ARCHIVED: Comment on the "Framework for Global Electronic Commerce"

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January 30, 1997

Mr. Ira C. Magaziner
Senior Advisor to the President for Policy Development The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. Magaziner:

We are writing today on behalf of the nation's libraries to comment on the "Framework for Global Electronic Commerce." Many of the issues raised in the paper are critical to libraries and to the future of an informed society in America. We are pleased, therefore, that you have reached out for comments to interested parties generally, and to libraries in particular.

The signatories to this letter represent the five major library associations in the United States, including the American Association of Law Libraries, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, the Medical Libraries Association, and the Special Libraries Association. Brief descriptive information about our organizations is appended to this letter. Taken together, our organizations represent 80,000 librarians and their libraries nationwide. More significantly, perhaps, we represent the interests of millions of library users including school children and university students, members of the business community, members of the the professions, including law and medicine, scholars and other academic researchers, and last, but certainly not least, the general public. These constituencies will be profoundly affected by the future of commerce on the Internet.

As you know, the library community has endorsed the comments that have already been submitted to you by the Digital Future Coalition. The purpose of this letter is to emphasize a few of those points from the perspective of the library community and to outline a few of the special concerns we have.

  • The library community believes that any restrictions on the content of speech on the Internet are troublesome and impede the free flow of ideas. (See Draft Report, Section 8.) Although we understand the need to prevent fraud, we oppose any laws or regulations that purport to outlaw content based on sexual content or unpopular viewpoints of any type. We appreciate the effort in the paper to empower parents and families to deal with those issues themselves.
  • The library community understands the need to protect intellectual property on the internet. (See Draft Report, Section 4.) We believe, however, that any expansion of protection for information providers must be carefully balanced with appropriate exemptions to meet the needs of information users. We were pleased to see that the draft paper recognizes the need to protect the fair uses of copyrighted material, including such important uses as browsing, and library, scientific, or other educational uses. Many of the legislative proposals we have reviewed so far, however, have not dealt adequately with the need for balance. The library community appreciates the support of the White House on these important issues.
  • The library community is very concerned that the trend toward the private licensing of information could create the potential for monopoly and completely undermine the delicate balance that has been built into the Copyright law. We believe that a variety of options must be explored to mitigate that possibilty. As a result, we believe that it is premature to remove compulsory licenses or any other possible means of ensuring access to information as an option to be considered for the benefit of information users. (See Draft Report Executive Summary.)
  • The library community agrees that there needs to be a commercial code for the conduct of commerce on the internet (See Draft Report, Section 3). We cannot, however, endorse the work of the National Conference of Commissioners of State Laws because even though the revision effort deals with the licensing of information products -- an issue that is central to our work -- we have not yet been afforded an opportunity to provide input into the process, and some of the results we have seen are cause for concern. If the Administration is looking to the NCCUSL for the development of solutions, we hope that it will also urge the drafters to seek input from the affected constituencies, including libraries.
The library community is pleased that the White House is considering such important information policy issues at the highest levels. We are also pleased to have an opportunity to comment on the paper before it is made final. We hope that we will be able to continue to work with you and provide input on these and other important matters as these issues continue to be discussed.

Sincerely,

Robert L. Oakley
American Assocation of Law Libraries

Carol C. Henderson
American Library Association

Duane Webster
Association of Research Libraries

Carla J. Funk
Medical Library Association

David R. Bender
Special Libraries Association