Handling Standards Correctly

I was at the Standards Update for the SLA (Special Librariies  Association) convention in Phoenix this week.  (Yes it was very hot down there!)  And a question came up about Interlibrary Loan (ILL).  The question was, can a standard be sent from one library to another using ILL?  I figure if a librarian has a question about how to correctly handle these copyright documents, maybe you have a question about this too.

The first thing to recognize is that there is a big difference in how you should handle the standards you purchased based on the format you buy.  Copyright law is very clear that when you purchase information in one medium (paper, pdf, e-book, and so on) you do not have the right to transform it into any other format.  So it is illegal to scan a copyright paper document for any reason at all.

Also, you need to take into consideration the fact that when you purchase most standards in pdf format, you accept a license agreement in the process.  Usually, the license restricts your ability to distribute the item.  In other words, most of the time you are getting a single user license that allows you to keep the pdf file on 1 computer for the use of 1 person only.  Ergo, no further distribution at all.

However, if the license does allow you to print 1 paper copy, this is a different kettle of fish.  As all of you library users know, it is entirely legal to loan a paper-based document/book to others.  What are the rules?  It has to be the physical copy that you purchased.  This extends to a printed paper copy as long as it’s within the bounds described in your license.  If you’re allowed 1 printed copy from your pdf file, that’s the only paper copy you can use or share.  No additional print copies are OK.

So a library or organization can take a legally purchased paper copy and loan that copy only to another entity.  This is the concept behind the use of Interlibrary Loan.  And it means that you have this right too.

However, when working with standards you should always remember that you are not a standards distributor.  You can share a print copy with others.  You can have someone else sit at your desk and take a look at a pdf copy you purchased.  And you can and should back up the pdf documents you buy in case of a computer disaster.  But you are not allowed to take a standard you purchase and freely give additional copies to your friends and neighbors.  You must adhere to the rules of copyright.

Why is this especially important in the world of standards?  The consensus standards system of the United States is based on the use of volunteer experts and others to create this valuable data.  The administration of this system is rigorous and costs money.  When you buy a standard, most of the purchase price goes to support this system.  Without the revenues generated from the sales of standards, our system would collapse.

Other information sets are becoming contested.  Many find that they no longer have confidence in the information they are getting from various channels.  Standards must be trusted — it’s not up for discussion.  The information in the standards you use must be complete and correct.  So the current system fulfills a valuable requirement in assuring safety and inter-connectivity of the things we make and use.

Knowing that standards are developed in a consensus fashion, by experts but with public review as an essential element, gives us the assurance we need.  Your compliance with copyright and purchasing your standards from reputable and authorized sources like Document Center Inc. keep this system viable.  Thanks so much for supporting the standards system by following the rules of copyright.

And if you ever have a question about other ways to use the standards you purchase within your organization, please check in with us.  You can reach us by phone (650-591-7600) and email (info@document-center.com).  Our Standards Online service can give you wider accessibility within legal bounds.  After all, it truly is a partnership between the standards developer and you, the standards user.

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Claudia Bach

Claudia Bach is the President of Document Center Inc. and a world-wide recognized expert on Standards and Standards Distribution. You can connect with her on Google+

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