Trade Group Won’t Sue|Over Air Duct Manual

     (CN) – A trade association agreed to drop “trumped up,” “wrongheaded” copyright claims aimed at blocking a nonprofit from posting a 1985 air duct manual online, a digital rights group said.
     The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SMACNA) said it will not pursue a take-down demand against over the 1985 HVAC Air Duct Leakage Test Manual, posted online in July 2012.
     Public Resource, represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, sued the trade group in San Francisco in February, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief.
     The nonprofit plaintiff regularly posts legal materials and government records – including fire safety codes, pipeline safety standards and food safety standards – on its website, law.resource.org.
     In January, SMACNA demanded that Public Resource take the federally mandated air-duct standard offline, claiming the posting violated its copyright.
     In response, Public Resource’s lawyers asked a federal court to declare that the standards became part of the public domain once they were incorporated into law.
     “EFF asked a federal judge to protect the free speech rights of an online archive of laws and legal standards after a wrongheaded copyright claim forced the removal of a document detailing important technical standards required by the federal government and several states,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a statement.
     Public Resource claims it removed the manual from the Internet in February.
     SMACNA “attempted to avoid” responding to the lawsuit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation claims, but relented last week and agreed not to assert a copyright claim over the standards.
     “In today’s technical world, public-safety codes are some of the country’s most important laws,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a statement. “Public access to such codes can be crucial when, for example, there is an industrial accident, a disaster such as Hurricane Katrina, or when a homebuyer simply wishes to independently consider whether her house was built to code standards. Publishing the codes online, in a readily-accessible format, also makes it possible for reporters and other interested citizens to search, excerpt, compare, and copy them.”
     Public Resource and its counsel called the turnabout a “victory for free speech and open government.”
     “Whether it’s the Constitution or a building code, the law is part of the public domain,” said Corynne McSherry, intellectual property director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “We’re glad SMACNA is abandoning its effort to undermine that essential principle.”
     Public.Resource.Org founder Carl Malamud added: “It’s about time standards development organizations recognized that if a technical standard has been incorporated into federal law, the public has a right to read it, speak it and copy it freely. We hope SMACNA has finally learned that lesson.”
     Under the terms of the settlement ordered Tuesday, SMACNA agreed to pay Public Resource a nominal fee of $1.
     The parties must cover their own fees and costs, and agreed not to pursue further legal action over the manual and related materials.

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