North Carolina: New Energy Code, but Where Are the Code Books?

In the first days after it took effect, North Carolina building contractors complained that the state's new energy code was hard to read. In fact, it was impossible to read, because the new code books had not been printed. TV station WRAL had this report ("; Builders lost without booklet of new codes,"; by Sloane Heffernan, Keith Baker, and Kathy Hanrahan): ";New building codes meant to make homes more energy efficient take effect Thursday in North Carolina, but builders are having a tough time following the new guidelines since they haven't been printed into their own booklet yet... Dan Tingen, a builder who helped write the new codes as a member of the Building Code Council, said last-minute changes caused the printing delay."; State officials responded swiftly to the concern by arranging for an electronic copy of the code to be posted at the International Code Council's website. North Carolina's 2012 Energy Code can currently be viewed at this link: ("; Free Resources";). The main ";Free Resources"; category at the ICC site also contains full code language for many other states in a read-only format. Following its usual practice, the ICC included a copyright notice on the web page with the phrase ";all rights reserved."; However, any copyright claim on an official building code is highly questionable, and it's not clear what, if any, rights the ICC may possess. In the 1998 federal court case ";Veeck v. SBCCI,"; the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that building codes, when enforced as law, enter the public domain, and can be freely reproduced by anyone with no copyright constraints (see "; High Court Lets Ruling Stand: No Copyright for Building Codes,"; JLC December 2003). The Supreme Court declined to take up an SBCCI appeal in the Veeck case, leaving the ruling in force. A similar ruling by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in a Massachusetts case reached the same result: BOCA, the publishers of the Massachusetts building code at that time, were unable to restrict a private company from publishing and selling copies of the building code on its own. The voiding of any copyright asserted by building code authorities in the First and the Fifth Circuits is standing law in those regions (the Fifth Circuit has jurisdiction in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, while the First Circuit has jurisdiction in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island). And considering that the high court has declined to review the matter, district courts and circuit courts of appeal in other parts of the country would likely follow the same policy and treat building codes as public property. So while the ICC maintains a policy of asserting copyright claims to state building codes, the organization's claim is on weak legal footing and is likely impossible to enforce under current law.