AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATION, INC. et al v. PUBLIC.RESOURCE.ORG, INC.
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION re #60 Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and #69 Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 2/2/2017. (lctsc2)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR TESTING
AND MATERIALS, et al.,
RESEARCH ASSOCIATION, INC. et al.,
Case No. 13-cv-1215 (TSC)
Case No. 14-cv-0857 (TSC)
Before the court are motions and cross-motions for summary judgment in two related
cases. Because there is significant factual and legal overlap between the two cases, the court
issues this consolidated opinion to be filed in both cases.
Plaintiffs American Society for Testing and Materials (“ASTM”), National Fire
Protection Association, Inc. (“NFPA”), and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and
Air-Conditioning Engineers (“ASHRAE”) (collectively “ASTM Plaintiffs”) brought suit against
Defendant Public.Resource.org, Inc. (“Public Resource”) under the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C.
§ 101 et seq.) and the Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq.), alleging copyright infringement
and trademark infringement. Plaintiffs American Educational Research Association, Inc.
(“AERA”), American Psychological Association, Inc. (“APA”), and National Council on
Measurement in Education, Inc. (“NCME”) (collectively “AERA Plaintiffs”) also brought
copyright infringement claims against Public Resource under the Copyright Act. Plaintiffs 1 in
both cases seek permanent injunctions barring Defendant from continued display of their works.
Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment, and Defendant filed cross-motions for summary
judgment in both cases. The court held a combined oral argument on September 12, 2016 to
consider the motions. Upon consideration of the parties’ filings, the numerous amicus briefs,
and the arguments presented at the motions hearing, and for the reasons stated herein, the ASTM
Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and Defendant’s cross-motion is
DENIED. The AERA Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment is GRANTED IN PART AND
DENIED IN PART, and Defendant’s cross-motion is DENIED.
ASTM Plaintiffs are not-for-profit organizations that develop private sector codes and
standards in order to advance public safety, ensure compatibility across products and services,
facilitate training, and spur innovation. (See ASTM Pls. Statement of Material Facts (“PSMF”)
¶¶ 9, 13, 14, 86, 87, 129, 130 (ASTM ECF No. 118-2)). 2 These standards include technical
works, product specifications, installation methods, methods for manufacturing or testing
materials, safety practices, and other best practices or guidelines. (Id. ¶ 1). ASTM has
For simplicity, the court’s use of “Plaintiffs” refers collectively to the ASTM Plaintiffs and
All initial citations to the record in this Opinion will include the docket number as “ASTM
ECF” or “AERA ECF.”
developed over 12,000 standards that are used in a wide range of fields, including consumer
products, iron and steel products, rubber, paints, plastics, textiles, medical services and devices,
electronics, construction, energy, water, and petroleum products, and are the combined efforts of
over 23,000 technical members, representing producers, users, consumers, government, and
academia. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 28, 41). NFPA has developed over 300 standards in the areas of fire,
electrical, and building safety, with the goal of reducing the risk of death, injury, and property
and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards. (Id. ¶¶ 86, 87, 92). NFPA’s most
well-known standard is the National Electrical Code, first published in 1897 and most recently in
2014. (Id. ¶¶ 93–94). Finally, ASHRAE has published over 100 standards for a variety of
construction-related fields, including energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration, and
sustainability. (Id. ¶ 130).
AERA Plaintiffs are not-for-profit organizations that collaboratively develop the
Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, including the 1999 edition at issue in this
case (“the 1999 Standards”). (AERA PSMF ¶¶ 1, 5, 13 (AERA ECF No. 60-2)). AERA is a
national scientific society whose mission is “to advance knowledge about education, to
encourage scholarly inquiry related to education, and to promote the use of research to improve
education.” (Id. ¶ 2). APA is the world’s largest association of psychologists, and its mission is
“to advance the creation, communication, and application of psychological knowledge.” (Id.
¶ 3). Finally, NCME is a professional organization “for individuals involved in assessment,
evaluation, testing, and other aspects of educational measurement.” (Id. ¶ 4).
Defendant Public Resource is a not-for-profit entity devoted to publicly disseminating
legal information. (ASTM DSMF ¶¶ 1–2 (ASTM ECF No. 120-3); AERA DSMF ¶¶ 1–2
(AERA ECF No. 68-3)). Its mission is “make the law and other government materials more
widely available so that people, businesses, and organizations can easily read and discuss [the]
laws and the operations of government.” (ASTM DSMF ¶ 2; AERA DSMF ¶ 2). Public
Resource has posted government-authored materials on its website, including judicial opinions,
Internal Revenue Service records, patent filings, and safety regulations. (ASTM DSMF ¶¶ 3–4;
AERA DSMF ¶¶ 3–4). It does not charge fees to view or download the materials on its website.
(ASTM DSMF ¶ 5; AERA DSMF ¶ 5).
Incorporation by Reference of Industry Standards
In the United States, a complex public-private partnership has developed over the last
century in which private industry groups or associations, rather than government agencies,
typically develop standards, guidelines, and procedures that set the best practices in a particular
industry. 3 Applicable standards are used by entities and individuals in order to self-regulate and
conform to the best practices of that industry. Professor Peter Strauss has noted that
“manufacturing and markets are greatly aided, and consumers offered protection, by the
application of uniform industrial standards created independent of law, as means of assuring
quality, compatibility, and other highly desired market characteristics.” Peter L. Strauss, Private
Standards Organizations and Public Law, 22 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 497, 499 (2013).
See U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Revised Circular No. A-119,
https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/omb/inforeg/revised_circular_a119_as_of_1_22.pdf (“OMB Revised Circular”) at 1 (Jan. 27, 2016) (“The vibrancy and
effectiveness of the U.S. standards system in enabling innovation depends on continued private
sector leadership and engagement. Our approach—reliance on private sector leadership,
supplemented by Federal government contributions to discrete standardization processes as
outlined in OMB Circular A-119—remains the primary strategy for government engagement in
Standards are typically developed by standards developing organizations (“SDOs”), like
Plaintiffs, who work to develop “voluntary consensus standards,” such as those here. Voluntary
consensus standards are the ultimate product of many volunteers and association members from
numerous sectors bringing together technical expertise. They are “developed using procedures
whose breadth of reach and interactive characteristics resemble governmental rulemaking, with
adoption requiring an elaborate process of development, reaching a monitored consensus among
those responsible within the SDO.” Id. at 501. ASTM Plaintiffs develop their standards using
technical committees with representatives from industry, government, consumers, and technical
experts. (ASTM PSMF ¶¶ 7, 28, 29, 109, 114, 135). These committees conduct open
proceedings, consider comments and suggestions, and provide for appeals, and through
subcommittees, draft new standards, which the full committees vote on. (Id. ¶¶ 31–37, 109, 136,
139). The AERA Plaintiffs developed the 1999 Standards through a Joint Committee which
considered input from the public in a notice-and-comment process. (AERA PSMF ¶¶ 13–16).
Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552, federal agencies may incorporate voluntary consensus
standards—as well as, for example, state regulations, government-authored documents, and
product service manuals—into federal regulations by reference. See Emily S. Bremer,
Incorporation by Reference in an Open-Government Age, 36 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 131, 145–
47 (2013) (providing a general overview of the federal government’s incorporation of materials
by reference). The federal government’s practice of incorporation by reference of voluntary
consensus standards is intended to achieve several goals, including eliminating the cost to the
federal government of developing its own standards, encouraging long-term growth for U.S.
enterprises, promoting efficiency, competition, and trade, and furthering the reliance upon
private sector expertise. See OMB Revised Circular, supra, at 14.
Section 552(a)(1) provides that “a person may not in any manner be required to resort to,
or be adversely affected by, a matter required to be published in the Federal Register and not so
published[, but] . . . matter reasonably available to the class of persons affected thereby is
deemed published in the Federal Register when incorporated by reference therein with the
approval of the Director of the Federal Register.” 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(1) (emphasis added). The
Office of the Federal Register (“OFR”) adopted regulations pursuant to § 552(a)(1) in 1982 and
issued revised regulations in 2014. See Approval Procedures for Incorporation by Reference, 47
Fed. Reg. 34,107 (Aug. 6, 1982) (codified at 1 C.F.R. § 51.1 et seq.); 79 Fed. Reg. 66,267 (Nov.
7, 2014). These regulations specify that a “publication is eligible for incorporation by reference”
if it is “published data, criteria, standards, specifications, techniques, illustrations, or similar
material; and [d]oes not detract from the usefulness of the Federal Register publication system.”
1 C.F.R. § 51.7(a)(2). To determine whether the material is “reasonably available” as required
by the statute, OFR will consider “[t]he completeness and ease of handling of the publication”
and “[w]hether it is bound, numbered, and organized, as applicable.” Id. § 51.7(a)(3). All the
standards at issue in this case have been incorporated by reference into federal law. (ASTM
DSMF ¶ 22; 34 C.F.R. § 668.146 (incorporating AERA Plaintiffs’ 1999 Standards).
Standards that are incorporated by reference are available in person at the OFR in
Washington, DC and/or with the incorporating agency. See 1 C.F.R. § 51.3(b)(4). Federal
regulations that incorporate standards by reference typically direct interested individuals or
entities to location(s) where they may view the incorporated documents in person. For example,
the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) regulation, 40 C.F.R. § 60.17(a), which
incorporates numerous standards at issue here, states that:
Certain material is incorporated by reference into this part with the approval of the
Director of the Federal Register under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a) and 1 CFR part 51. . . .
All approved material is available for inspection at the EPA Docket Center, Public
Reading Room, EPA WJC West, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Ave. NW,
Washington, DC, telephone number 202-566-1744, and is available from the
sources listed below. It is also available for inspection at the National Archives and
Records Administration (NARA). For information on the availability of this
material at NARA, call (202) 741-6030 or go to http://www.archives.gov/
The EPA regulation further specifies that, for example, the 206 ASTM standards incorporated by
reference by the EPA (some of which are involved in this suit) are “available for purchase from
ASTM International, 100 Barr Harbor Drive, P.O. Box CB700, West Conshohocken,
Pennsylvania 19428-2959, (800) 262-1373, http://www.astm.org.” 40 C.F.R. § 60.17(h). The
U.S. Department of Education incorporated the AERA Plaintiffs’ 1999 Standards by reference at
34 C.F.R. § 668.146(b)(6), which states that the standards are:
on file at the Department of Education, Federal Student Aid, room 113E2, 830 First
Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002, phone (202) 377-4026, and at the National
Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For information on the availability
of this material at NARA, call 1-866-272-6272, or to go: http://www.archives.gov/
federal-register/code-of-federal-regulations/ibr-locations.html. The document may
also be obtained from the American Educational Research Association.
ASTM Plaintiffs sell PDF and hard copy versions of their standards, including those that
have been incorporated by reference into law. (ASTM PSMF ¶¶ 57, 99, 157). The prices for the
standards in this case range from $25 to $200. (Id. ¶¶ 58, 99, 158). The ASTM Plaintiffs also
maintain “reading rooms” on their websites that allow interested parties to view Plaintiffs’
standards that have been incorporated by reference. (Id. ¶¶ 63–64, 100, 161). The standards in
these reading rooms are “read-only,” meaning they appear as images that may not be printed or
downloaded. (Id.). AERA Plaintiffs sell hardcopy versions of the 1999 Standards, but do not
sell digital or PDF versions. (AERA PSMF ¶¶ 30, 33). The prices for the 1999 Standards have
ranged from $25.95 to $49.95 per copy, and they were sold continuously from 2000 through
2014, except for a nearly two-year period. (Id. ¶¶ 34–35).
Plaintiffs’ Claims in This Action
ASTM et al. v. Public Resource
This case involves 257 of ASTM Plaintiffs’ standards that have been incorporated by
reference into federal law. (See ASTM Compl. Ex. A–C; ASTM DSMF ¶ 22). Defendant
admits that it purchased hard copies of each of the standards at issue, scanned them into PDF
files, added a cover sheet, and posted them online. (ASTM DSMF ¶¶ 173–74, 177–78; ASTM
PSMF ¶¶ 182–87). Defendant re-typed some of ASTM Plaintiffs’ standards and posted them
online, with text in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) format and graphics and figures in
Mathematics Markup Language and Scalable Vector Graphics formats. (ASTM DSMF ¶¶ 83,
175). The copies posted on Defendant’s website all bore ASTM Plaintiffs’ trademarks. (ASTM
PSMF ¶ 210). Defendant also uploaded the ASTM Plaintiffs’ standards to the Internet Archive,
a separate independent website. (Id. ¶ 185).
The ASTM Plaintiffs allege that their standards are original works protected from
copyright infringement, and brought claims of copyright infringement, contributory copyright
infringement, trademark infringement, unfair competition and false designation, and trademark
infringement under common law. (ASTM Compl. ¶¶ 142–95). Defendant counter-sued, seeking
a declaratory judgment that its conduct does not violate copyright law or trademark law. (ASTM
Ans. ¶¶ 174–205). Both sides have filed motions for summary judgment.
AERA et al. v. Public Resource
This case involves the 1999 Standards, which AERA Plaintiffs have sold since 2000.
(AERA PSMF ¶¶ 34–35). In May 2012, Public Resource purchased a paper copy of the 1999
Standards, disassembled it, scanned the pages, created a PDF file, attached a cover sheet, and,
without authorization from the AERA Plaintiffs, posted the PDF file to Public Resource’s
website and the Internet Archive. (AERA DSMF ¶ 28; AERA PSMF ¶¶ 69–80). Public
Resource posted a read-only version of the 1999 Standards to its website, unlike many of the
ASTM Plaintiffs’ standards, which had undergone optical character recognition (“OCR”)
processing to be text-searchable. (Id. ¶ 73). OCR processing uses a machine to recognize letters
and words in a PDF and translate them into letters or words that can be searched and used by
text-to-speech software for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. (Id. ¶¶ 73–75).
Plaintiffs allege that the 1999 Standards are protected original works, and they brought
suit claiming copyright infringement and contributory copyright infringement. (AERA Compl.
¶¶ 50–63). Defendant counter-sued seeking a declaratory judgment that its conduct does not
violate copyright law or trademark law. (AERA Ans. ¶¶ 116–37). Both sides have moved for
Summary judgment may be granted if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247–48 (1986) (“[T]he mere
existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine
issue of material fact.”) (emphasis in original); Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir.
2006). Summary judgment may be rendered on a “claim or defense . . . or [a] part of each claim
or defense.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
“A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the
assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in the record.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A).
“A fact is ‘material’ if a dispute over it might affect the outcome of a suit under governing law;
factual disputes that are ‘irrelevant or unnecessary’ do not affect the summary judgment
determination. An issue is ‘genuine’ if ‘the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.’” Holcomb, 433 F.3d at 895 (quoting Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S.
at 248) (citation omitted). The party seeking summary judgment “bears the heavy burden of
establishing that the merits of his case are so clear that expedited action is justified.” Taxpayers
Watchdog, Inc. v. Stanley, 819 F.2d 294, 297 (D.C. Cir. 1987).
In considering a motion for summary judgment, “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to
be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S.
at 255; see also Mastro v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 447 F.3d 843, 850 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (“We
view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all inferences in
its favor.”). The nonmoving party’s opposition, however, must consist of more than mere
unsupported allegations or denials, and must be supported by affidavits, declarations, or other
competent evidence setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The non-movant “is
required to provide evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find [in his favor].”
Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987).
Under the Copyright Act, copyright in a work vests initially in the author(s) of that work.
17 U.S.C. § 201(a). Ownership can be transferred in whole or in part, and the exclusive rights of
copyright ownership may also be transferred. Id. § 201(d). An owner of a valid copyright has
the “exclusive right” to reproduce, distribute, or display the copyrighted works as well as prepare
derivative works based upon it. Id. § 106(1)–(3), (5). Anyone who violates the exclusive rights
of the copyright owner “is an infringer of the copyright or right of the author, as the case may
be.” Id. § 501(a). The legal or beneficial owner of that exclusive right may then “institute an
action for any infringement.” Id. § 501(b). In order to succeed on their copyright infringement
claims, the Plaintiffs must prove both “‘(1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) copying of
constituent elements of the work that are original.’” Stenograph, LLC v. Bossard Assoc., Inc.,
144 F.3d 96, 99 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (quoting Feist Publ’ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S.
340, 361 (1991)).
Feist Prong 1: Ownership of a Valid Copyright
The court must first decide the threshold issue of whether Plaintiffs own the copyrights in
part or outright such that they have standing to challenge Defendant’s alleged infringement. The
Copyright Act provides that possession of a certificate of registration from the U.S. Copyright
Office “made before or within five years after first publication of the work shall constitute prima
facie evidence,” creating a rebuttable presumption of ownership of a valid copyright. 17 U.S.C.
§ 410(c); see also MOB Music Publ’g. v. Zanzibar on the Waterfront, LLC, 698 F. Supp. 2d 197,
202 (D.D.C. 2010). If the copyright was registered more than five years after the work was
published, then the “evidentiary weight to be accorded . . . shall be within the discretion of the
court.” 17 U.S.C. § 410(c).
When a party offers as prima facie evidence a registration certificate for a compilation of
individual works that it authored, rather than the registration for a specific individual work, a
court may consider this to be similar prima facie evidence of ownership, creating the same
rebuttable presumption. See Xoom, Inc. v. Imageline, Inc., 323 F.3d 279, 283-84 (4th Cir. 2003),
abrogated by Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick, 559 U.S. 154 (2010); Morris v. Business
Concepts, Inc., 259 F.3d 65, 68 (2d Cir. 2001), abrogated on other grounds by Muchnick, 559
U.S. 154 (2010). Moreover, the registration certificate is sufficient prima facie evidence for the
individual works within the compilation if the compilation is deemed to be a “single work.”
Federal regulations provide that “all copyrightable elements that are otherwise recognizable as
self-contained works, that are included in a single unit of publication, and in which the copyright
claimant is the same” constitute a “single work,” such that they are validly registered under a
single registration certificate 37 C.F.R. § 202.3(b)(4)(A); Kay Berry, Inc. v. Taylor Gifts, Inc.,
4221 F.3d 199, 205–06 (3d Cir. 2005); Yurman Studio, Inc. v. Castaneda, 591 F. Supp. 2d 471,
483 (S.D.N.Y. 2008).
Once a copyright holder has proffered this prima facie evidence, the alleged infringer
“challenging the validity of the copyright has the burden to prove the contrary.” Hamil Am., Inc.
v. GFI, Inc., 193 F.3d 92, 98 (2d Cir. 1999); United Fabrics Int’l, Inc. v. C&J Wear, Inc., 630
F.3d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 2011) (infringer “has the burden of rebutting the facts set forth in the
copyright certificate”). The defendant-infringer might argue that the plaintiff-copyright holder
had some defect in the record-keeping submitted to establish ownership. However, this “skips a
step,” as the defendant must first “set forth facts that rebut the presumption of validity to which
[the plaintiff’s] copyright is entitled” before attacking the sufficiency of a plaintiff’s evidence of
ownership. United Fabrics, 630 F.3d at 1257. The infringer must use “other evidence in the
record [to] cast doubt on” the validity of the ownership. Fonar Corp. v. Domenick, 105 F.3d
99, 104 (2d Cir. 1997) (emphasis in original). The court in Fonar noted that defendant-infringers
have overcome the presumption of validity with evidence that the work has been copied from the
public domain and evidence that the work was non-copyrightable. Id. (citing Folio Impressions,
Inc. v. Byer Cal., 937 F.2d 759, 763–64 (2d Cir. 1991); Carol Barnhart, Inc. v. Economy Cover
Corp., 773 F.2d 411, 414 (2d Cir. 1985)). Parties challenging the validity of copyright
registrations must therefore do more than simply point out potential errors in the certificate. See
2 Nimmer on Copyright § 7.20(b)(1) (“a misstatement . . . in the registration application, if
unaccompanied by fraud, should neither invalidate the copyright nor render the registration
certificate incapable of supporting an infringement action”).
The ASTM Plaintiffs produced copyright certificates for each of the nine standards at
issue, and each of these certificates list the ASTM Plaintiffs as the authors of the works. 4 The
AERA Plaintiffs also produced the copyright certificates for the 1999 Standards, listing the
AERA Plaintiffs as authors. 5 Two of ASTM’s standards—D86-07 and D975-07—were
registered more than five years after they were published. The court accords these the same
evidentiary weight as if they had been registered within five years. See 17 U.S.C. § 410(c) (court
has discretion over evidentiary weight). Moreover, the court finds that the registration certificate
for the 1999 Book of Standards sufficiently establishes prima facie evidence of ASTM’s
ownership of D396-98 and D1217-93(98). Therefore, the ASTM Plaintiffs and AERA Plaintiffs
have established their ownership of the works at issue with prima facie evidence.
The nine copyright registrations are provided in the record here:
ASTM: Ex. 1 to O’Brien Decl. (ASTM D86-07) (ASTM ECF No. 118-7, p. 13); Ex. 2 to
O’Brien Decl. (ASTM D975-07) (ASTM ECF No. 118-7, p. 16); Ex. 4 to O’Brien Decl.
(1999 Annual Book of ASTM Standards) (ASTM ECF No. 118-7, p. 23); Ex. 3 to O’Brien
Decl. (listing ASTM D396-98 and ASTM D1217-93(98) as standards included in the 1999
Annual Book of ASTM Standards) (ASTM ECF No. 118-7, pp. 20–21).
NFPA: Ex. A to Berry Decl. (National Electrical Code, 2011 ed.) (ASTM ECF No. 118-3,
p. 6); Ex. B to Berry Decl. (2014 ed.) (ASTM ECF No. 118-3, p. 8).
ASHRAE: Ex. 3 to Reiniche Decl. (Standard 90.1, 2004 ed.) (ASTM ECF No. 118-10,
page 16); Ex. 4 to Reiniche Decl. (2007 ed.) (ASTM ECF No. 118-10, page 19); Ex. 5 to
Reiniche Decl. (2010 ed.) (ASTM ECF No. 118-10, page 22).
Ex. RRR to Levine Decl. (original copyright registration) (AERA ECF No. 60-83); Ex. SSS to
Levine Decl. (2014 corrected registration) (AERA ECF No. 60-84).
The burden to offer evidence disproving ownership thus shifts in both cases to Defendant.
See Zanzibar, 698 F. Supp. 2d at 202; Roeslin v. District of Columbia, 921 F. Supp. 793, 797
(D.D.C. 1995) (finding that because the copyright registration listed plaintiff as the author, the
“burden is thus on the defendant to establish” that plaintiff was not the author). To rebut the
presumption of validity, in both cases Defendant pointed to the fact that the certificates state that
the standards were “works for hire”—i.e., that Plaintiffs acquired authorship and ownership
rights because their employees or anyone who signed a work-for-hire agreement wrote the
standards—and the certificates further state that Plaintiffs are the authors of the “entire text[s],”
when Plaintiffs have said that the standards are drafted by hundreds or thousands of volunteer
contributors. Defendant contends that the certificates must list all of these hundreds or thousands
of authors in order to be accurate, and that the failure to do so is a material error which strips
Plaintiffs of the presumption of ownership. However, Defendant offers scant support for this
Moreover, Defendant failed to meet its initial burden, since it did not adduce any
additional evidence disproving Plaintiffs’ authorship. Instead, Defendant points to weaknesses
in the additional evidence that Plaintiffs proffered to establish their ownership, including
questioning whether every one of the hundreds of Plaintiffs’ members who contributed to the
standards at issue signed an agreement with appropriate language transferring or assigning
copyright ownership to Plaintiffs. Because Plaintiffs may have standing to bring this
infringement suit even as part owners of the copyrights, it is not clear why Defendant asserts that
Plaintiffs must prove outright ownership of their copyrights. Beyond showing that Plaintiffs’
recordkeeping could perhaps be more thorough, Defendant has not identified any evidence that
either the ASTM Plaintiffs or AERA Plaintiffs do not own the copyrights of the standards, in
whole or in part. The court therefore concludes that the ASTM Plaintiffs and AERA Plaintiffs
are the owners of the copyrights at issue and have standing to bring their claims. 6
Defendant also argues that Plaintiffs do not own “valid” copyrights under Feist because
the standards either were never copyrightable or lost their copyright protection upon
incorporation by reference into federal regulations. Defendant argues that the standards cannot
be copyrighted because: (1) they are methods or systems, which are not entitled to protection
under 17 U.S.C. § 102(b); (2) the standards are in the public domain as “the law”; and (3) the
merger and scènes à faire doctrines preclude a finding of infringement.
Methods or Systems under Copyright Act § 102(b)
Section 102(b) of the Copyright Act specifies eight types of works that are not protected
by copyright: “In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to
any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery,
regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.”
17 U.S.C. § 102(b). Though these eight types of works are not further defined in the statute, the
legislative history accompanying the Copyright Act of 1976 offers some starting guidance:
“Section 102(b) in no way enlarges or contracts the scope of copyright protection under the
present law. Its purpose is to restate, in the context of the new single Federal system of
copyright, that the basic dichotomy between expression and idea remains unchanged.” H.R.
Defendant did not dispute that “ASTM has copyright registrations that cover each of the
standards at issue in this litigation” except as to one standard, ASTM D323-58(68). (See Def.
Statement of Disputed Facts ¶ 70 (ASTM ECF No. 121-3)). Therefore, unless Defendant
presents evidence disproving ownership, the court is likely to conclude, based on these copyright
registrations, that the ASTM Plaintiffs are the owners of the remaining standards at issue in this
litigation, with the exception of D323-58(68). As to this standard, ASTM will need to present
additional evidence establishing ownership.
Rep. No. 94-1476, at 57, reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5659, 5670 (Sept. 3, 1976); S. Rep.
No. 94-473 (Nov. 20, 1975); see also 1-2A Nimmer on Copyright § 2A.06(a)(1) (summarizing
legislative history). The “basic dichotomy” refers to the well-established principle that ideas
cannot be copyrighted, but expression of those ideas can be. See 1-2A Nimmer on Copyright
§ 2A.06(a)(2)(b) (a work “is to be denied protection only if that protection would be tantamount
to protecting an excluded category (e.g., idea or method of operation) without regard to the fact
that the excluded subject matter is expressed or embodied in expression”).
This section of the Copyright Act codifies the Supreme Court’s 1879 decision in Baker v.
Selden, 101 U.S. 99 (1897), which denied copyright protection for systems, methods, processes,
and ideas. Baker evaluated a copyright claim by the author of a manual describing “a peculiar
system of book-keeping” against a defendant who published a similar guide to book-keeping
using “a similar plan so far as results are concerned[,] but mak[ing] a different arrangement of
the columns, and us[ing] different headings.” Id. at 100. The Court defined the question as
“whether the exclusive property in a system of book-keeping can be claimed, under the law or
copyright, by means of a book in which that system is explained.” Id. at 101. In answering this
question, the Court offered as an example that “[t]he copyright of a work on mathematical
science cannot give to the author an exclusive right to the methods of operation which he
propounds, or to the diagrams which he employs to explain them, so as to prevent an engineer
from using them whenever occasion requires.” Id. at 103. This distinction between the actual
method or system described by a work, which cannot be copyrighted, and the written words
describing it, which can, is fundamental to understanding the Copyright Act’s modern limitations
to copyright protection in § 102(b).
Defendant primarily argues that the Plaintiffs’ standards are completely devoid of
creative expression and are merely recitations of processes or procedures that a person or entity
would follow. Part of this argument appears to rest only on the fact that the names of the ASTM
Plaintiffs’ standards, and their descriptions or advertisements, include the words “method” and
“procedure.” See, e.g., ASTM D86-07 Standard Test Method for Distillation of Petroleum
Products at Atmospheric Pressure, Ex. 6 to Decl. of Thomas O’Brien (“O’Brien Decl.”) (ASTM
ECF No. 118-7 at 107)); ASTM D1217-93(98) Standard Test Method for Density and Relative
Density (Specific Gravity) of Liquids by Bingham Pycnometer, Ex. 9 to O’Brien Decl. (ASTM
ECF No. 118-7 at 136). Additionally, the AERA Plaintiffs’ Rule 30(b)(6) representative noted
that the 1999 Standards “describe procedures, statistical procedures, research procedures . . . how
to design a test, how to collect evidence of validity, [and] how to calculate the reliability of
tests.” (Def. Br. at 32 (citing AERA DSMF ¶ 77)). However, simply calling a work a
“procedure” or a “method” does not revoke its copyright protection under the Copyright Act.
This argument misunderstands or ignores the expression/idea dichotomy rooted in Baker and
codified in § 102(b).
Defendant also emphasizes that because the Plaintiffs’ standards are highly technical,
complex, and precise, and because testimony shows that the ASTM Plaintiffs attempt to create
the “best” standards, then the standards are “dictated by utility” or just “discovered facts,” and
lack any creative expressive content. However, the court rejects the argument that voluntary
consensus standards, such as those here, are analogous to a list of ingredients or basic
instructions in a recipe, or a series of yoga poses, as in the cases cited by Defendant. Not only is
there a vast gulf between the simplicity of an ingredient list and the complexity of the standards,
but, more importantly, the standards plainly contain expressive content. 7 As one example,
ASTM D1217-93 lists under the heading “Significance and Use”: “Although [the standard] is no
longer employed extensively for the purpose, this test method is useful whenever accurate
densities of pure hydrocarbons or petroleum fractions with boiling points between 90 and 110°C
are required.” (ASTM ECF No. 118-7 at 136).
The standards in these cases contain expression that is certainly technical but that still
bears markings of creativity. As the Supreme Court instructed in Feist, “the requisite level of
creativity is extremely low; even a slight amount will suffice. The vast majority of works make
the grade quite easily, as they possess some creative spark, ‘no matter how crude, humble or
obvious’ it might be.” 499 U.S. at 345 (quoting 1 M. Nimmer & D. Nimmer, Copyright
§ 1.08(C)(1) (1990)). Moreover, as Defendant conceded, there are many possible forms of
expression through which the technical material in the standards could be conveyed, and the
volunteer and association members who collectively author the standards “debate wording in the
standards.” (Def. Br. at 32 (ASTM ECF No. 121)). Thus, however “humble” or “obvious”
Defendant finds the Plaintiffs’ creative choices, the standards still bear at least the “extremely
low” amount of creativity required by the Supreme Court. Moreover, the undisputed record
evidence also shows that other parties have written different standards on the same exact subject
matter as ASTM Plaintiffs’ standards, undermining the argument that the standards are so
technical and precise there can be only one possible expression. (ASTM PSMF ¶¶ 38, 133).
Importantly, Baker and § 102(b) bar Plaintiffs from attempting to copyright the system or
Defendant does not request that this court scour the over 1,000 pages of the nine of ASTM
Plaintiffs’ standards provided to the court or the over 200 pages of the 1999 Standards, and the
court was not provided with copies of the remaining standards. The court declines to engage in
such an exercise here.
method itself, not the written work explaining or describing that method. Here, the copyright
protections held by the Plaintiffs do not prevent any person or entity from using or applying the
procedures described in the standards, only from copying their written descriptions of those
standards. Defendant presented no evidence that the Plaintiffs have sought to block an entity or
person from using the procedures described in the standards. In fact, use of the procedures
described is the entire purpose of such voluntary consensus standards. The court therefore
concludes that § 102(b) of the Copyright Act does not preclude these standards from being
(ii). Loss of Copyright Upon Entering the Public Domain
Federal Law Does Not Bar Copyrightability
At the heart of Defendant’s defense is the argument that Plaintiffs’ standards lost their
copyright protections the instant they were incorporated by reference into federal regulations.
There are weighty policy arguments on both sides of this issue, including the need to preserve a
vital and complicated public-private partnership between the government and SDOs, and the
need for an informed citizenry to have a full understanding of how to comply with the nation’s
legal requirements. However, this suit is not about access to the law in a broad sense, but instead
about the validity of copyrights for these standards under current federal law. Copyright
protection is a creature of statute, and as such is the result of careful policy considerations by
Congress. In the view of this court, Congress has already passed on the question of revoking
copyright protection for standards that have been incorporated by reference into regulations, and
any further consideration of the issue must be left to Congress for amendment.
Section 105 of the Copyright Act states that “[c]opyright protection under this title is not
available for any work of the United States Government.” 17 U.S.C. § 105. The Act defines a
“work of the United States Government” as “a work prepared by an officer or employee of the
United States Government as part of that person’s official duties.” Id. § 101. These are the only
government-related works that outright lack copyright under the law. For other types of works,
such as those commissioned by the government or created under government contract by private
parties, Congress chose to make case-by-case decisions and leave the determination of whether
private copyright should exist to the federal agency that commissioned or contracted for the
work. The House Report accompanying the Copyright Act states:
The bill deliberately avoids making any sort of outright, unqualified prohibition
against copyright in works prepared under Government contract or grant. There
may well be cases where it would be in the public interest to deny copyright in the
writings generated by Government research contracts and the like; it can be
assumed that, where a Government agency commissions a work for its own use
merely as an alternative to having one of its own employees prepare the work, the
right to secure a private copyright would be withheld. However, there are almost
certainly many other cases where the denial of copyright protection would be
unfair or would hamper the production and publication of important works.
Where, under the particular circumstances, Congress or the agency involved finds
that the need to have a work freely available outweighs the need of the private
author to secure copyright, the problem can be dealt with by specific legislation,
agency regulations, or contractual restrictions.
H.R. Rep. No. 94-1476, at 5672 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5659, 5672.
Defendant argues that Sections 102(b) (no protection for systems or methods) and 105
(no protection for Government-authored works) should be read together to indicate that Congress
intended that there be no copyright protections for incorporated standards because, like judicial
opinions—which the Supreme Court nearly two hundred years ago determined could not be
copyrighted—the standards, once incorporated, are “legal facts” which cannot be copyrighted.
See Wheaton v. Peters, 33 U.S. 591, 668 (1834) (writing that the Court was “unanimously of the
opinion that no reporter has or can have any copyright in the written opinions delivered by this
Court”); Banks v. Manchester, 128 U.S. 244, 253 (1888) (“The whole work done by the judges
constitutes the authentic exposition and interpretation of the law, which, binding every citizen, is
free for publication to all, whether it is a declaration of unwritten law, or an interpretation of a
constitution or a statute.”). While these cases form the bedrock for the long-standing principle
that works authored by government officials or employees cannot be copyrighted, the cases
involved works by actual government officials—i.e., judges—acting in their official capacity,
unlike here. That was the principle codified in § 105 of the Copyright Act and restated in the
U.S. Copyright Office’s Compendium of Copyright Office Practices § 313.6(c)(2) (3d ed. 2014),
which states: “As a matter of longstanding public policy, the U.S. Copyright Office will not
register a government edict that has been issued by any state, local, or territorial government,
including legislative enactments, judicial decisions, administrative rulings, public ordinances, or
similar types of official legal materials.”
Congress was well aware of the potential copyright issue posed by materials incorporated
by reference when it crafted Section 105 in 1976. Ten years earlier, Congress had extended to
federal agencies the authority to incorporate private works by reference into federal regulations.
See Pub. L. No. 90-23, § 552, 81 Stat. 54 (1967) (codified at 5 U.S.C. § 552) (providing that
“matter reasonably available to the class of persons affected thereby is deemed published in the
Federal Register when incorporated by reference therein with the approval of the Director of the
Federal Register”). However, in the Copyright Act of 1976, Congress made no mention of these
incorporated works in § 105 (no copyright for “any work of the United States Government”) or
any other section. As the House Report quoted above indicates, Congress already carefully
weighed the competing policy goals of making incorporated works publicly available while also
preserving the incentives and protections granted by copyright, and it weighed in favor of
preserving the copyright system. See H.R. Rep. No. 94-1476, at 60 (1976) (stating that under
§ 105 “use by the Government of a private work would not affect its copyright protection in any
way”); see also M.B. Schnapper v. Foley, 667 F.2d 102, 109 (D.C. Cir. 1981) (analyzing
Copyright Act and holding that “we are reluctant to cabin the discretion of government agencies
to arrange ownership and publication rights with private contractors absent some reasonable
showing of a congressional desire to do so”).
However, recognizing the importance of public access to works incorporated by reference
into federal regulations, Congress still requires that such works be “reasonably available.” 5
U.S.C. § 552(a)(1). Under current federal regulations issued by the Office of the Federal
Register in 1982, a privately authored work may be incorporated by reference into an agency’s
regulation if it is “reasonably available,” including availability in hard copy at the OFR and/or
the incorporating agency. 1 C.F.R. § 51.7(a)(3). Thirteen years later, Congress passed the
National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (“NTTAA”) which directed all
federal agencies to use privately developed technical voluntary consensus standards. See Pub. L.
No. 104-113, 110 Stat. 775 (1996). Thus, Congress initially authorized agencies to incorporate
works by reference, then excluded these incorporated works from § 105 of the Copyright Act,
and, nearly twenty years later, specifically directed agencies to incorporate private works by
reference. From 1966 through the present, Congress has remained silent on the question of
whether privately authored standards and other works would lose copyright protection upon
incorporation by reference. If Congress intended to revoke the copyrights of such standards
when it passed the NTTAA, or any time before or since, it surely would have done so expressly.
See Whitman v. Am. Trucking Ass’ns, Inc., 531 U.S. 457, 468 (2001) (“Congress . . . does not
alter the fundamental details of a regulatory scheme in vague terms or ancillary provisions—it
does not . . . hide elephants in mouseholes.”); United States v. Fausto, 484 U.S. 439, 453 (1988)
(“[It] can be strongly presumed that Congress will specifically address language on the statute
books that it wishes to change.”). Instead, Congress has chosen to maintain the scheme it created
in 1966: that such standards must simply be made reasonably available. See 5 U.S.C.
Moreover, Congress has similarly determined that online access to the nation’s laws and
regulations need not be provided for no cost. In establishing “a system of online access to the
Congressional Record [and] the Federal Register,” Congress authorized the Superintendent of
Documents, under the direction of the Director of the Government Publishing Office, to “charge
reasonable fees for use of the directory and the system of access.” 44 U.S.C. §§ 4101–02. While
citing this statute and noting that the Superintendent has chosen not to charge fees for online
access, OFR in its 2013 proposed rulemaking stated that Congress had not made a policy
determination that online access to the law must be provided free of charge. See Incorporation
by Reference, 78 Fed. Reg. 60,784, 60,785 (Oct. 2, 2013). Similarly, OFR recently determined
that “reasonably available” under § 552(a)(1) did not mean availability for no cost on the
Internet. See id. (considering proposed amendments to OFR’s regulations on incorporation by
reference and specifically addressing and rejecting the argument that standards incorporated by
reference should be posted online for free in order to be reasonably available).
Importantly, there is no evidence that the ASTM Plaintiffs’ standards or the AERA
Plaintiffs’ standards are unavailable to the public. In fact, the undisputed record evidence shows
that the standards are required to be available in physical form from OFR (see 1 C.F.R.
§ 51.3(b)(4)); are available for purchase from the AERA Plaintiffs in hard copy (AERA PSMF
¶ 34) and from the ASTM Plaintiffs in hard copy and PDFs (see ASTM PSMF ¶ 57, 99, 157);
and are accessible in read-only format for free in ASTM Plaintiffs’ online reading rooms (see
ASTM PSMF ¶ 64, 100, 161). While Defendant argues that the public requires greater access to
the standards—in particular, free online access in formats other than read-only—that is a policy
judgment best left to Congress. The arguments raised by the parties and by amici highlight
important considerations regarding unrestricted access to the texts of laws, regulations, and
incorporated materials, as well as the strong need to protect the economic incentives for the
further creation of new standards through revenues from the sale of existing standards. This is
the policy balancing that Congress is presumed to have already engaged in, and any further
changes to the law in light of new technological developments and resulting changes in public
expectations of access to information are best addressed by Congress, rather than this court.
Due Process Concerns Do Not Bar Copyrightability
Defendant further argues that even if the Copyright Act does not bar copyright protection
for incorporated standards, individuals have a due process right to access the text of “the law,”
including the standards at issue here. Four Circuit Courts have considered similar arguments
regarding copyrighted works incorporated by reference into state and federal regulations. See
Bldg. Officials & Code Admins. v. Code Tech., Inc., 628 F.2d 730 (1st Cir. 1980) (“BOCA”)
(declining to rule on the question); CCC Info. Servs., Inc. v. McLean Hunter Mkt. Reports, Inc.,
44 F.3d 61, 74 (2d Cir. 1994) (upholding copyright in work incorporated by reference); Cnty. of
Suffolk, N.Y. v. First Am. Real Estate Solutions, 261 F.3d 179 (2d Cir. 2001) (same); Practice
Mgmt. Info. Corp. v. Reports, Inc., 121 F.3d 516, 518 (9th Cir. 1997) (same); Veeck v. S. Bldg.
Code Cong. Int’l, Inc., 293 F.3d 791, 796 (5th Cir. 2002) (en banc) (holding that incorporation
by reference revoked the copyright owner’s copyright protection). The court will briefly
describe each of these Circuit decisions.
The question of whether a privately-authored, copyrighted work might lose its copyright
protection after being referenced in a law was first discussed by the First Circuit in BOCA. That
case involved a nonprofit, BOCA, which authored and copyrighted a model code called the
“Basic Building Code.” See 628 F.3d at 731-32. Massachusetts adopted a building code based
in substantial part on the BOCA Basic Building Code, called the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts State Building Code. Id. at 732. BOCA sold a printed version of the
Massachusetts State Building Code for $22 a copy, and the state referred any persons interested
in obtaining a copy of the code for their own use to BOCA. Id. The defendant, Code Tech., Inc.,
published its own copy of the Massachusetts State Building Code and sold it for $35 per volume.
Id. In the subsequent copyright infringement suit, the district court granted BOCA’s request for
a preliminary injunction, and the First Circuit reversed, though it reserved judgment on the
merits of whether the building code was validly copyrighted. Instead, it noted that “[t]he citizens
are the authors of the law, and therefore its owners, regardless of who actually drafts the
provisions, because the law derives its authority from the consent of the public, expressed
through the democratic process.” Id. at 734.
The Second Circuit considered similar issues in two cases. First, in CCC, the court
considered whether copyright protection for a compilation called the Red Book, which listed
used car valuations, was revoked after it was referenced by states as one of several references for
car valuation. See 44 F.3d at 74. The court rejected the argument that referenced works enter
the public domain, stating: “We are not prepared to hold that a state’s reference to a copyrighted
work as a legal standard for valuation results in loss of the copyright. While there are indeed
policy considerations that support [defendant’s public domain] argument, they are opposed by
countervailing considerations.” Id. The court then analogized to a state education system
assigning copyrighted books as a mandatory part of a school curriculum and noted that under the
public domain logic, these books might lose copyright protection. Id.
Second, in County of Suffolk, the Second Circuit considered the copyrightability of a
county’s tax maps. The court looked to Banks, in which the Supreme Court held that judicial
opinions were not copyrightable, and determined that Banks established two premises: (1) that
judges’ opinions cannot be copyrighted because judges receive their salaries from the public
treasury and do not have the economic incentives that copyrights are designed to protect; and
(2) there are due process considerations because the “whole work done by the judges constitutes
the authentic exposition and interpretation of the law, which, binding every citizen, is free for
publication to all.” 261 F.3d at 193–94 (citing Banks v. Manchester, 128 U.S. 244, 253 (1888)).
Building on these premises, the Second Circuit articulated two factors that should guide courts’
analysis in these situations: first, “whether the entity or individual who created the work needs
an economic incentive to create or has a proprietary interest in creating the work”; and second,
“whether the public needs notice of this particular work to have notice of the law.” Id. at 194
(citing Practice Management, 121 F.3d at 518–19; BOCA, 628 F.2d at 734–35). With regard to
this second factor, the court primarily considered the severity of criminal or civil sanctions
associated with failure to adhere to the maps at issue. Finding no serious penalties, it focused on
the fact that citizens had “fair warning” of the tax maps from their reference in the tax statute,
and there was “no allegation that any individual required to pay the applicable property tax ha[d]
any difficulty in obtaining access to either the law or the relevant tax map.” Id. at 195.
Therefore, the maps were entitled to copyright protection.
Like the Second Circuit, the Ninth Circuit in Practice Management also decided to
preserve the copyright protections in the American Medical Association’s (“AMA”) publication
of medical codes and descriptions which had been incorporated by reference by the U.S. Health
Care Financing Administration (“HCFA”). Under the HCFA’s regulation, parties seeking health
insurance reimbursement for Medicare were required to use the codes created and copyrighted
by the AMA. See 121 F.3d at 518. The Ninth Circuit similarly looked to Banks and focused on
its premise that there is a due process interest in free access to the law. Like the Second Circuit,
the court considered this due process interest and ultimately rejected revoking the AMA’s
copyright because “[t]here [was] no evidence that anyone wishing to use the [copyrighted codes]
ha[d] any difficulty obtaining access to it.” Id. at 519.
Finally, counter to the opinions of other circuits, the Fifth Circuit sitting en banc in Veeck
focused more heavily on the first Banks premise regarding economic incentives and held that
copyright protection is revoked when a model code is adopted as law by a municipality, stating
that “as law, the model codes enter the public domain and are not subject to the copyright
holder’s exclusive prerogatives.” 293 F.3d at 793. However, the court carefully distinguished its
decision from the facts in the aforementioned cases. It wrote:
[T]he limits of this holding must be explained. Several national standards-writing
organizations joined [defendant] as amici out of fear that their copyrights may be
vitiated simply by the common practice of governmental entities’ incorporating
their standards in laws and regulations. This case does not involve references to
extrinsic standards. Instead, it concerns the wholesale adoption of a model code
promoted by its author, [defendant], precisely for use as legislation. Caselaw that
derives from official incorporation of extrinsic standards is distinguishable in
reasoning and result. . . . If a statute refers to the Red Book or to specific school
books, the law requires citizens to consult or use a copyrighted work in the
process of fulfilling their obligations. The copyrighted works do not ‘become
law’ merely because a statute refers to them. . . . Equally important, the
referenced works or standards in CCC and Practice Management were created by
private groups for reasons other than incorporation into law. To the extent
incentives are relevant to the existence of copyright protection, the authors in
these cases deserve incentives. . . . In the case of a model code, on the other hand,
the text of the model serves no other purpose than to become law.
Id. at 803–05. The cases before the court, involving some of the same amici referenced in Veeck,
do not involve model codes adopted verbatim in their entirety into legislation. Instead, the
standards incorporated by reference provide guidelines and procedures that individuals or entities
must use or reference in the fulfillment of their legal obligations under federal regulations.
Applying the first premise of Banks to the facts here, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs do
not require economic incentives to create their standards because they actively lobby and
advocate for their standards to be incorporated by reference into regulations, including investing
funds on lobbying to that effect. Therefore, Defendant argues, the court should find that
Plaintiffs create standards for no purpose other than adoption into law, as the Veeck court
determined regarding the model code in that case. Here however, the facts indicate that
Plaintiffs create standards for a wide range of industries, that the majority of their standards are
not incorporated into regulations, and that even those that have been incorporated by reference
have undergone updates and revisions to reflect modern use, despite the regulations
incorporating past versions. Plaintiffs and supporting amici highlight that without copyright
protection for all of their standards, they will face significant difficulty raising the necessary
revenue to continue producing high-quality voluntary consensus standards. In its Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking, OFR relied on this same argument to ultimately reject a proposal to
require free online access to standards in its “reasonably available” determination. 78 Fed. Reg.
at 60,785 (“If we required that all materials IBR’d into the CFR be available for free, that
requirement would compromise the ability of regulators to rely on voluntary consensus
standards, possibly requiring them to create their own standards, which is contrary to the
NTTAA and the OMB Circular A-119.”).
As for the second premise of Banks, this court finds that, as in the cases before the
Second and Ninth Circuits, there is no evidence here that anyone has been denied access to the
standards by the ASTM Plaintiffs or AERA Plaintiffs. Instead, Defendant simply argues that the
public should be granted more expansive access.
Therefore, considering the Banks holdings and given the existing statutory, regulatory,
and judicial framework, this court finds that Plaintiffs’ standards have not entered the public
domain upon their incorporation by reference into federal regulations and do not lose their
copyright protection. This conclusion does not dismiss or diminish the valid public policy
concern that citizens benefit from greater access to statutes, regulations, and all materials they
must reference in fulfilling their legal obligations. The ability to know, understand, and
communicate the law as a broad concept is of paramount importance to the continued success of
our democracy. However, changes to the statutory or regulatory framework that reconsider the
balancing of interests underlying modern copyright law and incorporation by reference must be
made by Congress, not this court.
(iii). Merger Doctrine
Defendant asks the court to apply the “merger doctrine” to find that the standards cannot
be copyrighted because the expressions in the standards have merged with the law to become
facts. Under modern copyright law, there is a well-known dichotomy between “expression,”
which can generally be copyrighted, and “ideas,” which cannot. 4-13 Nimmer on Copyright
§ 13.03. The merger doctrine has developed to consider those specific situations in which “the
idea ‘merges’ with the expression, such that a given idea is inseparably tied to a particular
expression.” Id. at § 13.03(3). This can occur when there “are so few ways of expressing an
idea [that] not even the expression is protected by copyright.” Id. (quoting BUC Int’l Corp. v.
Int’l Yacht Council Ltd., 489 F.3d 1129, 1143 (11th Cir. 2007)).
The parties disagree as to the proper merger doctrine analysis. Defendant argues that
upon their incorporation by reference, the standards become “merged” with the “fact” that is the
law. Plaintiffs argue that to determine if an idea and expression have merged, the court should
focus on whether there were any other ways of articulating a particular idea when the work was
first published, not when it was later incorporated by reference. In essence, the parties disagree
as to whether the merger doctrine is a question of copyrightability—meaning the Plaintiffs’
standards might lose copyright protection upon incorporation by reference—or an affirmative
defense to copyright infringement—i.e., the allegedly infringing work did not violate copyright
because there was no other way to express the content of the work. Plaintiffs argue that the
merger doctrine addresses only the question of copyrightability, and so the court’s analysis
should focus on whether, at the time the standards were authored, there were no other ways to
articulate and arrange such standards. Defendant contends that the standards could not be
expressed any other way after incorporation into regulations, and thus its display of the standards
was not infringement.
The court declines to resolve this merger doctrine issue, since under either approach, the
standards maintain copyright protection. At the time they were authored, there were certainly
myriad ways to write and organize the text of the standards, and, for the reasons discussed above,
the standards did not lose their copyright protections upon incorporation by reference into federal
regulations. Therefore, the merger doctrine neither precludes a finding of copyrightability nor
serves as a defense for Defendant.
(iv). Scènes à Faire Doctrine
Finally, Defendant points to the scènes à faire doctrine, which similarly may be
approached as a question of copyrightability or an affirmative defense. The doctrine typically
applies to “incidents, characters, or settings which are as a practical matter indispensable, or at
least standard, in the treatment of a given topic.” Nimmer § 13.03(4) (quoting Atari, Inc. v.
North Am. Philips Consumer Elecs. Corp., 672 F.2d 607, 616 (7th Cir. 1982), cert. denied, 459
U.S. 880 (1982)). Nimmer offers examples such as the use of a bar room scene in a film about a
broken-hearted lover because, as the name of the doctrine suggests, these are “scenes which must
be done.” Id. Defendant argues here that Plaintiffs’ standards are entirely “uncopyrightable”
because they are “shaped by external factors,” such as the desire to satisfy regulations and laws
and to write what Plaintiffs believe to be the most accurate and clear standards. (Tr. of Motions
Hearing at 62:15–19 (ASTM ECF No. 173); Def. Br. at 34). However, this doctrine is a poor fit
for Defendant’s arguments. In the court’s view, there is a great deal of difference between every
detail of the phrasing, explanation, and organization across thousands of pages of standards,
which Defendant argues is entirely dictated by Plaintiffs’ broad desires for accuracy and clarity,
and the inclusion of a generic bar room scene in a romantic drama where the audience expects it.
Defendant offers no cases to support its argument that this doctrine bars copyrightability of the
standards at issue here, and this court knows of none. The court concludes that the scènes à faire
doctrine does not act as a bar to the copyrightability of Plaintiffs’ standards and does not serve as
a defense for Defendant’s display of the standards
In sum, the court concludes that Plaintiffs own valid copyrights over the standards at
issue, and that the copyrights were not stripped upon the incorporation by reference into federal
Feist Prong 2: Copying an Original Work
Having established that both the ASTM Plaintiffs and AERA Plaintiffs own valid
copyrights in the standards at issue, the second question for the court under Feist is whether
Public Resource, by scanning and posting online the standards at issue “cop[ied] anything that
was ‘original’ to” the Plaintiffs. Feist, 499 U.S. at 361. Copying means exercising any of the
exclusive rights that 17 U.S.C. § 106 vests in the owners of a copyright. See Call of the Wild
Movie, LLC v. Does, 770 F. Supp. 2d 332, 351 (D.D.C. 2011). These rights include the rights of
reproduction, distribution, display, and creation of derivative works. See 17 U.S.C. § 106(1)–(3),
(5). There is no factual dispute that Public Resource reproduced and posted online for display or
distribution the standards at issue in this case. Having rejected the application of the merger
doctrine or scènes à faire doctrine as affirmative defenses, Defendant’s only argument on this
second prong is therefore that its copying and posting of the standards was “fair use.”
Affirmative Defense of Fair Use
Under the Copyright Act, fair use of a copyrighted work “is not an infringement of
copyright.” 17 U.S.C. § 107. Fair use is a defense to a claim of copyright infringement in order
to “fulfill copyright’s very purpose, ‘to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.’”
Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569, 575 (1994) (quoting U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl.
8). The Copyright Act provides that:
In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use,
the factors to be considered shall include—
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a
commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the
copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the
17 U.S.C. § 107. The statute further lists examples of uses that are “fair use,” including
“criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use),
scholarship, or research.” Id. The fair use doctrine calls for a “case-by-case analysis,” and the
four statutory factors are meant to provide “general guidance,” weighed together “in light of the
purposes of copyright.” Campbell, 510 U.S. at 578–79.
Purpose and Character of Defendant’s Use of the Standards
With regard to the first factor, the statute itself offers guidance on the types of purposes
that might be considered fair use: criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, or research.
Id. § 107. Moreover, the Supreme Court has held that courts should focus on whether the new
work “supersede[s] the objects of the creation . . . or instead adds something new, with a further
purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message; [the
question], in other words, [is] whether and to what extent the new work is transformative.”
Campbell, 510 U.S. at 578–79 (internal quotations omitted). Given the constitutional goal of
copyright—to promote the development of science and the arts—“the more transformative the
new work, the less will be the significance of other factors, like commercialism, that may weigh
against a finding of fair use.” Id. at 579.
It is undisputed that Public Resource scanned the ASTM Plaintiffs’ standards at issue
from their physical hardcopies and converted them to searchable PDFs using OCR processing
(ASTM Pls. SUMF ¶ 182) and reproduced some of the standards by re-typing them into HTML
format. (ASTM PSMF ¶ 182; ASTM DSMF ¶ 83). Public Resource scanned the AERA
Plaintiffs’ 1999 Standards from the physical hard copy and converted them to a PDF file, which
it then uploaded to its website for display and distribution. (AERA PSMF ¶¶ 69, 71–73; AERA
DSMF ¶ 28). Defendant argues this is transformative in three ways: by providing free access to
“the law”; by enabling others to use software to analyze the standards; and by enabling those
with visual impairments to use text-to-speech software. The evidence does not support any of
Defendant first argues that it has transformed Plaintiffs’ standards by making identical
copies of them and distributing them online for no cost. In Defendant’s view, this is
transformative because it provides individuals with greater access to “the law.” While Defendant
argues that its conduct is analogous to those who make copies of copyrighted works in order to
comply with legal requirements, Defendant was not actually acting to comply with a particular
law—unlike, for example, an individual who makes a photocopy of the standards located at OFR
for use on her building project. Instead, Defendant has placed identical copies of Plaintiffs’
standards into the online marketplace with no intention to use them itself, but instead to simply
offer them for free in competition with Plaintiffs’ standards. While Defendant did not earn
revenue directly from the display of the standards, its activity still bears “commercial” elements
given that it actively engaged in distributing identical standards online in the same consumer
market. While this commerciality is not by itself dispositive, it does weigh firmly against fair
use. See Campbell, 510 U.S. at 594.
Defendant points to Swatch Group Management Services Ltd. v. Bloomberg L.P., 756
F.3d 73, 81 (2d Cir. 2014) in support of its proposition that when a copyrighted document is of
great public importance then posting it online may be transformative. However, Swatch Group
involved the recording of a private conference call about the company’s earnings report
involving executives and 132 analysts that Bloomberg then distributed to subscribers of its
Bloomberg Professional service. Id. at 78–79. Given that Swatch Group instructed call
participants not to record or broadcast the call, any direct knowledge of what the executives said
would be limited to those analysts who participated. Id. The facts of Swatch Group do not align
with those here, where the evidence demonstrates that Plaintiffs’ standards are available to
anyone for viewing online in ASTM Plaintiffs’ reading rooms, at a public library, at the OFR or
incorporating agency, or for purchase on Plaintiffs’ websites. This court is unwilling to apply
any principles from Swatch Group or similar cases to this case, in which the standards are widely
Next, Public Resource argues that distributing the duplicate copies online is
transformative because, with regard to the ASTM Plaintiffs’ standards, Public Resource first
altered their formatting through application of OCR or conversion to HTML, which enables
software analysis or the use of text-to-speech software, and for AERA Plaintiffs’ standards, it
scanned the hard copy and distributed a PDF version. The court has little difficulty concluding
that these actions are not transformative. See 4-13 Nimmer on Copyright § 13.05(1)(b); Nihon
Keizai Shimbun, Inc. v. Comline Bus. Data, Inc., 166 F.3d 65, 72 (2d Cir. 1999) (holding that a
translation is not a transformative, expressive work); Soc’y of the Transfiguration Monastery,
Inc. v. Gregory, 685 F. Supp. 2d 217, 227 (D. Mass. 2010), affirmed, 689 F.3d 29, 59-65 (1st
Cir. 2012) (“A simple repackaging of a work in a new format, whether on the Internet or on a
CD-ROM or on a flash drive, is not transformative when the result is simply a mirror image
reflected on a new mirror.”); see also Authors Guild v. Google, Inc., 804 F.3d 202, 207, 217 (2d
Cir. 2015) (reasoning Google’s scanning and posting of snippets of copyrighted books online
was fair use because it made “available information about Plaintiffs’ books without providing
the public with a substantial substitute for matter protected by the Plaintiffs’ copyright interests
in the original works or derivatives of them” and added “important value to the basic
transformative search function, which tells only whether and how often the searched term
appears in the book”) (emphasis added); Authors Guild, Inc. v. HathiTrust, 755 F.3d 87, 90 (2d
Cir. 2014) (text searching modification was transformative but where full work was not
Here, Defendant does not actually perform any analysis on the standards, nor does it offer
the service of providing them in an accessible way to those visual impairments. Instead,
Defendant has identified a series of events that must occur, involving intervening third parties
and the use of one or more additional software programs, in order for there to be a potentially
“transformative” use for individuals who are blind or have visual impairments. Defendant in
both cases proffered the expert report of James Fruchterman, who opined on accessibility of
written materials for those who are blind. In Fruchterman’s AERA report, he wrote that to make
a hard copy accessible for those with visual impairments, he would scan the pages, process them
with OCR to convert the read-only images to searchable text, create a Microsoft Word file, and
then have it proofread because OCR can create numerous errors. (Expert Rep. of James R.
Fruchterman at 8 (AERA ECF No. 70-50)). Once such a version is then uploaded online, an
individual who is blind or visually impaired would then need to use additional screen reader
software, which “is a program that runs on a personal computer or a smartphone that reads the
information on the screen aloud (using a computer-synthesized voice) to a blind person.” (Id. at
3–4). While “most blind people themselves do not have the ability to convert books[,] [s]ome
blind people have their own home scanners, and if they purchased a used copy online, would be
able to scan the 1999 Standards page by page on a home scanner, which would take at least two
hours of labor, and then perform optical character recognition on the title.” (Id. at 8). In his
ASTM report, Fruchterman wrote that he was able to use a screen reader program to read the text
of the ASTM Plaintiffs’ standards aloud on Defendant’s website, but not in ASTM Plaintiffs’
reading rooms. (Ex. 96 to Becker Decl., Expert Rep. of James R. Fruchterman at 5–7 (ECF No.
122-6)). Fruchterman noted that some of the PDFs on Defendant’s website were read-only
images, such as those on ASTM Plaintiffs’ reading rooms, which had to be copied and pasted
into a Microsoft Word document in order for a screen reader program to operate. (Id. at 16–17).
He also noted that individuals who are blind may “independently perform optical character
recognition on image-based PDFs themselves and access the text that way, and many advanced
computer users that are blind would be aware that this is possible.” (Id. at 17). He did not opine
on whether OCR could be performed on the PDFs of standards that ASTM Plaintiffs sell or
whether he attempted to investigate that as part of his research.
While it appears Defendant may enable blind individuals, like all other individuals, to
access the standards at no cost, they still may have to take additional steps like OCR processing
or converting to a different file type, as well as using additional screen reader programs in order
to access the standards. There is no evidence that this would not be possible with Plaintiffs’
PDFs or by scanning Plaintiffs’ hard copy standards. In Defendant’s view, taking the first step
or two towards making the standards entirely accessible to those with visual impairments is
enough to have transformed the standards. This attempts to stretch logic, and certainly the
doctrine of fair use, too far. Defendant has not offered a sufficiently new purpose to render the
use transformative, and this weighs against a finding of fair use.
(ii). Nature of the Copyrighted Standards
The Supreme Court in Campbell instructs that courts should analyze the nature of the
copyrighted work with “recognition that some works are closer to the core of intended copyright
protection than others, with the consequence that fair use is more difficult to establish when the
former works are copied.” 510 U.S. at 586. Many cases create a spectrum between creative,
fictional expression and factual expression, with the former being “more” protected. See 4-13
Nimmer § 13.05(A)(2). Defendant argues that Plaintiffs’ standards are “factual,” both because
they are highly technical and because they are “the law.” However, the Constitution explicitly
states that copyright exists to “advance the progress of science and the useful arts.” U.S. Const.
art. I, § 8, cl. 8. That Plaintiffs’ works involve technical scientific concepts and guidelines does
not push it away from the core of intended copyright protection, but actually brings it closer.
Plaintiffs’ standards are vital to the advancement of scientific progress in the U.S. and exactly
the type of expressive work that warrants full protection under the Constitution and the
(iii). Amount and Substantiality of the Portions Defendant Used
The third factor, “the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the
copyrighted work as a whole,” 17 U.S.C. § 107(3), weighs overwhelmingly in Plaintiffs’ favor
and against a finding of fair use. It is undisputed that Defendant copied and distributed identical
versions of the Plaintiffs’ standards in their entirety. To support its actions as fair use under this
third factor, Public Resource argues that it was necessary to do so because the full text of the
standards were incorporated into “the law.” However true it may be that individuals wishing to
read the text of standards incorporated by reference would want to read them in their entirety,
this argument is unpersuasive in the fair use analysis. Any market competitor wishing to copy a
rival’s work and distribute it itself could argue that it “needs” to copy the entire work, otherwise
its distribution would be less successful. Unsurprisingly, Defendant cannot point to a single case
that supports its view, and the court finds that this factor also weighs strongly against a finding of
(iv). Effect of Defendant’s Use Upon Potential Market or Value
The fourth factor, “the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the
copyrighted work,” 17 U.S.C. § 107(4), “poses the issue of whether unrestricted and widespread
conduct of the sort engaged in by the defendant would . . . result in a substantially adverse
impact on the potential market for, or value of, the plaintiff’s present work,” 4-13 Nimmer on
Copyright § 13.05(A)(4); Campbell, 510 U.S. at 589 (quoting Nimmer). Moreover, the analysis
“must take into account not only of harm to the original but also of harm to the market for
derivative works.” Campbell, 510 U.S. at 589 (quoting Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. v. Nation
Enters., 471 U.S. 539, 568 (1985)). When Defendant engages in “mere duplication for
commercial purposes,” as here, a harm to the potential market for the copyrighted works may be
inferred. See id. at 590–91. Such an inference is intuitive based on the facts here where
consumers in the online marketplace are currently presented with the option to purchase a PDF
or hard copy version of Plaintiffs’ standards directly from them, or may download a PDF of an
identical standard for no cost. The only logical conclusion is that this choice negatively impacts
the potential market for Plaintiffs’ standards.
In Campbell, the Supreme Court noted that “[s]ince fair use is an affirmative defense, its
proponent would have difficulty carrying the burden of demonstrating fair use without favorable
evidence about relevant markets.” 510 U.S. at 590. Here, Defendant did not offer expert
evidence on the economic impact on the markets, instead pointing to testimony by Plaintiffs’
executives that they did not track or know of negative impacts thus far on their revenue from
Defendant’s conduct. This is not enough to overcome the logical presumption that such activity,
particularly if it became more widespread by others in the marketplace, would impact Plaintiffs’
revenues. It is not Plaintiffs’ burden to establish that they have been harmed in the market, but
Defendant’s burden to affirmatively establish that such conduct could not even “potentially”
harm the Plaintiffs’ market. Defendant has not done so.
(v). Overall Assessment
Whatever merit there may be in Defendant’s goal of furthering access to documents
incorporated into regulations, there is nothing in the Copyright Act or in court precedent to
suggest that distribution of identical copies of copyrighted works for the direct purpose of
undermining Plaintiffs’ ability to raise revenue can ever be a fair use. The court thus concludes
that the fair use doctrine does not serve as a valid defense for Defendant’s conduct.
Therefore, the court finds that the ASTM Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment as to
their copyright infringement claim is GRANTED, and the AERA Plaintiffs’ motion for summary
judgment as to their copyright infringement claim is also GRANTED. Defendant’s crossmotions on copyright infringement are both DENIED.
Contributory Copyright Infringement
AERA Plaintiffs additionally move for summary judgment on their contributory
copyright infringement claim. 8 Establishing proof of contributory infringement requires a party
to demonstrate that the actor was “intentionally inducing or encouraging direct infringement.”
MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., 545 U.S. 913, 930 (2005). Plaintiffs 9 must show (1) direct
infringement by third parties; (2) that Defendant knew that third parties were directly infringing;
and (3) that Defendant substantially participated in that direct infringement. Rundquist v.
Vapiano SE, 798 F. Supp. 2d 102, 126 (D.D.C. 2011). “Merely supplying the means to
accomplish an infringing activity cannot give rise to the imposition of liability for contributory
copyright infringement.” Newborn v. Yahoo!, Inc., 391 F. Supp. 2d 181, 186 (D.D.C. 2005)
(internal quotation omitted).
The ASTM Plaintiffs initially brought a separate claim for contributory copyright
infringement, but did not include that claim in their motion for summary judgment. Counsel for
ASTM Plaintiffs stated at oral argument that they believed the remedy for their infringement
claim covered any potential remedy for their contributory copyright claim. (Tr. of Motions
Hearing at 122:1–7).
Because ASTM Plaintiffs did not move for summary judgment on their contributory copyright
claim, for this section the court will use “Plaintiffs” to refer to AERA Plaintiffs.
To establish direct infringement by third parties, Plaintiffs must demonstrate “(1) which
specific original works form the subject of the copyright claim; (2) that the plaintiff owns the
copyrights in those works; (3) that the copyrights have been registered in accordance with the
statute; and (4) by what acts [and] during what time the defendant infringed the copyright.” Id.
(quoting Home & Nature, Inc. v. Sherman Specialty Co., 322 F. Supp. 2d 260, 266 (E.D.N.Y.
2004)). As discussed above in section III(A), these first three elements have been satisfied. On
the fourth element, Plaintiffs must show that a third party infringed its copyrights by violating
their exclusive rights under 17 U.S.C. § 106, including reproduction, preparation of derivative
works, distribution, or public display. See Home & Nature, 322 F. Supp. 2d at 267. However,
Plaintiffs only present evidence that the 1999 Standards were “accessed at least 4,164 times” on
Public Resource’s website and that they were “accessed on the Internet Archive . . . website
1,290 times.” (AERA PSMF ¶¶ 85–86). Without more, there is no basis for the court to
determine that accessing a website is equivalent to copying or violating any of the exclusive
rights under § 106. Plaintiffs also assert that “some” individuals “obtained” the standards, but
their only evidence of this is a redacted e-mail in which an individual states “[O]ne of my
students showed up for class this semester and told me that he/she didn’t purchase a copy of the
Standards (I require them as a text for one of my courses) because ‘they are available for free on
line’ and they showed me the following site.” (Exl. LLL to Decl. of Lauress Wise (AERA ECF
No. 60-75)). Even if such a statement were ultimately determined to be admissible for the truth
of the matter that the student did not purchase the Standards, it still does not establish that the
student downloaded or otherwise copied the 1999 Standards from Defendant’s website. 10
The court recognizes that acquiring evidence of downloads may be difficult. Carl Malamud,
Public Resource’s CEO, testified at deposition that “I don’t know about downloads. It’s
technically impossible to determine that.” (Ex. A to Hudis Decl. at 347:6–8 (AERA ECF No.
In their Reply Brief, Plaintiffs also point to the possibility that simply browsing a website
causes a copy of the material on the website to be automatically copied to the computer’s random
access memory or RAM. See CoStar Realty Info., Inc. v. Field, 737 F. Supp. 2d 496, 507 (D.
Md. 2010) (analyzing copyright claim involving cache copies of websites in computer’s RAM);
Ticketmaster, LLC v. RMG Techs., Inc., 507 F. Supp. 2d 1096, 1104–05 (C.D. Cal. 2007) (same).
While this may be correct, the fact remains that Plaintiffs have put forth no actual evidence that
even one of the 4,164 accesses resulted in such a copying to a computer’s RAM, and without
such evidence, Plaintiffs cannot meet their burden on their contributory copyright claim at the
summary judgment stage.
The second two factors require Plaintiffs to establish that Defendant knew that third
parties were engaged in direct infringement and that it substantially participated in such
infringement. Plaintiffs may demonstrate knowledge by showing that Defendant was notified of
the third party direct infringement or that it “willfully blind[ed] itself to such infringing uses.”
Newborn, 391 F. Supp. 2d at 186. On this factor, Plaintiffs again fall short, relying on the fact
that they asked Defendant to remove the 1999 Standards from its website and Defendant refused
to do so, as well as evidence that Defendant did not track or prevent downloads of the 1999
Standards from its website. Without more, this is insufficient to establish that Defendant knew
that third parties were infringing the Plaintiffs’ copyrights.
Similarly, Plaintiffs have not presented sufficient evidence on the substantial
participation factor. While it is undisputed that Defendant posted the 1999 Standards on its
website to enable greater access for those wishing to read them, because Plaintiffs have not
60-4)). However, this does not relieve Plaintiffs of the burden of establishing some evidence
demonstrating direct infringement by third parties.
established any actual third party direct infringement, there is insufficient evidence that
Defendant substantially participated in that infringement.
Therefore, the court DENIES Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment as to its
contributory copyright claim, and also DENIES Defendant’s motion for summary judgment on
this claim, as there exists questions of fact as to any third party infringement, Defendant’s
knowledge, and Defendant’s participation.
Trademark Infringement Claims
ASTM Plaintiffs additionally moved for summary judgment on their trademark
infringement, unfair competition and false designation of origin, and common law trademark
infringement claims, and Defendant cross-moved for summary judgment on these claims as
well. 11 Trademark law is governed by the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq., which provides
(1) Any person who shall, without the consent of the registrant . . . (a) use in
commerce any reproduction, counterfeit, copy, or colorable imitation of a
registered mark in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, or
advertising of any goods or services on or in connection with which such use is
likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive . . . shall be liable in a
civil action by the registrant for the remedies hereinafter provided.
15 U.S.C. § 1114(1). In order to prevail on a trademark infringement claim under the Lanham
Act, Plaintiffs 12 “must show (1) that [they] own a valid trademark, (2) that [their] trademark is
distinctive or has acquired a secondary meaning, and (3) that there is a substantial likelihood of
confusion between the plaintiff[s’] mark and the alleged infringer’s mark.” Globalaw Ltd. v.
Carmon & Carmon Law Office, 452 F. Supp. 2d 1, 26 (D.D.C. 2006); AARP v. Sycle, 991 F.
The AERA Plaintiffs did not bring a trademark claim, and so this section applies only to
As in the preceding section, because only ASTM Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment on
this claim, the court will refer to them here as Plaintiffs.
Supp. 2d 224, 229 (D.D.C. 2013) (same). Common law claims are analyzed under the same
standard. See AARP, 991 F. Supp. 2d at 229 (citing Breaking the Chain Found., Inc. v. Capitol
Educ. Support, Inc., 589 F.Supp.2d 25, 29 (D.D.C. 2008)). In order for conduct to be considered
infringing, there must be a “use in commerce.” 15 U.S.C. §§ 1114(1), 1125(a)(1).
Defendant cites Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., to discourage the
court from considering Plaintiffs’ trademark claims on the principle that courts should not
“misuse or over-exten[d]  trademark and related protections into areas traditionally occupied by
patent or copyright.” 539 U.S. 23, 34 (2003). Dastar held that a plaintiff could not bring a false
designation of origin trademark claim against a defendant who was distributing content that had
become part of the public domain because the Lanham Act only offers protection “to the
producer of the tangible goods that are offered for sale, and not to the author of any idea,
concept, or communication embodied in those goods.” Id. at 37. Unlike in Dastar, Plaintiffs
here have an independent basis for claiming that Defendant infringed their trademarks, separate
from their copyright infringement claims: Defendant distributed standards online bearing
Plaintiffs’ registered trademarks and logos, and Plaintiffs argue that this unauthorized use of their
marks will confuse consumers and falsely signal that Plaintiffs are the origin of the standards
distributed on Defendant’s website rather than Defendant. While the remedy sought for
Plaintiffs’ copyright claim—an injunction barring Defendant from displaying Plaintiffs’
standards online—may be broad enough to subsume a remedy for their trademark claims, the
claims are based on independent arguments, and are therefore the type that Dastar found to be
appropriate for consideration under the Lanham Act.
The court must therefore consider whether Plaintiffs own a valid, protectable trademark,
whether Defendant engaged in an unauthorized use in commerce, whether there is a likelihood of
consumer confusion, and whether Defendant’s fair use defense permits its use of the trademarks.
Valid, Protectable Trademark
Under the Lanham Act, any registration of a trademark “shall be prima facie evidence of
the validity of the registered mark and of the registration of the mark, of the owner’s ownership
of the mark, and of the owner’s exclusive right to use the registered mark in commerce.” 15
U.S.C. § 1057(b). The record indicates that Plaintiffs own valid trademarks of the trademarks
asserted in this case, and they have federal trademark registrations for each of the asserted
marks. 13 Thus, Plaintiffs have established a prima facie showing of ownership. Defendant
offers no evidence to demonstrate that Plaintiffs do not own the trademarks, and therefore the
court concludes that Plaintiffs are the owners of these marks.
The trademarks must also be “valid.” To establish validity, Plaintiffs must prove that the
designation is inherently distinctive or that it has become distinctive by acquiring secondary
meaning. See Two Pesos, Inc. v. Taco Cabana, Inc., 505 U.S. 763, 769 (1992); Globalaw, 452
F. Supp. 2d at 26. However, Plaintiffs’ trademark registrations create a rebuttable presumption
of “inherent distinctiveness or secondary meaning.” Restatement (Third) of Unfair Competition
§ 13 cmt. a (1995). Additionally, the Lanham Act provides that if the trademark has been “in
continuous use for five years subsequent to registration” then the marks become “incontestable,”
15 U.S.C. § 1065, meaning the registration “shall be conclusive evidence of the validity of the
registered mark,” including as to whether it is distinctive or has a secondary meaning, 15 U.S.C.
§ 1115(b); see also Restatement (Third) of Unfair Competition § 13 cmt. a (1995). Plaintiffs
(PSMF ¶¶ 77 (trademark registration for “ASTM”), 78 (trademark registration for “ASTM
International” and logo), 79 (trademark registration for ASTM logo), 123 (trademark registration
for “National Fire Protection Association” and “NFPA”), 124 (trademark registration for NFPA
logo), 126 (trademark registration for NEC logo), 149 (trademark registration for ASHRAE
logo), 151 (trademark registration for additional ASHRAE logo)).
provided evidence that some of their trademarks have become incontestable and that they all are
distinctive. (See PSMF ¶¶ 77, 78, 124, 125, 126, 150). Defendant offered no evidence to dispute
the validity of the trademarks. Thus, Plaintiffs have sufficiently established their ownership of
Defendant’s Unauthorized Use in Commerce
Plaintiffs must also demonstrate that Defendant used their trademarks “in commerce.” 15
U.S.C. §§ 1114(1), 1125(a)(1). Under the Lanham Act, “‘[c]ommerce’ means all commerce
which may be lawfully regulated by Congress.” 15 U.S.C. § 1127. Therefore, to satisfy this
requirement, Plaintiffs need not demonstrate actual use or intended use in interstate commerce.
See United We Stand Am., Inc. v. United We Stand, Am. N.Y., Inc., 128 F.3d 86, 92 (2d Cir.
1997) (the commerce requirement “reflects Congress’s intent to legislate to the limits of its
authority under the Commerce Clause, rather than to limit the Lanham Act to profit-seeking uses
of a trademark”). Distribution on the Internet can satisfy the “use in commerce” requirement.
See Intermatic, Inc. v. Toeppen, 947 F. Supp. 1227, 1239 (N.D. Ill. 1996). Thus, Defendant’s
online posting of the standards bearing Plaintiffs’ trademarks satisfies this requirement.
This use in commerce must further be “without the consent of the registrant.” 15 U.S.C.
§ 1114(1). It is undisputed that Plaintiffs did not authorize Defendant’s use of Plaintiffs’
trademarks in commerce. Defendant instead argues that its use was permitted under the “first
sale doctrine,” which holds that a trademark owner cannot control what happens to its products
after the first sale. However, the court finds this doctrine a poor fit here, where it is undisputed
that Defendant did not redistribute the physical copies of Plaintiffs’ standards that it purchased
but rather created reproductions through scanning and re-typing, with resultant errors and
differences. See Australian Gold, Inc. v. Hatfield, 436 F.3d 1228, 1241 (10th Cir. 2006) (noting
that the first sale doctrine is appropriate only when the actor “does no more than stock, display,
and resell a producer’s product under the producer’s trademark”); Capitol Records, LLC v.
DeRigi Inc., 934 F. Supp. 2d 640, 655 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (in the copyright context, the first sale
doctrine was “impossible” to apply because that defense is limited to when an actor distributes
the original material item, not when she distributes reproductions).
Moreover, Defendant’s quality control standards in reproducing Plaintiffs’ standards
were outside of Plaintiffs’ control and below that sufficient to deem the standards it distributed
“genuine” products, meaning the first sale doctrine cannot protect Defendant’s conduct. See
Polymer Tech. Corp. v. Mimran, 37 F.3d 74, 78 (2d Cir. 1994); Shell Oil Co. v. Commercial
Petroleum, Inc., 928 F.2d 104, 107 (4th Cir. 1991); El Greco Leather Prods. Co. v. Shoe World,
806 F.2d 392, 395 (2d Cir. 1986); see also 4 McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition
§ 25.42 (4th ed.). Although Defendant argues that there are no material differences between
Plaintiffs’ standards and Defendant’s reproductions, Plaintiffs need not show that Defendant’s
reproduced standards were defective, only that they were unable to exercise quality control. See
Zino Davidoff SA v. CVS Corp., 571 F.3d 238, 243 (2d Cir. 2009). The claim survives because
“the interference with the trademark holder’s legitimate steps to control quality unreasonably
subjects the trademark holder to the risk of injury to the reputation of its mark.” Id. Plaintiffs
have established that Defendant’s quality control standards, including “double-keying” the
standards, a process involving two separate individuals typing the same material and comparing
the results to determine the existence of any errors, resulted in missing or inverted pages and
typographical errors in numerical values or formulas. (ASTM PSMF ¶¶ 190, 214–15). Because
the standards are therefore not “genuine,” the first sale doctrine does not apply, and Plaintiffs
have established that Defendant used its trademarks in commerce without authorization.
Likelihood of Confusion
Next, the court must assess whether there is a substantial likelihood of consumer
confusion. This hinges on whether “an appreciable number of ordinarily prudent customers are
likely to be misled, or simply confused, as to the source” of the copied standards that Public
Resource posted online. Globalaw, 452 F. Supp. 2d at 47.
Plaintiffs argue that consumers will be confused both in thinking that Plaintiffs
authorized Defendant’s posting of the standards, and that Plaintiffs produced the PDF and
HTML versions of the standards that Defendant posted. See Am Ass’n for the Advancement of
Science v. Hearst Corp., 498 F. Supp. 244, 258 (D.D.C. 1980) (noting that both are appropriate
bases for a confusion argument). Courts in this Circuit consider approximately seven factors in
assessing the likelihood of confusion, though none is individually determinative. Globalaw, 452
F. Supp. 2d at 48. They include: (1) the strength of the Plaintiffs’ marks; (2) the degree of
similarity between the marks; (3) the proximity of the products; (4) evidence of actual confusion;
(5) Defendant’s purpose or reciprocal good faith in adopting its own mark; (6) the quality of
Defendant’s product; and (7) the sophistication of the buyers. Id. Several courts in other
Circuits have determined that when a defendant uses an identical mark on a similar product,
consideration of all the factors is not necessary. See Int’l Cosmetics Exch., Inc. v. Gapardis
Health & Beauty, Inc., 303 F.3d 1242, 1248-49 (11th Cir. 2002); Wynn Oil Co. v. Thomas, 839
F.2d 1183, 1190-91 (6th Cir. 1988).
Defendant does not dispute that Plaintiffs’ marks are “strong,” that Defendant used marks
and logos that are identical to Plaintiffs’ marks and logos when it posted the Plaintiffs’ standards
online, and that the standards it applied the marks and logos to were identical or nearly identical
to Plaintiffs’. (PSMF ¶¶ 210–11; Def. Br. at 65). Moreover, it is undisputed that the standards
distributed by Plaintiffs and by Defendant were in close proximity, since Defendant offered the
standards in the same market as Plaintiff—i.e., the Internet—as a free alternative to purchasing
the standards from Plaintiffs directly. See Restatement (Third) of Unfair Competition § 21 cmt. j
(1995) (“[T]he use of similar designations on goods that are used together, or that perform the
same function, or that are of the same general class, is more likely to cause confusion than is a
use in connection with goods used for different purposes, or in different contexts, or by different
purchasers.”). It is also undisputed that Defendant intended for individuals to consider that the
standards were identical. (PSMF ¶ 213).
Defendant argues that despite these undisputed facts, consumers would not be confused
because it posts disclaimers that it claims “adequately informed consumers” so that “no
reasonable consumer would mistake [its cover page] as part of the original document.” (Def.
Reply at 28 (referring to the PDF disclaimer at ASTM ECF No. 118-12, Ex. 16)). Defendant
also argues that the PDF versions it posted “look like scans of physical documents,” and that the
“preamble for the .html standards informs reasonable consumers that Public Resource has
provided the transcription.” (Id. (referring to the HTML disclaimer at ASTM ECF No. 118-13,
Ex. 26)). 14 Here, Defendant’s disclaimer on the PDF reads in full:
In order to promote public education and public safety, equal justice for all, a
better informed citizenry, the rule of law, world trade and world peace, this legal
document is hereby made available on a noncommercial basis, as it is the right of
all humans to know and speak the laws that govern them.
(ASTM ECF No. 118-12, Ex. 16). The disclaimer on the HTML versions contains similar
Defendant cites to Prestonettes, Inc. v. Coty, 264 U.S. 359, 369 (1924), in support of its
argument that a disclaimer is sufficient to inform consumers that it has repackaged or changed
the original. The facts of that case do not support Defendant’s position, as the disclaimer in that
case stated clearly that the distributor was not connected with the producer and that the
producer’s product was merely a constituent part of the distributor’s new product. Coty, 264
U.S. at 367.
language. (ASTM ECF No. 118-13, Ex. 26). These disclaimers do not mention Defendant’s
creation of the reproductions, Plaintiffs’ lack of association or authorization, or that they are even
reproductions or transcriptions, and can hardly be called disclaimers at all. Moreover,
Defendant’s assertion that the PDFs “look like scans” offers no assistance to a consumer looking
at the standard, as they would have no way to determine whether the Plaintiffs or Defendant
created the scan. While Defendant has since adopted a more thorough disclaimer that includes
information about Public Resource’s retyping of the HTML versions and the possibility of errors
(DSMF ¶ 169), it did not begin using that disclaimer until 2015, after the start of this litigation.
(Decl. of Carl Malamud ¶ 31 (ASTM ECF No. 122-8)).
The parties have presented no evidence to establish the existence or non-existence of
actual consumer confusion. While such evidence is not required, without it summary judgment
on consumer confusion, and trademark infringement more generally, is a difficult call. However,
the facts here present nearly as black-and-white a case as possible. A consumer in the market for
one of Plaintiffs’ voluntary consensus standards may encounter them on Plaintiffs’ websites for
purchase, or on Defendant’s website for free download. Because Defendant has intentionally
created a copy that is meant to appear identical, including use of Plaintiffs’ trademarks, then that
consumer may download that standard for free from Defendant without knowing that it is not
created by the Plaintiffs and may contain missing pages or typographical errors leading to
inaccurate values for measurements. In short, Plaintiffs have presented enough evidence for the
court to conclude that there is no genuine dispute on the factual issue of whether consumer
confusion is likely.
Defendant’s Nominative Fair Use Defense
While Plaintiffs have successfully established Defendant’s infringing use of their
trademarks, Defendant argues that its use of Plaintiffs’ trademarks is “nominative fair use.”
Under this defense, Defendant must demonstrate that its use of Plaintiffs’ trademarks was
necessary to describe their standards; that it only used as much of the marks as was reasonably
necessary to identify the standards; and that it has not done anything to suggest sponsorship or
endorsement by the Plaintiffs or to inaccurately describe the relationship between the parties’
products. See Rosetta Stone Ltd. v. Google, Inc., 676 F.3d 144, 154 (4th Cir. 2012). Nominative
fair use by a defendant makes it “clear to consumers that the plaintiff, not the defendant, is the
source of the trademarked product or service.” Century 21 Real Estate Corp. v. Lendingtree,
Inc., 425 F.3d 211, 220 (3d Cir. 2005). Thus, if Defendant’s use is nominative fair use, it would
not create “confusion about the source of [the] defendant’s product.” Tiffany (NJ) Inc. v. eBay
Inc., 600 F.3d 93, 102 (2d Cir. 2010) (alteration in original). On this point, the parties argue past
each other. Defendant believes no consumer would believe that Defendant, rather than Plaintiffs,
was the source of the standards, and so its use is a fair use. Plaintiffs argue that Defendant’s use
cannot be fair precisely because consumers would believe that Plaintiffs were the source of the
reproduced standards, which they are not. However, because the court has already determined
that consumer confusion as to the source of the trademarked standards is likely, the nominative
fair use defense is inapplicable and the court need not assess each of the Rosetta Stone factors
The court therefore finds that Defendant engaged in trademark infringement by its use of
Plaintiffs’ registered trademarks, and Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on their
trademark claims is GRANTED and Defendant’s cross-motion is DENIED.
Both ASTM Plaintiffs and AERA Plaintiffs seek a permanent injunction barring
Defendant from distributing, displaying, or creating derivative works from their copyrighted
standards and, in the case of ASTM Plaintiffs, their trademarks, which this court has authority to
grant under 17 U.S.C. § 502(a) (Copyright Act) and 15 U.S.C. § 1116 (Lanham Act). Plaintiffs
must establish (1) irreparable injury; (2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary
damages, are inadequate to compensate for their injury; (3) that a remedy in equity is warranted
after considering the balance of hardships; and (4) that the public interest would not be disserved
by a permanent injunction. See eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, LLC, 547 U.S. 388, 391 (2006).
The ASTM Plaintiffs assert that they will face three separate irreparable injuries if
Defendant is permitted to continue distribution of Plaintiffs’ standards, including substantial
declines in revenue that may cause their business models to change, the loss of the exclusive
rights under the Copyright Act to exclude others from distributing, reproducing, or displaying
their protected works, and the loss of control of the goodwill associated with their trademarks.
AERA Plaintiffs similarly assert that they will face three separate irreparable injuries if
Defendant is permitted to continue distribution of Plaintiffs’ standards, including loss of business
opportunities, the loss of the exclusive rights under the Copyright Act to exclude others from
distributing, reproducing, or displaying their protected works, and the adverse effect on
Plaintiffs’ efforts to create further standards.
It is well established that the threat of continuing copyright infringement justifies
granting a permanent injunction. See Walt Disney Co. v. Powell, 897 F.2d 565, 567 (D.C. Cir.
1990) (“When a [ ] plaintiff has established a threat of continuing infringement, he is entitled to
an injunction.”); Hanley-Wood LLC v. Hanley Wood LLC, 783 F. Supp. 2d 147, 151 (D.D.C.
2011); Breaking the Chain Found. v. Capital Educ. Support, Inc., 589 F. Supp. 2d 25, 30
(D.D.C. 2008). While a court should not automatically issue an injunction after it finds there
was past copyright or trademark infringement, here Plaintiffs’ alleged irreparable injury is not
the past infringement but the threat of future infringement. Defendant has not provided any
assurances that it would cease posting of Plaintiffs’ standards—indeed, it is undisputed that
during the course of this litigation, Public Resource posted online versions of the ASTM
Plaintiffs’ other standards not involved in this litigation. (PSMF ¶ 235). Moreover, Defendant’s
counsel at oral argument admitted that Defendant would post the AERA Plaintiffs’ 2014
Standards if they were incorporated by reference into federal regulations in the future. (Tr. of
Motions Hearing at 75:24–76:2). The court thus determines that the continued threat of
infringement is sufficient to weigh in favor of an injunction.
Adequacy of Monetary Damages
Plaintiffs argue that because damages here are difficult to quantify and Defendant may be
unable to pay damages, then legal remedies are inadequate. See Fox Television Stations, Inc. v.
FilmOn X LLC, 966 F. Supp. 2d. 30, 50 (D.D.C. 2013). The evidence shows that while the
Plaintiffs’ standards were accessed thousands of times on Defendant’s website, Defendant does
not track information that would be helpful in calculating damages, such as how many of those
accesses actually led to downloads, and whether those downloads were in lieu of purchases.
Moreover, Defendant did not dispute that it has “extremely limited financial resources available
to pay any damages award” and that in 2014 it “generated under $100,000 in operating income
and had $248,000 in total net assets.” (ASTM PSMF ¶¶ 272–73). Given that the Copyright Act
provides for statutory damages ranging from $750 to $30,000 for each of the standards at issue in
the overall case, or even up to $150,000 per infringement if Plaintiffs were to later prove that
infringement was committed willfully, Defendant’s potential inability to pay is surely a factor
weighing towards equitable relief. See 17 U.S.C. § 504(c)(1)–(2).
Balance of Hardships & Public Interest
The court must weigh the likely harms faced by Plaintiffs described above with any
harms faced by Defendant if an injunction is imposed. Here, Defendant’s CEO Carl Malamud
was asked in his ASTM deposition what financial impact an injunction barring posting of the
standards would have on Public Resource, and he responded “probably none.” (Malamud Dep.
at 219:22–220:4 (Ex. 3 to Rubel Decl. (ASTM ECF No. 118-12))). The only harm Mr. Malamud
identified was that “one hates to have wasted that  effort” that went into posting the standards
online. (Id.). Without evidence of any additional harms, this factor weighs strongly in favor of
Additionally, the public must not be disserved by the issuance of an injunction. Here, the
public interest is served by the policy interests that underlie the Copyright Act itself, namely the
protection of financial incentives for the continued creation of valuable works, and the continued
value in maintaining the public-private system in place in the U.S. to ensure continued
development of technical standards.
Taken together, the court finds that injunctive relief is appropriate and that Defendant
should be permanently barred from violating any of Plaintiffs’ exclusive copyrights, including
distributing, displaying, reproducing, or creating derivative works in the nine standards on which
ASTM Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment and AERA Plaintiffs’ 1999 Standards, as well as
barred from any use of ASTM Plaintiffs’ trademarks in connection with the posting of these
standards online or elsewhere.
For the reasons set forth above, ASTM Plaintiffs’ Motion is GRANTED, AERA
Plaintiffs’ Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and Defendant’s CrossMotions are DENIED.
Date: February 2, 2017
Tanya S. Chutkan
TANYA S. CHUTKAN
United States District Judge
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