 791. The U.S. Supreme Court's denial of SBCCI's petition for writ of certiorari is at 123 S.Ct. 2636, 156 L.Ed.2d 674.)

The Problem
Whether a privately developed code that is otherwise eligible for copyright protection (that is, it contains a sufficient amount of original material) forfeits that protection by virtue of the code’s adoption by a governmental entity raises important public policy issues upon which reasonable people disagree.

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