ARCHIVED: Support for AALL Amendment Excluding Primary Legal Materials from H.R. 1858

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July 27, 1999

The Honorable W.J. "Billy" Tauzin
Chairman, Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection
House Committee on Commerce
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6115

BY FAX: 225.1919

Dear Representative Tauzin:

I wrote to you and to members of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection on June 11, 1999 on behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries to ask for your support for the following amendment to H.R. 1858, the Consumer and Investor Access to Information Act of 1999. This amendment would explicitly exclude primary legal materials from any new database protection regime:

 

Protection under this chapter shall not extend to primary legal materials, including court opinions, statutes, codes, regulations, or administrative agency decisions, from any Federal, state, or local jurisdiction, unless such materials were permanently available on an interactive computer network, without restriction, in an official, no-fee, publicly accessible electronic form at the time that the extraction occurred.

The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) was founded in 1906 to promote and enhance the value of law libraries to the legal and public communities, to foster the profession of law librarianship, and to provide leadership in the field of legal information and information policy. Today, with 4,800 members nationwide, the Association represents law librarians and related professionals who are affiliated with a wide range of institutions: law firms; law schools; corporate legal departments; courts; and local, state and federal government agencies

The attached AALL Issue Brief, entitled Equal and Equitable Public Access to the Rule of Law, provides a comprehensive overview of our concerns, including a brief background on legal and government publishing that explains today's situation in which two large legal publishers together have a virtual monopoly on federal and state court opinions, and other primary legal information. Not surprisingly, it is these two legal publishers who are the main forces behind the current legislative efforts to protect databases.

AALL has long opposed efforts to provide new protections outside of copyright law for compilations of factual information. We continue to strongly oppose H.R. 354, the Collections of Information Antipiracy Act of 1999. While we generally support the approach taken in H.R. 1858, we recognize that the availability of legal information to all people is a necessary requirement for a just and democratic society. We strongly believe that primary legal information produced at all levels of government must be available to our nation's citizens. The best means of ensuring that H.R. 1858 will have no unintended consequences that would abrogate these rights is to add this narrowly-crafted amendment to explicitly exempt all primary legal materials.

We urge you, Mr. Chairman, to fully endorse our proposal excluding primary legal materials by incorporating it as an amendment to H.R. 1858 when you go to mark-up on Thursday, July 29, 1999. Thank you very much for your consideration in this very important matter, and please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or would like additional information.

Sincerely,

Robert L. Oakley
American Association of Law Libraries
Washington Affairs Representative

cc: Members of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection, House Committee on Commerce