Washington Brief - April 2001

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Dateline: February 22, 2001

S. Res. 21
In true bipartisan spirit that will hopefully bode well for passage, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), joined by Senators Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), Joseph L. Lieberman (D-CT) and Trent Lott (R-MS), introduced the Congressional Openness Resolution (S. Res. 21) on February 14, 2001. S. Res. 21 directs the Sergeant-at-Arms to make available through the Internet Congressional Research Service (CRS) publications, Senate lobbying and gift report filings, and Senate and Joint committee documents. CRS reports and issue briefs include some of the most valuable research by the government and while they are posted online, access is limited to congressional offices although paper copies are generally available through request to a Member of Congress. S. Res. 21 would make some 2800 CRS publications available online in a searchable database. In addition, publicly available committee information, including bills, reports, and transcripts of committee meetings that are open to the public would also become available on the Internet. AALL fully supports this effort but we need your help to get many more cosponsors to S. Res. 21 since a few key members of the Senate oppose it. For more specific information, please refer to the AALL Action Alert and contact your Senators immediately to urge them to cosponsor this important resolution.

Senate Judiciary Committee Agenda for the 107th Congress
Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) recently announced their joint High Technology and Intellectual Property agenda for the 107th Congress. Among his priorities, Chairman Hatch listed privacy protection, distance education, and the need "to protect collections of data in a way that preserves incentives for the creation of databases without unduly hampering the free flow of information in anticompetitive ways." Hatch also warned the music industry that in the wake of the Napster decision, Congress may attempt to remedy the situation by taking away some of the industry's copyright privileges in the online world. Hatch warned that the "legal victory for the record labels may prove Pyrrhic or shortsighted from a policy perspective." Senator Leahy also noted the tensions between new online services and the need to protect intellectual property rights. He signaled as his top priorities: distance education; database protection "while at the same time providing libraries, educational institutions, and other users with the clarity they need as to what constitutes fair use"; and federal protection for intellectual property to guard against infringement by the states. Until now the push for database legislation has been limited to the House. While both Senators mentioned database protection as among the committee's priorities, their comments reflect an awareness of the library and educational concerns with this new form of protection and the need to achieve balance in any database legislation.

AALL Comments on Privacy and Court Filings
AALL submitted comments to the Judiciary Conference on January 26, 2001 regarding their inquiry into the privacy and security implications of providing broad public access to electronic case files. The Judiciary is justifiably concerned about how to balance electronic public access to these files with the need to protect individuals from harm that may result from broad public access to personal identifying information. Personal harm to individuals may occur when commercial entities collect and aggregate a variety of publicly available personal information into personal profiles that are sold for profit, or when publicly available personal information leads to criminal activity, such as identity theft or stalking. In their call for comments, the Judicial Conference noted the complexity of these issues and proposed a variety of alternatives specific to civil, criminal, bankruptcy and appellate case files. Broad public electronic access to bankruptcy case files involves the greatest threat to the misuse of personal identifying information. We stated in our comments that the high risk of identity theft to commit fraud or other unlawful activities from unfettered public access to information common to bankruptcy case files�such as Social Security numbers, bank account and credit card information�outweighs the public's right to access this highly sensitive information.

The Privacy Coalition
AALL has joined The Privacy Coalition, a new broad-based nonpartisan group of consumer, civil liberties, educational, library and labor organizations that was unveiled on February 12, 2001 during a well-attended National Press Club event. The formation of this new coalition recognizes that privacy is one of the major social issues of the information society and the top technology issue for the 107th Congress. The first action of the coalition was to issue a "Privacy Pledge" for legislators to sign that would set a standard for privacy proposals in Congress by outlining the necessary future steps to protect privacy. Over twenty privacy bills have been introduced in Congress since January. To learn more about them, visit the bill-tracking component of the Electronic Privacy Information Center's web site.

UCITA Update
The current battleground states for UCITA are now Arizona (H.B. 2041) and Texas (S.B. 709/H.B. 1785) although it is likely to be introduced shortly in Florida, Maine, Oregon, Wisconsin and Washington State. In Texas, the Senate sponsor has signaled his intention not to act on the legislation this year but instead to initiate a comprehensive study. The AFFECT coalition has been very effective in both states in pointing out the flaws and lack of balance in UCITA. In Texas our business coalition partners were able to get the Texas Association of Business and Chambers of Commerce to oppose the legislation, a very helpful aid to our efforts there. The sponsor of the bill in Arizona is also leaning towards tabling UCITA for now given the broad spectrum of opposition to it. The new AFFECT web site that provides all you need to know about UCITA, including state bill tracking and direct links to your legislators, has just been unveiled. Be sure to bookmark it and visit it often for updates.

CA Chapters' Pre-Institute Workshop on Legislative Advocacy
The Government Relations Committees of NOCALL, SCALL, and SANDALL, and the Council of California County Law Libraries, are jointly sponsoring their first California Legislative Day that is a well-timed effort to coincide with the possible introduction of UCITA in California and efforts to enact legislation for state funding of county law libraries. AALL President Robert Oakley and Adam Cohn, Counsel for Sun Microsystems, will be on hand to discuss UCITA and its impact on consumers and librarians. Charlie Dyer will address issues surrounding state funding for county law libraries, and Michael Corbett will share successful lobbying techniques. GRC member Sam Trosow will report on this auspicious event in next month's Spectrum, and our California chapters will gladly share tips on how to plan a successful advocacy workshop in your state!

 


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