In downloading local ordinances, I thought it was taking a long time. My computer received the ordinances including a full copy of the NEC. Found that the county is updating computer software and that's where the glitch originated. County system is now down.
I was always curious why adopted standards like the NEC with the force of law could be copyrighted.
The level of research and feedback from the field that is needed to craft the NEC is beyond the capacity of all but maybe the very largest jurisdictions. There's also the benefit of uniformity (for most of it, even as local jurisdictions sometimes have variations).
So the model of having each local jurisdiction write their own is not practical. That leaves a common entity to do so. The choices then are to have the federal government do it or a private corporation (which is also what you'd have if the many local jurisdictions just formed their own shared entity to do it).
Either way, the process of crafting the code is very expensive. It has to be paid for by some means. These options would include federal taxes (if the fed did it), jurisdiction contribution (hard to enforce), or supplementary payment in approximate proportion to use (e.g. pay to get a copy of the code). As long as the payment for the code is kept reasonable I'm all for the latter.
I believe it is reasonable in the case of the NEC. That doesn't mean some future abuse by the NFPA isn't possible. I would like to see some better processes, such as a means to make emergency changes. But even this can be handled at the local level if needed.
The copyright issue was at the core of the Veeck case. While technically limited to the SBCCI and Mr. Veeck, with a ruling technically applicable only to one Federal district, I seriously doubt the greater principle advanced by Mr. Veeck will be challenged - let alone overturned.
Simply put, the court upheld the hoary rule that no man canown the law. Once a model code is adopted anywhere, by anyone, it's in the public domain.
The NFPA filed a 'friend of the court' brief when it looked like Veeck would be heard by the US Supreme Court, as did essentially everyone who writes codes. They can squirm all they want - and are trying like mad to circumvent the ruling - but I doubt any 'adopting by reference' strategem would fool the court.
Essentially every code is available, for free, on the internet ... provided you know where to look. For example, you might have to search "Alabama Fire Code" in order to find the Uniform Fire Code.
As for the capacity of code publishers to make money .... as I've pointed out in the past, some of the most profitable publishing houses dedicate themselves to publishing 'public domain' material. These houses make their money from the commentaries, indices, and related materials that they also offer. West, CCH, and Thomas are such examples.
It is significant that NFPA seems to be able to keep it's language out of state codes. I can read the ICC codes, virtually verbatim in the Florida codes with the difference in footnotes but the electrical code is just a note saying "Buy a NFPA 70"
If the copyright owner (NFPA) is not a party to the case, the ruling cannot go against them. But there could be a complicated mess, anyway.
My defense of NFPA might work like this. They publish their product. They own the copyright on it. They grant limited licenses to use the product in certain ways. They do not grant any license to publish without per-copy royalties. Does a state or local governmental entity have any right to usurp federal copyright and property law and take away the rights NFPA has? No. So these entities just don't have a right to freely/openly publish.
Can a court order party A to take property from party B, where party B is not even a defendant in the case, and give that property to party C? I think not, unless it can fall under eminent domain. Then see below, anyway.
The implications of a ruling that says all laws, including references, must be freely available, would mean that affected jurisdictions would have to not use NFPA to be in a position of compliance. The practical effect is that we would not have a funding mechanism for the level of engineering research that is needed for the NEC.
The issue will become political, and in the end the only practical answer is for a federally funded agency to take over NEC and make it law of the land on a federal basis. Do we want that? It wouldn't really bother me that much if it went this way. For example, agencies like the FCC have to do a lot of engineering work for the regulations they have. Imagine having something like "Federal Electrical Safety Commission".
But in the end, the courts could not force NFPA to continue to develop NEC and give it away for free. If they forced NEC to be free (eminent domain being the only way I see to take it ... and that requires reimbursement, anyway) then the NFPA would likely abandon future development along those lines except to the extent of making proposals in their own interest to that suggested "FESC".
My real problem with the NEC is the amount of churn that is generated by a 3 year code cycle. Most states have not even adopted the current code when the ROPs are closed for the next addition. I think they code should be on a 5 year cycle at the absolute minimum and a 10 year cycle would make a lot of sense. It certainly appears that safety has taken a back seat to selling books, selling new/unproven technologies that are beta tested in the customer's homes and selling "code change" seminars. How many obsolete AFCIs were installed in customer's homes at the point of a government gun because they were not ready when they were mandated in the code?