Tell your Representative to Oppose CISPA

March 20, 2013

By Elizabeth

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) has been reintroduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 624) and contains the same dangerous provisions that would allow companies to liberally share sensitive personal information with the government for purposes unrelated to cybersecurity and without meaningful oversight. Last year, CISPA passed the House of Representatives but was not taken up in the Senate. The White House threatened to veto CISPA in 2012.

AALL has joined a coalition of groups dedicated to government openness and accountability to encourage Congress to oppose CISPA. Please write your Representative today and urge him/her to oppose CISPA, which would create a gaping new exemption to existing privacy law.

CISPA would grant companies more power to obtain “threat” information, including private communications of users, and to disclose that data to the government without a warrant. The bill also unnecessarily cuts off all public access to cyber threat information before the public and Congress have had the chance to understand the types of information that are withheld under the bill.

For more information, see our recent letter of concern to Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Ruppersberger of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and letter to Michael Daniel, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator, urging the White House to renew its promise to veto the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).

You can write to your Representative using our Legislative Action Center.

A Win for Libraries in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley

March 19, 2013

By Emily

In a victory for libraries and consumers, the U.S. Supreme Court today issued a 6-3 opinion in favor of petitioner Supap Kirtsaeng, a Thai student who resold textbooks lawfully purchased by his family at bookstores in Thailand. AALL’s Copyright Committee chair Tracy Thompson-Przylucki wrote on the Copyright Committee blog:

In its opinion in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., a decision released today, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that the first sale doctrine is not subject to any geographical limitations (Justice Ginsburg dissents). The Court’s decision means that purchasers of works produced outside of the U.S., if the works are lawfully subject to U.S. Copyright protections, are entitled to invoke the first sale doctrine to justify their subsequent sale, lease or loan of those works. This is an important victory not just for consumers like Kirtsaeng, but for libraries and library users.

AALL is a member of the Owners’ Rights Initiative, which released the following statement from Executive Director Andrew Shore:

ORI is gratified by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in favor of Supap Kirtsaeng in this important copyright case. This decision is a landmark win for consumers, small businesses, online marketplaces, retailers and libraries nationwide and an affirmation of the ORI motto, ‘you bought it, you own it.’ This decision definitively affirms the first sale doctrine, cementing the right of consumers and organizations to sell, lend and give away goods that they bought and own, regardless of where those goods were made.

While we are energized by this decision, we expect that some will continue attempts to eliminate owners’ rights, reduce competition in the marketplace and restrict the global trade of authentic goods. ORI will continue to be vigilant and diligent in protecting owners’ rights now and in the future and we expect policymakers to do the same.

For more information about the case, please see AALL’s issue brief by Amy Ash, member of the Copyright Committee and George H. Pike, 2011-2012 chair of the Committee. AALL submitted an amicus brief in support of Kirtsaeng with Public Knowledge, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Special Libraries Association, and U.S. PIRG.

Sunshine Week in Review

March 19, 2013

By Elizabeth

As Emily recently shared, last week marked the ninth annual Sunshine Week, a time to reflect on the state of public access to government information and work together to make our government more transparent. In addition to the release of two new reports to which AALL contributed, we were busy celebrating Sunshine Week at events across Washington, DC.  Read on for event recaps and a few exciting legislative developments.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled “We the People: Fulfilling the Promise of Open Government Five Years After the OPEN Government Act.” Under the leadership of Chair Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the committee expressed frustration with federal agencies’ inability to comply with a 2007 open government law that Congress enacted to accelerate processing of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. On the first of two panels, witnesses included Miriam Nisbet, Director the Office of Government Information Services, which was created by the OPEN Government Act, and Melanie Pustay, Director of the Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice. On the second panel, consisting of open government advocates, speakers charged Pustay with exaggerating the progress of the Obama administration. While agencies have improved the processing of FOIA requests by reducing average processing times and cutting down on the backlog of requests, the information available to requestors is still unsatisfactory. Full releases of documents declined to the lowest level on record in 2012, while 52 out of 99 federal agencies have not changed their freedom of information regulations to meet the requirements of the OPEN Government Act of 2007. The Justice Department has been particularly problematic, testified Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University. Pustay contended the new regulations were optional.

At the same time as the Senate hearing, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hosted its Sunshine Week event, a hearing entitled “Addressing Transparency in the Federal Bureaucracy: Moving Toward A More Open Government.” Committee Chair Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MO) used Sunshine Week as the impetus for introducing draft legislation to amend FOIA.  The draft bill, which AALL supports, is ”designed to strengthen transparency by ensuring that legislative and executive action to improve FOIA over the past two decades is fully implemented by federal agencies,” said Rep. Issa.

Representative Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO) also reintroduced legislation on Wednesday aimed at enhancing transparency. H.R. 1104, the Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments of 2013, would strengthen the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), landmark legislation authored by Rep. Clay, Rep. Cummings, and Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA). “This bill opens up the Federal Advisory Committee selection and oversight process by providing greater transparency and ensuring real independence for appointees,” said Rep.  Clay.  “The act also imposes much tougher standards to ensure that committee members are insulated from political pressure to influence their recommendations.  Finally, my act would require any FACA appointee selected by the President or an agency to provide expert advice to fully comply with all conflict of interest rules and federal ethics laws.”

Other Sunshine Week events included a timely panel discussion on secrecy, security, and classification reform, hosted by the Brennan Center for Justice. Panelists heard from Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) Chair Nancy Soderberg on the PIDB’s recommendations for a classification system overhaul and responded to the proposals. The issue of how the US government treats state secrets has gained much attention in recent weeks as the White House has come under intense pressure to make public OLC memos on the targeted drone program—in part thanks to a 13-hour filibuster by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).

We concluded Sunshine Week by co-sponsoring the annual National Freedom of Information Day conference at the Newseum, which brought together groups concerned with freedom of information and open records, including FOI advocates, government officials, lawyers, librarians, journalists and educators. This year’s program invited members of the Obama administration to engage in conversation with open government advocates over the progress seen in the President’s first term. The late internet activist Aaron Swartz was this year’s recipient of the ALA James Madison Award, while winners of Sunshine in Government Award included Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) for his commitment to openness and transparency, and Environmental Protection Agency employees Tim Crawford and Larry Gottesman, who created FOIAOnline.

Celebrating Sunshine Week

March 12, 2013

By Emily

March 10-16, 2013 is Sunshine Week, a time to reflect on the state of public access to government information and work together to make our government more transparent. In celebration of Sunshine Week, AALL is cosponsoring the 2013 National Freedom of Information Day discussion on open government in the Obama Administration. You can participate by watching the webcast.

AALL also contributed to two new reports released this month is honor of Sunshine Week. The first, “Highlighted Best Practices for Open and Accountable Government,” offers examples of model federal government transparency and accountability practices. The goal of the report is to encourage agencies to learn from each other to find ways to make their operations more transparent. For example, under “Proactive Release of Agency Operations,” the reports commends the Department of StateDepartment of CommerceFood and Drug AdministrationDepartment of Health and Human Services (HHS)General Services Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for making their staff directories easily accessible online. The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) prepared the report, with contributions from AALL, Bauman Foundation, Brennan Center for Justice, Center for Effective Government,, Sunlight Foundation, and Union of Concerned Scientists.

The second report, “Civil Society Report on Implementation of the First US National Action Plan,” is the result of a years-long evaluation of the White House’s National Action Plan on open government. organized teams to evaluate specific issues in the plan and work with the government leads. AALL served on the Freedom of Information Act, Records Management and OpenGov Implementation Teams. The report provides an assessment of the government’s completion of the commitment, collaboration with the public, responsiveness of the government to recommendations made by civil society organizations and meaningfulness and sustainability of the government’s efforts. Overall,  the evaluators determined that the government met its promises in 19 of the 25 commitments.

For more information about Sunshine Week, including events in your area, see We will also be posting summaries of events throughout the week and tweeting at @AALL_GRO.

March Online Advocacy Training: “Communicating with Congress” on 3/26

March 7, 2013

Members of Congress listen to the needs and opinions of their constituents to make decisions about legislation. But with the Internet and email making it easier than ever before for citizens to contact Congress, how can you be sure your message reaches your lawmakers and has the most impact?

Join us on Tuesday, March 26 from 12:00 – 12:30 pm EDT for “Communicating with Congress: Strategies for Effective Advocacy on Capitol Hill,” our newest online advocacy training.

In this 30-minute presentation, the Government Relations Office staff will present  the most effective communications tactics for cutting through the noise and influencing members of Congress. We’ll take a look at perceptions of citizen advocacy on Capitol Hill and offer tips to help you craft your message to lawmakers. Participants will learn to:

  • Leverage digital communication, phone calls, and meetings to influence legislation
  • Schedule, prepare for and effectively conduct Congressional meetings
  • Understand the dos and don’ts for developing relationships with Congressional offices
  • Recognize top priority issues that require action today, including legislation on issues such as copyright, open access, and privacy

The “Communicating with Congress” training will serve as preparation for a virtual advocacy day for those unable to attend AALL’s Local Chapter Lobby Day on April 18 in Washington, DC.

This training is available at no additional cost for AALL members and chapter members.  Register by Monday, March 25 at 12:00pm EDT.

March Washington E-Bulletin

March 1, 2013

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

Vol. 2013, Issue 03




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