Battle Brewing at ABA Over Vote on Free Access to Legal Materials

Federal regulations incorporate by reference some 9,500 different technical and scientific standards developed by private standards developing organizations (SDOs). Understanding these standards is essential to compliance with the regulations. Yet, while anyone can freely access the regulations, they must pay to access the standards — anywhere from $40 to $1,000 for a single standard and as much as $10,000 for a specific set of standards.

Free law advocates say this is untenable. But the SDOs say they’re only defending their copyrights and recouping their costs.

At the ABA Annual Meeting in two weeks, the House of Delegates will take up a resolution which would ask Congress to enact legislation that would require any federal agency to make available to the public, free of charge, the portion of a standard that a rule incorporates by reference.

Neither side of the issue is happy with the resolution and both sides have been gearing up for a fight in San Francisco.

I provide full details in my column this week at Above the Law: This Week In Legal Tech: Showdown At The ABA Over Free Law And Free Sex.

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  • avon

    This is important!
    If there is a trend, including nonpublished court opinions and higher-than-actual-cost fees for federal or state court dockets (PACER etc), lawyers and clients need to pay attention to the trend as well as to specific sub-issues like this one. So long as the trend prevails, the specific examples that get out of hand will surely multiply faster than we can keep track of them, much as specific new pharmaceutical prices have done.

    I’m for intellectual property rights, but when one is required to get the property in order to obey the law, we’ve crossed the line. Let’s keep an eye on that principle even as we address the individual examples.