January Issue of the Washington E-Bulletin

January 29, 2010

The January issue of the Washington E-Bulletin highlights agencies’ progress on meeting the deadlines of the Obama Administration’s Open Government Directive. The first deadline required agencies to publish online in an open format at least three “high-value” datasets on Data.gov, the Federal government’s new raw-data portal.

The Government Relations Office is asking you to fill out our short survey on the usefulness of these new datasets to your work. We will share the results of the survey with the White House and Office of Management and Budget to inform them about which datasets are most valuable to legal researchers.

Here is the Table of Contents from the January issue:


• New Short Survey on Federal Government’s Raw-Data Portal
• Help Save Connecticut’s Courthouse Libraries


• Agencies Work toward Next Open Government Milestones
• Save the Date for Sunshine Week 2010
• AALL Issue Brief Analyzes New Classification Policies


• Maryland Working Group Makes Progress to Ensure Access to Print Register
• NOCALL Honors Rep. Zoe Lofgren with First Legislator of the Year Award

FREE TIME WELL SPENT: Further Reading for the Information Policy Junkie

• Law Library of Congress Adds New Online Research Tools and Resources
• Nixon Library Releases Additional Materials
• New CRS Report Examines How Chambers Resolve Differences in Legislation

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

OMB Watch to Hold “Obama at One Year” Webcast Series

January 21, 2010

Beginning next week, 2008 Public Access to Government Information (PAGI) Award winner OMB Watch will hold a series of Webcasts on open government featuring discussion with leading experts and time for questions from online audiences. The first in the series, “Policymaking for Open Government: An Assessment of the Obama Administration’s First-Year Progress,” will examine how the White House has followed through on President Obama’s pledge to make his Administration the most transparent and accountable in American history. Speakers will include:

  • Sarah Cohen, Duke University
  • Norm Eisen, the White House
  • Meredith Fuchs, National Security Archive
  • Ellen Miller, Sunlight Foundation (2009 PAGI Award winner)
  • Mark Tapscott, the Washington Examiner

The Webcast will be held on  Thursday, January 28 at 3pm EST and you must register by January 25 to participate.

The next in the series, “The Obama Administration and Public Protections: A First-Year Regulatory Assessment,” will look at the regulatory record of the new Administration and the role of the Office of Information and Regulatory Policy (OIRA). Speakers will include:

  • Michael Fitzpatrick, White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (invited)
  • Pam Gilbert, Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca
  • Peg Seminario, AFL-CIO
  • Wesley Warren, Natural Resources Defense Council

The Webcast will be held on Thursday, February 4 at 3 pm EST and registration ends February 1.

OMB Watch’s Webcasts will offer an exciting opportunity to hear thoughtful analysis from policymakers and experts and contribute to the dialogue on open government. The archived events will be available on OMB Watch’s Webcast Headquarters.

Help Save Connecticut’s Courthouse Libraries

January 20, 2010

Over the last few months, AALL and the Southern New England Law Librarians Association (SNELLA) have been working closely together to oppose funding cuts and the announced closure of six of the fifteen courthouse libraries in Connecticut. We urgently need your help to save these law libraries.

On December 23, AALL and SNELLA sent joint letters to Connecticut’s Governor Rell and to the leadership of the Appropriations Committee strongly opposing the decision to close the law libraries. Judge Quinn, Chief Court Administrator, explained in testimony before the Appropriations Committee that the closures had become necessary because the Executive Branch cut $12.9 million from the budget for the Judicial Branch.

AALL and SNELLA are sponsoring online petitions to save the courthouse libraries in Bridgeport, Hartford, Litchfield, Milford and Norwich. The sixth library, at the Willimantic Courthouse, is unstaffed and its small collection will likely be moved to the local public university.

The closures of Connecticut’s courthouse libraries will prevent attorneys, judges and members of the public from accessing the up-to-date legal information they need. It will also place a heavy burden on pro se litigants, who may not be able to get to another courthouse library if the one closest to home is closed. We need your help to demonstrate that there is broad support for keeping these libraries open.

If you live in Connecticut, please sign each one of these important petitions. If you’re not a Connecticut resident, please pass this message along to your friends, family and colleagues who live in the state.

Thank you in advance for spreading the word and helping to save Connecticut’s courthouse libraries!

[Posted by Mary Alice Baish and Emily Feldman]

White House Describes New Archiving System to Prevent Lost Emails

January 19, 2010

The White House’s recent settlement with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive (the Archive) over the Bush Administration’s missing emails required the Executive Office of the President (EOP) to provide a public description of the system it uses to manage and preserve its electronic records.

On January 15, the EOP sent a letter to CREW and the Archive, describing the current system in use to capture, back-up and preserve its electronic records. The EMC Corporation’s Email Xtender (EX) system has several important features, including:

  • Automatic capture, in near real-time, of all email messages sent or received on the EOP’s unclassified network, including those sent to or from Blackberries;
  • A searchable online archive with access controls and audit reporting;
  • Systematic back-ups of the system on disaster recovery tapes; and
  • The ability to segregate emails and differentiate between Presidential Records Act and Federal Records Act entities.

As noted by CREW and the Archive, the new system is a significant improvement over the one used by the Bush Administration, which lacked controls, reliable back-ups and advanced search capabilities. With its automatic back-ups, audits and controls against the unauthorized deletion of emails, the new system will preserve the Obama Administration’s emails and ensure against the disappearance of important electronic records.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

Coverage of First Annual World’s Fair Use Day

January 14, 2010

The First Annual World’s Fair Use Day (WFUD) took place on January 12 here in Washington, D.C. in a free event produced by Public Knowledge. It included discussions with artists, documentary filmmakers, lawyers, activists and musicians interested in celebrating and supporting the concept of Fair Use for artistic and cultural expression. This was a unique way to hear about projects employing fair use topics from the people who created them. Examples of speakers include:

  • Irish artist Dan Walsh who created “Garfield Minus Garfield“, an almost existential reworking of the Garfield comic strip
  • Chris Burke, producer, This Spartan Life, which uses video content from video games like Halo for an entertaining talk show
  • Musician DJ Earworm who creates music mashups combining the top Billboard songs of the year, which also appear on his YouTube channel

In addition to talking to creators, the event highlighted legal and policy work in this area, such as the work of the Center for Social Media at American University and their efforts in various areas of best practices. At the lunch talk, Professors Peter Jaszi (American University) and Anthony Falzone (Stanford Center for Internet and Society) responded to audience questions surrounding fair use topics. Even in discussing failed defenses in a fair use case involving a Harry Potter Lexicon, Professor Jaszi sees positive developments. He called this a victory for fair use, saying that the federal court’s decision should help refine judicial tests for fair use factors, especially in the Second Circuit. For instance, he says that loss of licensing revenue is gone from the factor analysis here.

Look to Rebecca Tushnet’s blog for a detailed summary of the entire event: Part One | Part Two. You can also read a Wrapup on TechDirt, and all recordings from the events will be online at WFUD.info.

Mark your calendars for January 2011 for next year’s event.

[Submitted by Roger Skalbeck, AALL Copyright Committee Vice Chair]

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Seeks Public Comment on Open Government Plan

January 13, 2010

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has taken proactive steps to comply with the Obama Administration’s Open Government Directive by issuing a federal register notice asking for public comment on the development of its new Open Government Plan. Specifically, the agency wants to know what data sets would be valuable for online publication and what transparency, public participation and collaboration improvements it should include in its Plan.

This call for comment demonstrates a significant shift in the agency’s thinking about public access. Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, AALL spoke out against the agency’s decision to shut down its Web site in order to review all publicly available material. We commend the NRC for changing its culture of secrecy and for committing itself to greater government transparency.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

Law Library of Congress Posts Webcast of Inaugural Kellogg Lecture on Jurisprudence

January 12, 2010

In late October, the Law Library of Congress hosted the inaugural Frederic R. and Molly S. Kellogg Biennial Lecture on Jurisprudence with Guest Speaker Ronald Dworkin, Professor of Jurisprudence at University College London and the New York University School of Law.

The Webcast of this special event, “Is There Truth in Interpretation? Law, Literature and History,” is now available on the Law Library’s Web site.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

Law Library of Congress Adds Useful New Research Tools to THOMAS

January 6, 2010

In response to user feedback and in celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of THOMAS, the Law Library of Congress announced a number of new features for its bill tracking service, including:

  • Bookmarking and Sharing Widget: This very useful feature allows you to save the permanent URL for a bill and share it via bookmarks, email, or social networking sites.
  • Bill Text PDFs: Locate the link to the Government Printing Office’s PDF version of a bill more easily at the top of each “Text of Legislation” page.
  • Increased Timeout Interval: Search pages will stay usable longer because the timeout interval has been increased from 5 minutes to 20 minutes.
  • Top Five Bills: The “Weekly Top Five” includes the five most-searched-for bills from the past week in the right column of the homepage. Hover your mouse over the bill number and you’ll see the title of the bill.

We applaud the Law Library for introducing these new exciting tools that will help legal researchers and members of the public to more easily track important legislation. We will continue to update you with each new series of enhancements to THOMAS.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

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