ARCHIVED: Legislative and Regulatory Update - March 1998

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Dateline: January 29, 1998

Mary Alice Baish
Assistant Washington Affairs Representative
Edward B. WIlliams Law Library
111 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-1417
202/662-9200 * FAX:202/662-9202
email: baish@law.georgetown.edu

More Co-sponsors Needed for Digital Copyright Bills

On January 5, 1998 we issued an important legislative alert seeking your help in getting co-sponsors for S. 1146, the "Digital Copyright Clarification and Technology Act" introduced by Sen. John Ashcroft (R-MO), and H.R. 3048, the "Digital Era Copyright Enhancement Act" introduced by Reps. Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Tom Campbell (R-CA) . As noted in last month's column, both bills include provisions for fair use, preservation, ephemeral copying and distance education, and would preserve the balance between copyright owners and users in the digital age.

There is strong opposition from the content community to these pro-library bills. Many powerful groups support the Administration's legislative proposals to implement the W.I.P.O. treaties, legislation that is not acceptable to the library community. We need strong support in Congress now--that is, a long list of bi-partisan co-sponsors--if S. 1146 and H.R. 3048 are to be taken seriously. This is our most important lobbying effort to date and culminates several years of the library communities' growing activism in Washington. We urge each and every member of AALL to call, write, or fax a request to your representatives TODAY to co-sponsor the appropriate bill.

One of the most effective and persuasive means of communicating, as recommended to us recently by Rep. Boucher, is a handwritten postcard or a short personal note. The message urging co- sponsorship can be as simple as who you are, and why fair use, archival preservation, or distance learning is so important to your library and users, and must be protected in the digital environment. Sample letters by Jim Heller in support of S. 1146 and H.R. 3048 are on the Washington Office Web site. More in-depth information about the legislation, including a side-by-side analysis of H.R. 3048 and the Administration's bill, H.R.2281, is available on the Digital Future Coalition's Web site at www.dfc.org.

Now is the time for all law librarians to speak up and be heard in Washington. And to all of you who have already responded to the Action Alert, or to our personal calls in recent weeks that targeted key members of Congress, we thank you for a job well done!

IAWG Revised Chapter 19 Proposal

While, surprisingly, Congressional recesses generally turn out to be very hectic for us in Washington, we have never been busier than during the past couple of months. In addition to the copyright negotiations and lobbying, I helped draft the Inter-Association Working Group on Federal Information Policy's (IAWG) revised legislative language for Chapter 19 of U.S.C. Title 44 that governs the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). On December 19, 1997, we transmitted to Congress our revised "Federal Information Access Act of 1997" that reflects changes identified by the IAWG during monthly meetings held since the earlier June draft. Highlights of changes proposed in the December draft include:  

  • clarification of some of the definitions;
  • strengthening provisions for compliance and enforcement;
  • allowing more flexibility in the designation process to serve under served areas;
  • adding the Government Information Locator Service (GILS) to the responsibilities of the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs);
  • and, providing for a transition period to ensure the permanent public access of online electronic information.

The draft bill is available at http://library.berkeley.edu/GODORT/iawgpage.html where you will also find other IAWG documents, including the June draft, summaries of meetings, and congressional testimony.

Eric Peterson, Staff Director of the Joint Committee on Printing, and Kennie Gill, Minority Staff Director and Chief Counsel of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, made three separate presentations during the recent ALA Midwinter meetings in New Orleans. Among the key issues of discussion and debate were the designation of depository libraries; the enormous task of providing permanent public access to the government's electronic information; and determining the best means of balancing incentives for agencies to comply with Title 44 with strong enforcement provisions when they fail to comply.

Progress within Congress continues to be held up because of a labor dispute between the White House and the AFL-CIO. Sen. Wendell Ford (D-KY) will not endorse any legislation until the union question is resolved since the bill would impact GPO's bargaining unit labor force. Under pressure for months to provide us with their legislative proposal, Peterson and Gill have agreed to post on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee's homepage at least those provisions regarding the FDLP. I'll post an announcement to law-lib as soon as this happens.

Interested in Becoming a GPO Expert Consultant?

Several years ago, GPO initiated a program to bring depository librarians to Washington for a one-year term as "Expert Consultants." Since then, several participants have brought their hands-on experience to the job and have served the Electronic Transition team very well, from creating the first Pathway locator service to formalizing agreements between the SuDocs, government agencies and a library for the permanent public access of electronic information. GPO recently announced that the program will continue next year and they are now accepting applications for two 12-month slots to begin this summer. If you're interested in more information or would like to get in touch with librarians who have served in the past, please give me a call. You can also contact Gil Baldwin (202/512-1002) at GPO for program information.