A Friday Debate

Should older or earlier versions of BSI standards be made freely available on the internet?

Consider for example
BS 7430:2011+A1:2015. Code of practice for protective earthing of electrical installations being the current version

BS 7430:1998. Code of practice for earthing Published:15 Nov 1998 • Withdrawn: 31 Dec  2011

Or maybe

BS 7671:2018+A2:2022. Requirements for Electrical Installations. IET Wiring Regulations being the current version

BS 7671:2008+A3:2015. Requirements for Electrical Installations. IET Wiring Regulations Published: 31 Jan 2015 • Withdrawn: 29 Jun 2018

These could be published in a PDF format with a watermark on every page stating that this is not the current or latest version and for the current version can be found on the BSI web site.  This then allows people to look at the information from older versions and allow them to use it for research or for study purposes.  If you take BS7671 as an example has over 60 Normative References to other BS standards like BS 5839 which in effect is a whole suite of standards.  Sometimes people are unsure if that publication will satisfy their requirements.  

As a scenario BS7671 makes reference to BS7430 and BS7430 makes reference to BS7671

As always please be polite and respectful in this purely academic debate.  The concept of this idea is to help educate future generations of engineers by allowing them to access historical information from past achievements and standards.

Come on everybody lets help inspire the future.

  • Wouldn't it encourage some people to use the older standard rather than pay for the newer version?

  • In many ways the current laws on copyright afford a  very long protection period, compared to say patents on real ideas that ironically actually take longer to develop to a point where something can be sold that so the creator might recover their money back. In general  a patent on an engineering idea or design expires after 20 years from first filing , but a publication copyright lasts 70 years from release, or 70- years after the named author's death (last named author if more than one), and trademarks last as long as you keep up the registration payments.

    The irony is that a lot of this copyright protected stuff is earning the owners of the copyright nothing at all, and in many cases it is not even clear if there is a legal entity who is the copyright owner, and the advice has to be, if in doubt do not copy.

    In practice this means that there are many books, films etc first published   up to the mid 1920s still in copyright, but no enforceable patents from before Feb 2004.
    As a hardware guy (with his name on a few patents from the 1990s) I find this disparity rather unfair but hey-ho.

    However, fortunately.  for the purposes of debate on fora like this, or for study and training, reasonable excerpts may be perfectly legally made from things that are still in copyright so long as the source is acknowledged.

    (a perfectly legal example of a small excerpt to help the debate, from https://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/publicdomainday/2024/ )

    There is of course no reason that an organization may not accept or even perform the release of things they are responsible for into the public domain earlier that they are forced to by law,  but it is quite unusual to do so.
    (Look at who can(not) draw a picture that looks like Mickey mouse or having to pay Warner/Chappell if you are seen singing "Happy Birthday to you" in  public as example of misuse of that power if you like.)  Both those examples have only very recently become legal in the UK, and even now only for a very early black and white mickey mouse..


  • Maybe, equally it might encourage folk to refer to an extinct  standard, rather than not refer to one at all and to just wing it.


  •  I have a library of older standards that include the Wiring Regulations 1-18.

    I have to ask why you want copies of withdrawn standards other than for historical interest?


  • Why would you want a current standard? Presumably to see if your design or idea follows it ?

    In the same way older standards help when looking at older kit, to see if it met the standard of the day,  and then there is education of the next generation of engineers, and the demonstration of  the development if ideas that sort of thing.

    So how much money do the copyright holders make from the sale of out-dated standards docs, and who would lose how much if they did not enforce that ?


  • I agree with you there Mike.  Some people are not refering to standards at all.  Some people say its the cost, some people say nothing because they don't actually care.

    As an example

    Take an online seller who offers next day or next week delivery. 

    They know that it is to be UK but they don't meet the BS requirement. 

    To prove the point search for a UK plug top or a 4 way trailling extention lead and see whats on offer

  • Mike

    Yes a good point on education as I have mentioned the origin of modern standards when teaching.

    It is irrelevant if an installation of a piece of equipment complied at the time, the important issue is does it comply with the current standard.

    Of course if you are an IET member you can go to the IET archives and search the original documents. I had the pleasure of holding the  original 1882 Journal that contained the 1st Edition of the Wiring Regulations which was not published as a separate document.


  • It is irrelevant if an installation of a piece of equipment complied at the time, the important issue is does it comply with the current standard.

    For the wiring regs, and for performing an EICR, perhaps.

    However there are a lot more standards out there than just wiring ones, and plenty of examples where an old standard applies. MOT test for an old car comes to mind immediately, and then several telecommunications   standards, and for BSI you can buy imperial sized steel bars certified  to the 1950s standard if you need to .

    But even in the world of  wiring, things like meeting  the ESCQR for example does not (and sensibly cannot) ) call up the latest version of BS7671 (though I agree there is no effect in practice with that one- an installation meeting a newer standard is still 'legal').


    In any case any substantial copying or reproduction in full of anything newer than about the 8th edition of the regs needs permission from the current copyright holders.

  • Image an FE college or University with access to the back catalogue of BS (British Standards).  The teaching possibilities.  Or those who have a curious mind. 

  • It could be used when doing EICRs for older electrical installation by younger or more recently qualified Electrician who hold a City & Guilds 2391.  They may not own a back catalogue of the wiring regulations.