First, let me assure you that we have no desire to work at cross purposes with you or any other chemical manufacturer or supplier.
This website was started because in fifteen years experience as an emergency physician, I have found that no one exposed to a potentially hazardous material ever has a paper MSDS for that product immediately available, and the cost of purchasing this information from commercial providers is simply not justifiable when many of my patients can't even afford to fill their prescriptions.
It is our objective to assure that those people that are potentially exposed to chemical products have immediate access to the most current and accurate information available via the Internet, and that emergency responders and physicians have the best possible chance to respond without error or delay to exposures to any of a quarter million chemical products. We are a noncommercial organization which exists to serve safety, emergency, and medical specialists as well as employers and employees in general. Unlike commercial organizations such as Chemtrec we do not charge for providing this information.
The information we have on the products included in our collection was extracted from information published by the federal government and which is placed by the government in the public domain, as it is entitled to do under federal procurement regulations, and is available from a variety of sources.
Complex legal questions have been asked about this collection and copyright. We undestand that the Copyright Act does not restrict the distribution or duplication of information, knowledge, or facts; it was written for only one purpose: to protect the right of the author of a "creative work" to the profits generated by sales of that work. Whether the MSDS itself is a "creative work", or a "list of facts" has not been determined in court.
The latter is not copyrightable however much "sweat of the brow" was expended to compile it (see Page vs Pacific Telephone). Even if the MSDS were found to be copyrightable, our documents, containing facts from a public doman database, in our own format, do not have the same "creative elements". Even if they did, since OSHA requires the manufacturer to provide the MSDS free it would be difficult to prove a manufacturer had suffered actual damages. Finally, Australian courts have recently found the electronic distribution of MSDSs for the purposes of safety to be "fair use" even if not authorized by the original author.
The OSHA position is simpler. OSHA has determined that 1) the manufacturer is not responsible for the accuracy of MSDSs describing its products if they are obtained from another source, but 2) these MSDSs can and do meet the employer's requirements under OSHA for an MSDS. We are not by any means the only source of information from this particular database. Even if we eliminate information on your products from our archive these files will continue to be used from other sources, simply because electronic access is so much more efficient for hazard communication than access on paper that no employer of even moderate size can afford not to use it.
There is one way to achieve your objective of assuring that safety information on your products is current and accurate, and that is to provide it yourself in electronic form. By eliminating the need to print, transmit, store, track and locate paper MSDSs, you can reduce your expenses and make it safer _and_ less expensive for your customers to use your products.
It is always our objective to direct users to the most current and accurate information freely accessible on the Internet. We would be happy to update the information we have on your products if you wish to provide current information by email, ftp, or on disk. We can generally convert word processor files if necessary.
If you wish to maintain this information yourself on our website we will provide write access to a directory in our archive free of charge. If and when you wish to provide this information on your own website we will substitute a link to it in place of the files we currently have on your products. Our objective is simply to assure that critical safety information is immediately and universally available, not necessarily to provide it ourselves, and certainly not to control it or profit from it in any way.
Whatever approach you choose, if you wish to make complete and accurate safety information on your products immediately available via the Internet, we will assist in any way we can.
Daniel Woodard, MD
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