Accounting Standards Copyrighted in US

An accounting industry association in the US met this week with the new federal oversight board to discuss whether the overseers should pay to use copyrighted standards for auditors that the trade group developed.

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, created by Congress last year, announced last month that it would write professional and ethics standards for auditors.

That task had been handled for more than six decades by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The federal board's decision was seen by accountants as a big blow to the AICPA, which was criticized for its response to accounting scandals last year.

Accounting board members said last month that they would adopt the AICPA guidelines temporarily to give them time to develop their own standards. But that plan hit a snag because the AICPA has held a copyright on the standards since 1941.

Representatives of the oversight board and the trade group met Tuesday.

Copyrighting things such as professional standards is common among associations, AICPA spokeswoman Linda Dunbar said. She said the standards bring in significant revenue to the nonprofit group, but she declined to provide figures. The books containing the standards sell for $129 to members of the trade group and $161 to nonmembers, according to a Web site on which they are sold.

“The meeting was really in the spirit of cooperating and brainstorming,” Dunbar said.

Sources familiar with the meeting characterized it as the start of a broader discussion between the oversight board and the trade group on several issues. The board and the AICPA plan more meetings on the copyright problem, sources familiar with the talks said.

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