Six tips for preventing engineering standards copyright infringement

Engineering functions in major corporations face new challenges, on multiple fronts, every day. One important issue is avoiding copyright infringement of standards.

While most large organizations have measures and training in place to broadly guard against general copyright infringement across all functions, they may not have tight enough copyright protection controls for engineering standards. Engineers, auditors, librarians and quality control specialists are accountable for ensuring the right employees have the right standards at the right time in the right ways. But how do you most effectively accomplish all this while facing constantly changing high-volume standards?

Engineers of course know following standards is mission-critical for design and operational excellence, as well as commercial success. What many may not know is that standards content management controls are also essential in preventing legal and compliance issues with those organizations who create, own and publish standards. Improper use of standards materials can trigger legal penalties, court fines and perhaps even jeopardize access to standards.


Improper use of standards materials can trigger legal penalties, court fines and perhaps even jeopardize access to standards.”


Standards publishers need to protect their intellectual property like all businesses. They invest significant time and money ensuring access to standards and protecting their intellectual property. That’s why so many choose to work with Techstreet, as we provide controlled access to their standards in one system with Digital Rights Management (DRM) software to help prevent copyright infringement.

And with large engineering groups often juggling 500 or more standards, many use Techstreet’s one-stop right-way access to the most current publisher content – a simple, cost-effective system designed to prevent copyright infringement and to easily put these standards to work.

Whatever your role in dealing with engineering standards, the following tips will help you and your team minimize the risks of infringing publisher copyrights.


TIP #1: Use DRM software to control access

DRM software stops users from inadvertently sharing standards when they shouldn’t. Automating this strong safety net is one of the easiest and most effective ways to help employees with no extra work or attention on their parts. Make sure whatever software you choose is compatible with commonly used document applications such as Adobe Acrobat. And be prepared for a few installation bumps, as IT teams may need to push out installation plug-ins. Any minor installation pain, though, will be well worth the long-term protection benefits.


TIP #2: Don’t locally store standards files

Standards are normally in watermarked documents belonging to just one person. If that person saves his or her content on a local shared drive, others will have access and believe it is safe to download and use these files. Those downloading these documents have then automatically – but unknowingly – improperly used the standards.


TIP #3: Don’t share standards files directly with other people

 Make sure people know to only download their own personal standards files and never someone else’s files. Each downloaded copy is intended for one user, so each user should only download his or her own copy of a standard. Having DRM software in place also provides the added benefit of ensuring a standards file can’t be opened by anyone else if someone forwards it. That’s because DRM software decrypts a file so the user can read it, and locks it to each machine it was downloaded to – eliminating accidental infringement.


TIP #4: Be careful about printing

If every engineering function could use one slogan of “Print One & Be Done,” that would be a great first step in raising awareness of the need to guard against standards copyright infringement. Coaching people to only print one copy of standards documents and only use these copies personally is one way to inoculate against the spread of improper standards sharing. Going a few steps further – cautioning people against printing multiple copies and distributing any copies, including the one copy printed for personal use – would be a highly beneficial booster shot of protection.

While this may seem like a simple issue to address, Techstreet is increasingly hearing from clients that it is actually becoming harder. Why? Because large organizations often have two distinct generations of engineers: long-time engineers who grew up professionally in paper-heavy environments where hard copies truly were the glue in their operations and newer engineers who operate online-only, seeing paper copies as a waste.

So, when we advise on being careful about printing we also suggest targeted communications and tools to reinforce this message in non-generational, engineering-like, matter-of-fact ways such as “Print One & Be Done.”


TIP #5: Don’t share logins

 Everyone knows sharing logins for personal use such as paying bills, accessing bank accounts and watching online streaming content is risky and wrong. And in work environments people are made very aware from day one on their jobs not to share personal email account logins.

Yet we know from our work with standards publishers and our corporate clients that this best practice isn’t always top-of-mind when engineering teams are rushing to get access to the latest standards.

 In fact, few realize that when they have individual work accounts with publishers or standards aggregators to access those standards, the documents are watermarked to individuals. That means lending someone your publisher account login puts you at risk for copyright infringement. You could be flagged for misuse, as the watermark is unique to you.


TIP #6: Pay attention to watermarks

If your company gets its standards documents from a third party such as Techstreet, you need to know how they are used to guard against copyright infringement.

When using Techstreet, watermarks:

  • Are imprinted on every page of downloaded standards documents with a person’s name and his or her company name
  • Indicate who downloaded it, when and where it was downloaded and what organization has the license

Regardless of where standards come from, though, help your engineers and companies stay safe by sharing the two simple directions below:

  1. If your name isn’t in the watermark, don’t use the document in any way.
  2. If your company’s name isn’t in the watermark, don’t use the document in any way.

Sometimes people will ask what the most important tip is to follow. The answer is different for each company, so start with an internal assessment of how (or even if) you are guarding against standards copyright infringement and then align any gaps or flags you have to these tips.


To learn about our powerful web-based standards management platform, visit Techstreet Enterprise.