Washington Brief - November 2004

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Washington Brief
By Mary Alice Baish

Dateline: September 8, 2004

Update on the INDUCE Act
Congress returned to work yesterday and has a busy few weeks before its October adjournment for the fall campaign. In last month's column, I described our opposition to S. 2560, the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act (INDUCE Act), that was introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in June. The bill is strongly supported by Hollywood and the recording industry because of their concerns about peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks which they say are used mainly by consumers to illegally share copyrighted materials. It would make companies and other Internet service providers (ISPs) liable if their software or technology encourages users to violate copyright laws. We are part of a large, diverse coalition that opposes this bill because we believe strongly that the solution is not to ban technology simply because it can be used to "induce" consumers to make illegal copies. P2P technology is in fact used for many important legal purposes. The bill is so broadly drafted that it has many unintended consequences far beyond targeting those who infringe copyright. We are very concerned that it would chill educational innovation and that file-sharing on university networks or university-created technology that enables file-sharing could put universities at risk for lawsuits.

In late August, AALL was one of twenty organizations and businesses who sent a letter to Senate leaders, including Sen. Hatch and Sen. Leahy, to which we attached a draft alternative to S. 2560, the Discouraging Online Networked Trafficking Inducement Act or "DON'T INDUCE Act." Our proposal is a far narrower bill that we believe fully meets Sen. Hatch's criteria to develop a "technology-neutral law directed at a small set of bad actors while protecting our legitimate technology industries from frivolous litigation." The DON'T INDUCE Act says that only someone who distributes a commercial computer program that is "specifically designed" for piracy on digital networks could be held liable for copyright violations. We intend it to be the starting point for negotiating an acceptable compromise bill. It also includes a specific provision ensuring that an ISP would not be liable for third party distribution of products designed to facilitate mass, indiscriminate redistribution. As negotiations were getting off the ground last week, the Copyright Office released a draft discussion alternative to the INDUCE Act that does not reflect any of our concerns with the original bill. Stay tuned, as there is a huge push by the entertainment industries for P2P legislation this year and very few days remaining in the 108th Congress.

AALL a Founding Member of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access
On August 31, 2004, an unprecedented coalition of public interest groups, including AALL, announced the formation of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access. The Alliance is an informal coalition of libraries, patient and health policy advocates, and other stakeholders who support reforms that will make publicly funded biomedical research accessible to the public. The Alliance will urge the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and members of Congress to ensure that peer-reviewed articles on taxpayer-funded research at NIH become fully accessible and available online at no cost to the American public through PubMedCentral.

In joint library community letters to NIH Director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni and Senate leaders, we noted that today the vast majority of research funded with tax dollars is available only through increasingly costly journal subscriptions, often costing thousands of dollars annually for a single journal. Users need access to thousands of journals and not even the largest research libraries can provide the research needed by scientists and other users. We cited data that in 2001, U.S. research libraries spent three times more money for journal subscriptions than in 1986--and yet received 5 percent fewer titles. During the same period, the Consumer Price Index rose just 62 percent. Lastly, we noted that the NIH proposal balances the public interest in having enhanced access to federally-funded NIH research while allowing publishers sufficient market protections and time to implement new economic publishing models. Timely access to the results of NIH funded research is critical to maintaining the vitality of our Nation's investment in research and education. This access is also critically important to taxpayers seeking needed information--information that they have supported through their tax dollars--concerning their health and welfare. Details and FAQ's on the new Alliance may be found at: www.taxpayeraccess.org.

OpenTheGovernment.org Releases Secrecy Report
As a member of the steering committee for OpenTheGovernment.org (OTG.org), I'm pleased to announce that in late August we released the Secrecy Report Card: Quantitative Indicators of Secrecy in the Federal Government, our initial effort to establish measurable benchmarks for evaluating the level of secrecy in government. OTG.org is a coalition of more than 30 organizations calling for more democracy and less secrecy in government. Government data confirmed that secrecy has increased dramatically in recent years. For every $1 the federal government spent last year declassifying documents, it spent an extraordinary $120 maintaining the secrets already on the books.

Here are some highlights from the report. The federal government spent $6.5 billion last year creating 14 million new classified documents and securing accumulated secrets--more than it has for at least the past decade. For every new classified document created, the federal government spent $459 securing that document and the accumulated mountain of classified documents. Despite recent recognition from government officials that government classifies too much information, the government continues to create more new secrets each year, at an ever-growing cost to taxpayers. This comes at a time when public demand is rising with over 3 million requests for information from government agencies under the Freedom of Information Act last year alone. For more information about OTG.org or to read the report, please see: www.OpenTheGovernment.org.

McCabe Article on Pricing of Legal Serials Now Available
Last but certainly not least, Mark J. McCabe, an economist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has just published an article that will be of interest to many of you, "Law Serials Pricing and Mergers: A Portfolio Approach" in Contributions to Economic Analysis & Policy, Vol. 3: No. 1, Article 11. The article is freely available from The Berkeley Electronic Press or from Mark's web site.

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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