Register Now: “Making the Most of Midterms” Online Advocacy Training August 27

July 24, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

With midterm elections just around the corner, the coming months will offer many occasions for law librarian advocacy in your home state or district. Learn how to capitalize on these important opportunities at our next online advocacy training, “Making the Most of Midterms: Opportunities for Advocacy at Home,” on August 27 from 12:00 – 12:30 pm ET.

AALL’s Government Relations Office will present the best ways to exert your influence at hometown events like August recess town hall meetings, library tours, and candidate meet and greets. You’ll learn the skills needed to maximize your impact and hear our recommendations for the best pre-election opportunities for legislative success.

As always, this training is complimentary for AALL and chapter members.  Please register online by August 26.

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 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. 


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