July Washington E-Bulletin

July 1, 2014

The July issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is available now on AALLNET.

Vol. 2014, Issue 07





FOIA Advisory Committee to Convene June 24

June 10, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

The National Records and Archives Administration (NARA) will convene the first meeting of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee on June 24. The committee will be comprised of twenty members— 10 appointed from within government and 10 from outside of government— and Office of Government Information Services director Miriam Nisbet will chair. 

The FOIA Advisory Committee was established under the White House’s second Open Government National Action Plan (NAP). The Committee will “study the current FOIA landscape across the Executive Branch and may recommend legislative action, policy changes or executive action, among other matters.” A May 2014 Federal Register notice announcing the creation of the Committee notes: “NARA has determined that the creation of the FOIA Advisory Committee is in the public interest due to the expertise and valuable advice the Committee members will provide on issues related to improving the administration of FOIA.” Improvements to FOIA administration must take into account the views and interests of both requesters and agencies. The Committee is charged with fostering dialogue between the Administration and requester community, soliciting public comments, and developing consensus recommendations for improving FOIA administration and proactive disclosures.

The June 24 meeting will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and is open to the public.

What’s next for USA FREEDOM?

May 23, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the USA FREEDOM Act (H.R. 3361) in a 302-121 vote. In the eleven months since the Edward Snowden leaks shed light on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) secret spying practices, the political tide has clearly shifted against government surveillance. But while House passage of the USA FREEDOM Act indicates that lawmakers are critical of current surveillance practices, the USA FREEDOM Act passed by the House does not go far enough to protect the privacy of library users and all Americans.

Despite calls from privacy advocates and open government groups to strengthen the USA FREEDOM Act before sending it to the floor, the House Rules Committee made substantial modifications to the bill due to pressure from the Obama Administration. In the version passed by the House, search selector terms used by the NSA to define the scope of data requests have been broadened in such a way that could still allow bulk collection. The bill also limits transparency reporting for companies who receive such requests for data, and wrongly shifts the role of declassifying court decisions from the attorney general to the director of national intelligence. Many of the USA FREEDOM Act’s original co-sponsors expressed disappointment with the weakened legislation, with 76 of the bill’s 152 co-sponsors ultimately voting against it.

Congress can still act to reign in the NSA’s spying programs as the Senate Judiciary Committee will likely take up the USA FREEDOM Act this summer. Several leading senators have said they want a stronger bill and Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has pledged his commitment to “meaningful reform.”

AALL urges the Senate to support improvements to the USA FREEDOM Act to protect the privacy of all Americans and ensure greater transparency about their government’s actions. 

Guest Post: Standing up for the First Sale Doctrine

May 14, 2014

By Meg Kribble, chair, AALL Copyright Committee

Last week saw great outcry over Wolters Kluwer Aspen Law’s new Connected Casebook program. Under the proposed program, new casebooks would come with access to Aspen’s Casebook Connect digital platform including promised post-term access to the ebook edition with note taking tools and other digital bells and whistles. The catch? Students would be required to return the print books to Aspen at the end of the term, even highlighted and marked up. The tradition of selling the book to another student to recoup some of the expense would not be allowed.

Although Wolters Kluwer has backtracked and says they will continue to offer a traditional print book that students may retain or dispose of how they wish, the Connected Casebook is still an option for students and remains problematic for many reasons, perhaps most of all because of its encroachment on the first sale doctrine.

As many of you know, the first sale doctrine—allowing purchasers of legal copyrighted works to re-sell, lend, rent, or give them away—has been an important part of U.S. copyright law since the Supreme Court recognized it in Bobbs-Merrill v. Straus. The Copyright Act of 1976 codified it as 17 U.S. Code § 109. It was re-affirmed by the court as recently as 2012 in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley, applying the doctrine to works lawfully made overseas. The first sale doctrine is an essential protection of libraries’ right to lend our materials.

Wolters Kluwer Connected Casebook is troubling because it involves an attempt to shift print copies of books from a traditional sale to a license agreement. Some have suggested the proposal was a purposeful experiment to see if consumers would accept it—or as the Electronic Frontier Foundation posits, “a cynical plot to destroy the secondhand market for books.” Duke’s Scholarly Communications Officer Kevin Smith compares the plan to Ford including a provision in its sales contracts to prevent resale of its cars. Joe Patrice at Above the Law observes that Wolters Kluwer’s actions should have been foreseeable in light of Bowman v. Monsanto, the case in which the Supreme Court held that farmers could not replant seeds obtained through planting and harvesting seeds patented by Monsanto.

Librarians have already seen some of the impacts of switching from sales to licensing models having rights to digital publications curtailed compared to print editions, including not being allowed to interlibrary loan licensed material. Perhaps the most newsworthy instance was HarperCollins’ plan to require libraries to purchase new copies of ebooks after 26 checkouts, even though ebooks don’t wear out.

So what can we do?

The AALL Copyright Committee monitors issues like these for copyright implications and will alert AALL membership when there are opportunities for action to support the rights of libraries and our patrons. Watch this space, the Washington e-Bulletins, our blog or Twitter for more alerts and news. Congress is becoming active on copyright issues, so the coming years promise to be interesting.

Be informed if faculty or students—or even librarians in other disciplines—ask about the issue. Although James Grimmelman’s Change.org petition to Wolters Kluwer has been closed, there may be other petitions to watch for and sign in the future. Closed or not, the “reasons for signing” left by signers are inspiring reading!

In addition, AALL’s Vendor Liaison Margie Maes and Committee on Relations with Information Vendors are monitoring these issues for trends in the legal information industry and its impact on AALL members.

Read more about the Connected Casebook issue at the Chronicle, EFF, or Scholarly Communications @ Duke.

USA FREEDOM Act Gets Unanimous Approval in HJC Vote

May 8, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to approve the USA FREEDOM Act (H.R. 3361), an important step forward toward reforming the National Security Agency’s surveillance authorities. As we reported Tuesday, the Committee considered an amended “compromise” version of the bill. The 32-0 bipartisan vote signals that this legislation will likely be the reform vehicle to move forward in the House.

The USA FREEDOM Act “unequivocally ends bulk collection,” the bill’s author, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), said at the markup. Sensenbrenner, who also authored the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act, said the vote “makes it crystal clear that Congress does not support bulk collection.”  If passed, the amended USA FREEDOM Act would allow the government to collect phone data on U.S. citizens in cases where “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of wrongdoing can be proved, in turn allowing the government to collect metadata on individuals who are two degrees of separation, or “hops”, from the suspect. 

Several important reforms were excluded from the Judiciary passed bill. The amended USA FREEDOM Act fails to address collection authority under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act and does not provide a fix to the “backdoor loophole,” in which the NSA interprets the law to allow searches of data collected under Section 702 for the purpose of finding communications of a U.S. person. An attempt to restore this provision, offered by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) was struck down Wednesday.

The Judiciary Committee did restore a provision permitting increased transparency for companies receiving surveillance orders for their customers’ data, an amendment offered by Rep. Suzan Delbene (D-Wash.). AALL applauds the House Judiciary Committee’s unanimous vote. We hope to see additional reforms and transparency measures incorporated as the bill moves forward in the legislative process and urge members of Congress to support this important reform.

Note: The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held a closed-door markup of the USA FREEDOM Act this morning. There are conflicting reports about the content of amendments considered during that markup. We will provide more information as it becomes available. 

House Committee to Consider USA FREEDOM Act Tomorrow

May 6, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a markup of the USA FREEDOM Act (H.R. 3361), our favored legislative proposal to limit the NSA’s surveillance authority and end bulk collection of Americans’ phone and Internet records. The author of the USA FREEDOM Act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), is expected to introduce a manager’s amendment at the markup that will make several key changes to the bill, including creating a clear bulk collection fix and requiring declassification of significant FISA Court opinions. AALL has strongly supported the USA FREEDOM Act since its introduction and believes that, even as amended, this bill is the best legislative reform to restore Americans’ privacy and rights under the Constitution.

Early last month, AALL joined a broad coalition of organizations on a letter to Congress and the President calling for an end to the bulk collection of data on individuals and urged swift markup and passage of the USA FREEDOM Act. The amended bill would address each of the reforms endorsed in our letter, as well as others, by aiming to prohibit bulk collection of all data under Section 215 and 214 and the National Security Letter (NSL) statutes while preserving the requirement of prior court approval. Unfortunately, the Sensenbrenner amendment would also weaken some of the bill’s transparency requirements. AALL will therefore continue to advocate to restore these provisions.

AALL believes the government has a responsibility to protect the privacy of library users and calls for effective oversight of those laws which expand surveillance on library users. We are pleased that the House Judiciary Committee is moving forward to address needed reforms to the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. 

2014 DLC Meeting and FDL Conference April 30 – May 2

April 30, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

The 2014 Depository Library Council Meeting and Federal Depository Conference kicks off today at the Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C.. AALL’s Government Relations Office staff is attending and will report back on major developments after the conference.

In addition to educational sessions offered by government agencies and librarians, the Government Printing Office present its Forecast Study Final Report and the National Plan for the Future of the FDLP. These sessions and others will be streamed online for virtual conference participants. Click here to view the virtual conference agenda (PDF) and to register

The Government Printing Office will be taking questions from the virtual audience, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to participate! You can also join the conversation on Twitter using the conference dedicated hashtag 

Ready, Set, Advocate! It’s AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day

March 27, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

Today, nearly two dozen of your law librarian colleagues will meet with their members of Congress on Capitol Hill to discuss the most pressing issues affecting your profession. Help to magnify their influence and make a difference for law libraries by contacting your members of Congress today!

Our Legislative Action Center is ready to send customizable emails to your members of Congress on our top Lobby Day issues with just the click of a button. Prefer to advocate over the phone?  You can find lobby day talking points on all of our legislative priorities on AALLNET, along with our best tips for contacting legislators.

This year, Lobby Day participants are targeting members of Congress with specific asks based on their interests and committee assignments. If you registered in advance to participate in our Virtual Lobby Day, you will have already received the materials you need to take action on targeted issues. If not, never fear! Enter your home address in our Legislative Action Center to get all the information you’ll need about your members of Congress.  For instance, you can consider your members’ committee assignments to determine what issues they’re most likely to support. If your Congressman sits on the House Judiciary committee, pitch him on ECPA reform. If he sits on House Oversight, consider asking him to co-sponsor FASTR. If he voted “yea” on the Amash amendment to defund the NSA, you may have luck in asking him to co-sponsor the USA FREEDOM Act. On the Senate side, Rules Committee members can be approached about supporting the Government Publishing Act of 2014 to change the name of GPO. Senate Judiciary Committee members are good targets for ECPA reform or the USA FREEDOM Act. Are your members of Congress on the Appropriations Committees? Contact them in support of GPO and LC. The Action Center profiles will also show if your legislators are co-sponsors of AALL’s target legislation—if they’re not, you can ask them to co-sponsor.

Participating in the Virtual Lobby Day is really that painless. By making a call or sending an email today, you’ll give AALL a strong showing on Capitol Hill and help to advance a policy agenda that makes a difference for law libraries.

Thanks for all that you do!

Happy Birthday, World Wide Web! Make a Wish for ECPA Reform

March 12, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

On March 12th, 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee put forth a proposal to make information sharing possible over computers. That proposal in turn would eventually became the World Wide Web, and today we celebrate its 25th birthday.

It’s a gross understatement to say a lot has changed in technology and the Internet since 1989, from the first website and search engines of the early ‘90s to the more recent rise and growth of cloud computing, However, there has been one constant over time:  the law that protects the privacy of your online communications from government intrusion, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), has not been updated since it was authored in 1986.

Yes, the rules governing your online privacy are older than the Web itself. While technology has advanced at a rapid pace, electronic privacy law has remained at a standstill. Without reform, the kind of electronic communications and records that are common today— think any email, Facebook posts, search history, cloud computing documents, cell phone location information, or text messages older than 180 days— can be freely seized without a warrant.

While two reform bills have been introduced, Congress remains slow to act. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the ECPA Amendments Act of 2013 (S. 607) in April 2013. It awaits consideration by the full Senate. The House proposal, the Email Privacy Act (HR. 1852) has a not-insignificant 184 co-sponsors, but has not yet been heard in committee. These reforms would establish a search warrant requirement for the government to obtain the content of Americans’ emails when those communications are stored with a third-party service provider. The bills eliminate the outdated “180-day” rule that calls for different legal standards for the government to obtain email content depending upon the age of an email and would also require the government to notify any individual whose electronic communications have been disclosed within 10 days of obtaining a search warrant.

As we celebrate the advances of the Web over the last 25 years, it’s long past time due to reform ECPA and bring electronic privacy law up to speed.

Sign up to Take Part in AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day on March 27

March 7, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

Help give law librarians a strong showing on Capitol Hill by participating in AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day on March 27!

At the end of the month, nearly two dozen AALL members will travel to Washington, D.C., where they will meet with their members of Congress to discuss AALL’s top priority issues as part of our 2014 Local Advocate Lobby Day. Their conversations will cover a range of important topics facing law librarianship, from proposed surveillance and privacy reforms, transparency and open government legislation, and funding for the Government Printing Office, Library of Congress, and related agencies.

From the comfort of your desk, you can help to magnify the impact of these meetings and expand AALL’s influence in Congress.  Sign up to participate in our Virtual Lobby Day and you will receive directions and tips about contacting your member of Congress on March 27 using our Legislative Action Center. The AALL Government Relations Office will provide background information on legislation, talking points, sample messages, and suggested tips to help maximize your influence.  Email me at eholland@aall.org with any questions.

Register for the Virtual Lobby Day by March 25 to receive in your inbox all the information you’ll need to make a difference for law libraries. Thanks for all that you do to raise the profile of AALL and law librarians everywhere.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 190 other followers

%d bloggers like this: