Standards and copyright

Standards play a vital role across all kinds of industries, from technology to security. It's important to understand why copyright, or author's right, applies to standards. On this page, we discuss copyright on standards in more detail and look at how to properly respect and manage standards.

What is copyright?

Copyright is a legal term used to describe the rights that authors have over their original creative works. These give the author the exclusive right to copy, distribute, publicly display, or create derivatives of their work. The author, therefore, has the necessary guarantees that their intellectual property will not be illegally copied or distributed. Just like books and other publications, standards – both paper and digital – are subject to copyright.

Why are standards copyrighted?

Standards are created through in-depth collaboration between experts from different organisations such as companies, NGOs, governments, and research institutions. Standards development is therefore a long and intense process. All stakeholders from a certain field come together, have extensive discussions, make compromises, and conduct thorough research. The goal? To finally reach a consensus on the adoption of a standard that is widely accepted and applied.

Companies and other stakeholders use this knowledge in various ways, such as to improve the quality of their products and services, organise value chains more efficiently, better protect the environment, or find markets for their products and services more easily.

Why is copyright protection so important?

Copyright allows NBN to guarantee the authenticity and integrity of each standard. This way, the user always has the correct version.

NBN uses the sale of standards to fund standardisation activities, as do other national and international standards agencies. In other words, copyright protection promotes, stimulates, and contributes to the overall standardisation process.

Want to know how and why NBN uses copyright and intellectual property law? You can read all about it in the guide on copyright.

Download the guide on copyright

How to manage standards in accordance with copyright

When you buy a standard – whether digital or paper – you may make one print version for internal use within your organisation. By respecting copyright, you avoid potential legal consequences and financial penalties. Fortunately, NBN offers several formulas for working with standards in a copyright-compliant way.

Want to buy one standard for a single user? Prefer a comprehensive collection for the entire organisation? Or even better: a customised subscription? Through the NBN platform you can easily buy and use standards while respecting copyright.

Learn more about our formulas

Copyright exceptions

The Belgian Code of Economic Law, Article XI.189 et seq., provides exceptions to copyright, including:

  • Exceptions for the benefit of public education or scientific research by institutions officially recognised by the government for that purpose.
  • Exceptions for libraries, museums and archives.

These exceptions are possible when justified by the organisation’s non-profit-making objective and when they do not prejudice the normal use of the work. In these cases, NBN’s prior consent is not needed to reproduce the work.

In addition, NBN has, beyond the legal exceptions provided for in Belgian law, adopted a policy based on the principle of reasonable use, inspired by the Anglo-Saxon 'faire use'. Reasonable use is the reproduction of small extracts of standards and other NBN content for non-commercial purposes. Reasonable use of a standard or NBN content requires NBN's prior consent. This can be requested by completing a form which clearly states the limits for reasonable use.

Download the form

'Reasonable use' is the reproduction of small excerpts for non-commercial, educational, or informational purposes in accordance with specific rules.

Frequently asked questions about standards and copyright

Hassle-free access to standards

Want to know how to work with standards in an easy and copyright-compliant way? 
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