Washington Brief - March 2005

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By Mary Alice Baish

Dateline: January 6, 2005

It's Time to Welcome the 109th Congress
The Washington Office depends upon your help in promoting our legislative agenda by advocating for our issues with your congressional delegation. The 109th Congress convened earlier this week and it's a perfect opportunity for you to begin building a relationship with your representatives. Here are two quick first steps to introduce you to them and their staff. We'll be counting on your help to educate and influence your representatives as we begin to work with members of Congress on a variety of crucial issues this year. First, get to know your representatives by checking their web site (http://www.senate.gov/ and http://www.house.gov/) to learn what committees they have been assigned to for the 109th Congress. If your legislators are on any of the following committees that have jurisdiction over our key issues, it is especially important that you reach out to them now.

  • Appropriations—importance of full FY 2006 funding for LC, the Law Library of Congress, GPO, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and NARA.

     

  • Senate Commerce/House Energy & Commerce—need to ensure a competitive marketplace for technology and information products.

     

  • Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs/House Government Reform—need to promote and protect open government and civil liberties.

     

  • Judiciary—need to carefully review USA Patriot Act sunset provisions and strengthen FOI.

     

  • Senate Rules and Administration/House Administration/Joint Committee on Printing—important oversight of GPO's new Strategic Vision to move the agency and the Federal Depository Library Program into the 21st Century.

Second, send your representatives a friendly handwritten note or email, and keep it fairly short. Politics is local, so don't forget to say that you're a constituent! Be sure to mention that you're a law librarian and member of AALL. If they have just been elected, reelected, or been appointed to a leadership position, be sure to offer your congratulations. And while it's too early to ask for support on any specific legislation, mention the importance of our issues (pick and choose as appropriate from above) and let them know that you'll be asking for their support in the coming months—especially if they serve on any of these key committees. Last but not least, here are three broad "sound bites" that you may wish to use in your note. Thanks!

  • We believe there must be balance between surveillance by law enforcement and the civil liberties of our patrons, including privacy and freedom of expression.

     

  • Libraries spend billions of dollars a year on electronic access—fair use, first sale and preservation are crucial in the digital age, and licenses must be fair and reasonable.

     

  • We believe that public access to government information—federal, state and local—is a basic principle of our democracy.

New AFFECT Principles for Fair Commerce in
Software and Other Digital Products

Americans for Fair Electronic Commerce Transactions (AFFECT) is our national coalition of librarians, consumers, retail and manufacturing businesses, financial institutions and technology professionals committed to the growth of fair and competitive U.S. markets in software and other digital products. Since 2000, AFFECT has successfully prevented the passage of UCITA (the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act) and we are now undertaking an outreach campaign called Stop Before You Click. Its goal is to help sellers, users of digital products and policymakers work together to develop better and fairer laws to govern purchases of off-the-shelf software and digital products. The cornerstone of AFFECT's efforts is the creation of the following 12 Principles for Fair Commerce In Software and other Digital Products.

  1. CUSTOMERS ARE ENTITLED TO READILY FIND, REVIEW AND UNDERSTAND PROPOSED TERMS WHEN THEY SHOP.

     

  2. CUSTOMERS ARE ENTITLED TO ACTIVELY ACCEPT PROPOSED TERMS BEFORE THEY MAKE THE DEAL.

     

  3. CUSTOMERS ARE ENTITLED TO INFORMATION ABOUT ALL KNOWN NONTRIVIAL DEFECTS IN A PRODUCT BEFORE COMMITTING TO THE DEAL.

     

  4. CUSTOMERS ARE ENTITLED TO A REFUND WHEN THE PRODUCT IS NOT OF REASONABLE QUALITY.

     

  5. CUSTOMERS ARE ENTITLED TO HAVE THEIR DISPUTES SETTLED IN A LOCAL, CONVENIENT VENUE.

     

  6. CUSTOMERS ARE ENTITLED TO CONTROL THEIR OWN COMPUTER SYSTEMS.

     

  7. CUSTOMERS ARE ENTITLED TO CONTROL THEIR OWN DATA.

     

  8. CUSTOMERS ARE ENTITLED TO FAIR USE, INCLUDING LIBRARY OR CLASSROOM USE, OF DIGITAL PRODUCTS TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY FEDERAL COPYRIGHT LAW.

     

  9. CUSTOMERS ARE ENTITLED TO STUDY HOW A PRODUCT WORKS.

     

  10. CUSTOMERS ARE ENTITLED TO EXPRESS OPINIONS ABOUT PRODUCTS AND REPORT THEIR EXPERIENCES WITH THEM.

     

  11. CUSTOMERS ARE ENTITLED TO THE FREE USE OF PUBLIC DOMAIN INFORMATION.

     

  12. CUSTOMERS ARE ENTITLED TO TRANSFER PRODUCTS AS LONG AS THEY DO NOT RETAIN ACCESS TO THEM.

The brochure promoting our important new campaign with an explanation of these 12 Principles is available at www.fairterms.org. You'll also find a more detailed version of them designed for legislators, policymakers, and others interested in promoting a truly competitive digital marketplace. I'd like to commend Jonathan Franklin, former chair of the Copyright Committee, for his leadership and dedication in coordinating the development of these principles since our first drafting meeting here in February 2004. Jonathan patiently worked very hard on our behalf during the past year, through dozens of drafts, and his deep commitment to the project enabled us to achieve these excellent final products. Thank you, Jonathan!


Mary Alice Baish
Associate 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

 


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