ICC vs UpCodes

The International Code Council has filed suit against San Francisco based company UpCodes.

UpCodes is a software firm that is utilizing the ICC’s building codes in an AI program which helps architects review their plans in comparison to the building codes. Architects can upload the plan models and the program will flag areas in the design that are not up to code, saving valuable time and money when it comes to design errors. While the program is not fool-proof, many say that the low cost makes it worth the investment if it catches even one costly error.

According to the Architect’s Newspaper, UpCodes believes their use of the codes are fair, as there is precedent that once copyrighted material becomes law it passes into the public domain. Court cases dating as far back as 1980 have been cited by UpCodes founder in defense of their use of the codes as public domain material.

The ICC argues differently, however, citing that “loss of copyright could impair code development” (ArchPaper). The ICC is a non-profit organization, and the codes are developed essentially by volunteers from multiple industries. The Code Council recoups the cost of the production of the codes through sales of code books, as well as training and consulting programs. Their claim is that they make the codes transparently available, whether online or in print form, and that UpCodes should not be utilizing the codes in order to turn a profit.

Essentially, these two companies are on opposite sides of the same coin. They both want to ensure that buildings are being built up to code and are therefore safe for the public. UpCodes feels the ICC has a monopoly on the printing of building codes, while the ICC feels their control over the codes is important to the integrity of the code itself. Time will tell which side prevails, as the decision now lies with the courts.

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