A copyright lawsuit against web-based startup UpCodes heads closer to trial

Who owns the model building code that sets the legal safety minimums adopted by many states and cities?

That’s an issue that could be decided in a lawsuit brought by The International Code Council (ICC) against UpCodes, a for-profit company that provides searchable databases of published state and local building codes. ICC is a nonprofit that is the developer of the International Building Code, which is widely used in North America as a model code.

Filed in 2017 in federal district court in New York City, the lawsuit is slowly heading to trial next year. Both parties have put detailed arguments and evidence into the court record and ICC has asked the court for summary judgment in its favor. The outcome could change the way designers use code, but it could also drain funds away from a codewriting nonprofit1 that helps make buildings safe.

The American Society of Civil Engineers also filed suit in 2017 as a co-plaintiff, but ASCE no longer is part of the lawsuit.


  • 1. Although International Building Code (IBC) guidelines are written into the building codes specified by nearly all municipalities in the country, the codes themselves are considered to be under copyright by the ICC. ICC, a non-profit entity, does the work of researching, writing, and periodically updating the codes itself, a service that is funded through the sale of comprehensive code packages to businesses, municipal entities, and other interested parties. Because ICC relies on this funding stream in order to fuel the development of its code infrastructure, the organization argues that it must strongly defend its copyright claims.

    In an ICC statement explaining the suit, the group writes, "The lawsuit was filed to prevent UpCodes from attempting to make a profit for its owners and investors by taking–without paying for–building codes that the Code Council created and updates at great expense."

    Source: Archinect