Standards and copyright: the protection of intellectual property rights

Standards are created through intense collaboration between experts from various organisations: from commercial companies through research institutions to public authorities and NGOs. The resulting documents constitute intellectual property which is bound by copyright. Or in short: you are not allowed to copy, publish and reproduce (any part of) standards.  


Why are standards subject to copyright?

Just like books and other publications, standards – both on paper and in digital format – are protected by copyright. This gives ‘the author’ the necessary and exclusive guarantees that his intellectual property will not be unlawfully copied or disseminated. For copyright violation means loss of income for organisations which develop and disseminate standards. 

NBN uses the sales of standards to finance standardisation activities, just like other national and international standards organisations. In other words: without copyright, the general standards process would be put at risk. Copyright also prevents users from making inappropriate changes to standards. 


What does copyright protection mean?

Reproducing or publishing any part of a standard is strictly prohibited without express written permission from the copyright holder which, in this case, is NBN. Therefore if you download the content of a standard, you are not allowed to use any fragments of text for your own PowerPoint presentation, for example. If you do, then you risk legal prosecution and high penalties. 

Here are some examples: 

  • While you are not allowed to make copies of paper versions of a standard, you are allowed to keep those paper versions in the library of your organisation for people to consult. 

  • You may print out a standard in pdf format no more than once and you must not disseminate it within your organisation. 


The exception: reasonable use

Reasonable use means reproducing small fragments under specific conditions for non-commercial purposes. As soon as you consider reasonable use applies, you can submit a request for an exception to NBN. The form indicates the limits to which you are held with regard to the exception.  


Want to submit a request for reasonable use?

You can do that by clicking on this link.

In all other cases, it is best for you to contact NBN for more information: