Vol. 2013, Issue 05
A Look Ahead
Amidst budget battles, immigration reform and gun control debate, Congress is beginning to tackle a number of issues relevant to law librarianship. In our Public Policy Positions for the 113th Congress, we outlined AALL’s top four policy priorities. Let’s take a look at where the 113th stands on those issues and what lies ahead.
On April 25, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2013 (ECPA) (S. 607), which updates one of the nation’s most important digital privacy laws to protect the privacy of emails, texts, and other electronic communications. The ECPA Amendments Act establishes a search warrant requirement for the government to obtain the content of Americans’ emails when those communications are stored with a third-party service provider. AALL applauds this crucial step forward in ECPA reform and as a member of the Digital Due Process coalition, we will continue to advocate for stronger privacy protections for communications in response to changes in technology, while preserving the legal tools necessary for government agencies to enforce the laws, respond to emergency circumstances and protect the public. ECPA has bipartisan support in both chambers and may see floor time in the Senate in the next few months.
Unfortunately, the House voted to pass the Cybersecurity Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) (H.R. 624) on April 18. For now, the bill is stalled in the Senate but it’s possible we will see other cybersecurity legislation at play in the coming months. The White House issued a veto threat for the CISPA before its passage, citing “core concerns” like the protection of privacy. The passed bill contains dangerous provisions that would allow companies to liberally share sensitive personal information with the government for purposes unrelated to cybersecurity and without meaningful oversight.
Public Access to Government Information
Congress is considering three bills that would grant greater public access to federally funded research through the creation of online searchable and downloadable databases for scientific research (S. 350, H.R. 708) Congressionally mandated reports (H.R. 1380), and Congressional Research Service reports (H.Res. 110). AALL supports increasing the availability of these reports to the public as they promote an open and transparent government. See the Act Now section below for more information and to take action in support of public access.
AALL has also worked to support the appropriations requests of the Government Printing Office (GPO) and the Library of Congress (LC) for Fiscal Year 2014. On March 29, President Jean Wenger submitted written testimony on behalf of AALL, Medical Library Association (MLA), and Special Libraries Association (SLA) to the House Committee on Appropriations, urging the subcommittee on the Legislative Branch to fully fund the appropriations requests of GPO and LC.
Balance in Copyright Law between Rights Holders and Users
On April 24, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) announced plans for a comprehensive review of copyright law. The committee will hold a comprehensive series of hearings on U.S. copyright law in the months ahead with the goal of determining whether the laws are still working in the digital age. Chairman Goodlatte’s announcement comes after Register of Copyright’s Maria Pallante testified in March before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet on needed updates to the copyright law. Among Register Pallante’s priorities is a legislative fix for orphan works, which AALL supported in our recent comments to the Copyright Office. The Government Relations Office will continue to work with the Copyright Committee to advocate for copyright laws that are responsive to the needs of law librarians.
Following the victory for libraries and consumers in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley, AALL will work with the Owners’ Rights Initiative to educate lawmakers about the decision, which continues to face resistance from publishers and authors.
Access to Justice
As part of our work on federal agency appropriations, AALL supports funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). This year, President Obama called for $486 million for Fiscal Year 2014, an increase of $16 million over LSC’s FY 2013 appropriation request to address the urgent need for legal services for poor Americans. The House and Senate Commerce, Justice and Science subcommittees with jurisdiction over LSC have not yet held hearings on the agency’s request. We’ll soon post the Government Relations Committee’s new LSC Funding one-pager on AALLNET, which you can use to advocate for adequate funding for LSC to help ensure equal justice for all.
Media Advocacy Training May 29
Registration is now open for the Government Relations Office’s next complimentary online advocacy training, “Best Practices in Media Advocacy: Using Letters to the Editor and Op-Eds to Make the Case for Law Libraries” on Wednesday, May 29 at 12:00pm EDT.
In this 30 minute training, the GRO staff will guide you through the best practices for writing Letters to the Editor and Op-Eds that will help to move AALL’s policy agenda forward. Participants will learn to recognize the news media’s role in shaping debates on public policy, discover tactics for framing news stories, and build basics skills for writing and submitting influential opinion pieces. News media can act as a powerful tool of grassroots advocacy by bringing your message to a broad public audience. Your voice can help to change the way community members look at issues; create a reliable, consistent stream of publicity for your mission or goal; and motivate the public and policymakers to get involved!
Please register online by Tuesday, May 28—and spread the word.
Support Public Access to Federally Funded Research
As mentioned above, Congress is considering three bills that would grant greater public access to federally funded research: the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (S. 350, H.R. 708), Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (H.R. 1380), and Congressional Research Service Electronic Accessibility Resolution of 2013 (H.Res. 110). Members of the public have a right to access research funded by their taxpayer dollars. By expanding access to valuable information and research, these bills would promote greater public understanding of government and innovation.
Visit our Legislative Action Center today to write your members of Congress in support of public access to federally funded research and reports. There you’ll find sample emails that you can easily customize and send to your members of Congress with a click of a button. Please take a few minutes today to advocate for yourself, your profession, and your patrons.
Keep Logging Print Use!
Since we launched our Print Resource Usage Log last summer, the GRO has collected many excellent examples of the use of print legal materials. We’ve since shared the results with Congressional and agency staff, and they have been integral in helping us educate decision makers about the need for print.
Help us continue to build the case for print by logging each time you use, or help someone to use, a federal legal resource in print. You may also consider posting the log link on your institution’s intranet to encourage more frequent use, as we know at least one creative law library has done!
AALL in the States
Local Advocates Bring AALL’s Message to Congress
On April 18, local AALL members from New York to Virginia traveled to Capitol Hill for the first-ever Local Advocate Lobby Day. Participants were greeted by Executive Board member Susan Lewis, who noted the place of advocacy in AALL’s strategic directions. Robyn Russell, Legislative Director to Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), a long-time champion of government transparency, then shared a staffer’s perspective on successful Hill visits. The morning training session, led by GRO staff Emily Feltren and Elizabeth Holland, focused on key talking points for AALL’s priority issues and the best practices for successfully delivering our message to the Hill.
In the afternoon, each participant met with the offices of their Representatives and Senators to discuss key legislation like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments of 2013, Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act, and Library of Congress Funding for Fiscal Year 2014.
Thanks to all who participated in this successful event! Members of Congress truly value input from their constituents. By taking the time to meet with staff, participants helped to raise AALL’s profile on Capitol Hill and will have a direct impact on the policies that affect law libraries and law librarians.
The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) has now been passed in five states, with both North Dakota and Hawaii enacting the bill in April. Congratulations to all who have taken part in the bill’s success! On April 10, the District of Columbia Council became the twelfth legislature to introduce UELMA in 2013. The Act has seen recent progress in the Oregon legislature, where it awaits consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee, having passing the House on April 23. On the same day, UELMA passed the Nevada Senate and will be heard by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on May 1. See UELMA’s status across the country in our handy 2013 UELMA Bill Tracking Chart.
ORALL and Allies Support UELMA in Ohio
Submitted by Mary Jenkins, ORALL GRC chair
Following preparatory work by the Government Relations Committee of the Ohio Regional Association of Law Libraries (ORALL) in conjunction with AALL, several Ohio law librarians will participate in a newly formed working group in Ohio to generate support for Ohio’s enactment of the UELMA. An inaugural meeting of the group, facilitated by Uniform Law Commissioner Jeffrey T. Ferriell, Professor of Law, Capital University Law School, will be held on May 10 in Columbus. Representatives of a wide spectrum of interests and organizations are expected to participate, including law school faculty and administrators, the offices of the Attorney General, the Public Defender, and the Secretary of State, the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation, the state bar, and more. We hope to report positive activity in the months to come.
Roundup and Review