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.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.