AALL Joins Coalition to Call for Public Access to Congressional Research Service Reports

August 24, 2015

By Elizabeth Holland

Today, AALL joined a coalition of 40 organizations and 90+ individuals to call on Congress to expand public access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports. In a letter sent to the leadership of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, House Committee on House Administration, and Joint Committee on the Library, which share jurisdiction over CRS, we urge the implementation of systematic public access to non-confidential CRS reports. Many individual law librarians also signed the letter.

American taxpayers spend more than $100 million annually to fund the CRS, yet current distribution of these reports is uneven and often expensive. CRS reports are only distributed directly to members of Congress, who can then decide whether or not to distribute them publicly. Those Capitol Hill insiders who know to ask their lawmakers for specific reports by name or who can afford to pay for them in a secondary market are able to access these useful reports, while many students, researchers, and other members of the public are not.

CRS reports play an important role in the legislative process by serving as an authoritative and unbiased source of information for legislators and staff.  Over the past 10 years, CRS reports have been cited in 190 federal court opinions, more than 100 articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and are often published in the record of legislative proceedings. The public deserves a consistent and official way to access the non-classified, non-biased information CRS provides. The Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, the Law Library of Congress, and 85 percent of G-20 countries with similar parliamentary research offices already make their reports available to the public. We urge Congress to see to it that CRS follow suit.

August Washington E-Bulletin

August 3, 2015

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

Vol. 2015, Issue 08






July 28, 2015

By Elizabeth Holland

Today, AALL joins a number a number of privacy advocates, civil liberties groups, security experts, and technology companies for a Day of Action in opposition to the Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA, S. 754). Our message is simple: CISA is a bad bill. While this legislation promises security, in actuality, it does more to increase surveillance, undermine transparency, and leave your personal information vulnerable to attack than it does to protect against cyber threats. With the Senate slated to consider it in the coming weeks – even as early as next week– we urge members of Congress to oppose CISA and, should push come to shove, implore President Obama to veto it.

Chief among our privacy concerns with CISA is the permission the bill grants for overbroad information sharing. Under CISA, companies in the private sector are authorized to share information about their users’ Internet activity with the federal government, even when that data is unnecessary to identify or protect against a threat. Information shared with one federal agency could then be shared throughout the government, potentially putting your personal information or that of your library users in the hands of agencies like the National Security Agency, Department of Justice, and the Department of Defense and leaving the information vulnerable to hackers.

CISA would also add a new exemption to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the first time since 1967. Section 10 of the bill provides that any and all information shared with or provided to the federal government pursuant to CISA is exempt from disclosure under FOIA, including private information unrelated to a cybersecurity threat. Passing CISA would also give jurisdiction over FOIA to the most secretive committee in the Senate, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), which almost never holds public hearings and has never held one on this legislation. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over FOIA, has never held hearings or had an opportunity to consider the justification for the new FOIA exemption. As our friends at OpenTheGovernment.org posit, “allowing SSCI to write new exemptions to FOIA, without any public consideration or input from the Judiciary Committee, could set a dangerous precedent for further weakening the law at the intelligence community’s request.”

Cybersecurity is an increasingly important issue for U.S. industry, federal, and state governmental entities and AALL would strongly support a good-faith effort to improve information sharing for cybersecurity purposes. However, CISA is not that legislation. Write your Senators today to urge them to oppose CISA for the automatic and over-broad surveillance authorities and transparency-weakening provisions it would enable.

U.S. Copyright Office Belongs in the Library of Congress

July 24, 2015

By Emily Feltren

Last month, Representatives Tom Marino (R-Penn.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) introduced a discussion draft of the Copyright Office for the Digital Economy Act or CODE Act, which proposes to establish the Copyright Office as an independent agency outside of the Library of Congress (LC) and within the Executive Branch. AALL opposes the CODE Act, which we believe would weaken the Copyright Office and create barriers for the Library of Congress in building a comprehensive national collection.

The Copyright Office was first established within the Library of Congress 145 years ago, deliberately housed in LC because the location would contribute to building a comprehensive national library. The Copyright Office’s location within the Library also serves as an important reminder to all that the United States’ copyright system must benefit the public and not solely copyright owners. Since 1870, the Copyright Office has helped build a national collection through mandatory deposit, which has benefited not only LC, but also law libraries and members of the public who can turn to the Library of Congress to find copyrighted works that might otherwise be unknown and inaccessible. Unfortunately, the CODE Act removes the requirement of deposit, giving the Director of the Copyright Office the discretion to define what must be deposited.

While we agree with Reps. Marino and Chu that the Copyright Office must upgrade its technology for the digital age, we don’t believe that moving the Copyright Office out of LC is the solution. As an independent agency, the Copyright Office would simply give up its current challenges for new ones. For example, the Office would be responsible for funding its own capital investments, so additional appropriations would likely be needed. The Office would be required to set up a unique and complex technology infrastructure without the benefit of LC’s resources, which would require the Office to hire new staff and allocate significant resources to responsibilities outside of the core mission of the Office.

AALL believes that a new Librarian of Congress will be able to address many of the technology and other concerns raised in the recent Government Accountability Office report (GAO-15-338) and by the Copyright Office itself. An openness to collaboration and a commitment from both LC and the Copyright Office to work together to address the Copyright Office’s needs will lead to a better copyright system for all. AALL’s newly-updated Government Relations Policy makes our position clear: the Copyright Office “is well-served by its home in the Library of Congress.” Rather than trying to establish the Copyright Office as an independent agency, we urge Congress to appropriate adequate funding for the Copyright Office in the Library of Congress’ budget.

AALL agrees that the Copyright Office needs to transform itself for the 21st century. The CODE Act is not the answer.

July Washington E-Bulletin

July 1, 2015

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

Special Annual Meeting Edition
Vol. 2015, Issue 07





Copyright Office’s New Orphan Works Report Contains Flawed Legislative Proposal

June 23, 2015

By Emily Feltren

On June 4, the Copyright Office released its new Orphan Works and Mass Digitization report, updating its 2006 and 2011 reports on the same topic. The new report analyzes past orphan works legislation, recent legal developments (including the Authors Guild v. Google and Authors Guild v. Hathi Trust), international models, public comments, and discussions from recent roundtables. A major section of the report is dedicated to the Copyright Office’s recommendation for orphan works legislation. While AALL generally favors a legislative solution to the orphan works problem, we oppose the draft as written primarily because of the strict definition of a qualifying search and the notice of use requirement.

The Copyright Office’s proposal is a modified version of the Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act (S. 2913) as passed by the Senate in 2008. It includes a requirement for limited remedies when a user of an orphan work has conducted a diligent, good faith search for a rights holder and reasonable compensation for rights holders with a special provision for noncommercial actors (including libraries) engaged in noncommercial use of orphan works. The draft also includes an important fair use savings clause, stating that it does not affect any right, limitation, or defense to copyright infringement, including fair use, under Title 17.

However, the definition of a good faith diligent search has many required elements that AALL finds troubling. The search requirements include, at a minimum, a search of Copyright Office records on the Internet, sources containing authorship and ownership information, technology tools, databases, and even Copyright Office records that are not available on the Internet. We object to this definition, which mirrors that included in the Senate version of the Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008, because we believe its requirements would be too resource-intensive for law libraries. As AALL stated in our comments on the 2012 Notice of Inquiry concerning orphan works and mass digitization, we believe search requirements must be flexible, reasonable, and inexpensive. We stated, “Institutions working with orphan works will have differing resources that they can employ to undertake searches and, particularly in the area of mass digitization projects, mandatory steps could lead to a cost prohibitive per-work analysis and documentation process. Like fair use, use of orphan works requires flexibility.”

The draft also includes an onerous notice of use requirement, which states that a user must file a notice with the Copyright Office for each orphan work. The filing must include (1) the type of work used; (2) a description of the work; (3) a summary of the qualifying search conducted; (4) any other identifying indicia available to the user; (5) the source of the work (e.g., library or website where work was located, publication where work originally appeared); (6) a certification that the user performed a qualifying search; and (7) the name of the user and a description of how the work will be used. These notice of use filings would be retained by the Copyright Office in a “Notice of Use Archive.”  AALL believes the notice of use requirement would be much too time and resource intensive for law libraries, particularly those wishing to use larger collections of orphan works. The notice of use requirement would be especially problematic for those wishing to use unpublished works or other ephemera. Even the Copyright Office itself acknowledges that “filing a Notice of Use for each use of an orphan work may place a significant burden on users […].” AALL urges the Copyright Office to reconsider this element of their proposal.

In addition to its orphan works draft legislation, the report also includes a proposal for dealing with mass digitization, suggesting an extended collective licensing (ECL) model as the solution. AALL has concerns about an ECL model, which was opposed by most participants during the March 2014 roundtables. We will have further analysis of this proposal in a future blog post.

Amid Appropriations Challenge, Net Neutrality Rules To Go Into Effect Friday

June 11, 2015

Update 4:30pm: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has denied the stay of FCC Title II reclassification.

By Elizabeth Holland

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) new Open Internet Order will go into effect on Friday, June 12. That is, unless Congressional Republicans have something to do with it. Today, the Financial Services Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote an appropriations bill that would cut the FCC’s funding and block net neutrality rules from being implemented. If passed, the bill would act as a sort of legislative stay (likely, ex post facto), until the U.S. Court of Appeals weighs in.

From the House Appropriations Committee press release:

The bill contains $315 million for the FCC – a cut of $25 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $73 million below the request. The legislation prohibits the FCC from implementing net neutrality until certain court cases are resolved, requires newly proposed regulations to be made publicly available for 21 days before the Commission votes on them, and prohibits the FCC from regulating rates for either wireline or wireless Internet service.

Of course, the likelihood of such a partisan policy rider passing is incredibly slim. Subcommittee member Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) called the net neutrality caveat “excessive” and one that would make the bill unpassable from the Democratic view. Most of the additional funds requested, he pointed out, would enable to FCC to move to a new headquarters that Chairman Tom Wheeler has said will save money in the long-run. And because net neutrality rules don’t have their own line item, reducing funding for the FCC as a whole would jeopardize the agency’s ability to inform important functions like ensuring the 9-1-1 system, rural call completion, and preventing harmful interference to wireless communications.

Several Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the plaintiffs in the lawsuits filed, have requested a judicial stay to delay the June 12 implementation of Title II regulations. The FCC has already rejected such a request. Both parties agree, however, that the court should expedite hearing of the underlying case if a stay is not granted.

AALL strongly opposes this House Appropriations subcommittee bill and urges full funding for the FCC. We believe a legislative solution to enshrine the FCC’s net neutrality rules would be less likely to be tested in court, would settle jurisdictional questions between the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission, and would bring finality to net neutrality rules. We urge Congress to take action to codify this important principle.

To learn more about law librarians’ stake in the net neutrality debate, join Government Relations Committee Chair Leslie Street and others in Philadelphia at Hot Topic: Net Neutrality and Law Librarians: It’s a Good Thing on Tuesday, July 21 at 11:00 am.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 284 other followers

%d bloggers like this: