Dateline: October 30, 1997
Review of the First Session of the 105th Congress, and What's Looming on the Horizon for Next Year
Looking back at the activities of the 105th Congress, we can take heart in the impact we have had on many key issues. The major national library associations, whose total membership exceeds 80,000 individuals, is recognized as a community whose voice is important. So, what's the secret to our heightened level of respect on Capitol Hill and with other policy makers? Visibility. Becoming more visible means we've been more active and engaged, and our participation in several broad coalitions is a big positive there. Areas in which the library community has made a significant impact on legislation this year, include efforts to slow down ratification of the W.I.P.O. treaties and implementing legislation; participation in drafting a bill to preserve user and library rights in the digital age; opposition to industry efforts to create new database protection; drafting a revised chapter 19 of Title 44 to strengthen the Federal Depository Library Program ( FDLP); and finally, participation in the lawsuit culminating in last summer's Supreme Court ruling that the Communications Decency Act is unconstitutional.
Though Congress plans to adjourn, perhaps as soon as the end of next week, here are the top issues, in no special order, that will keep us busy not only during the intervening months but when the Second Session convenes in January:
W.I.P.O. Implementing Legislation
Since Bob's testimony during House hearings last month on implementing legislation for the World Intellectual Property Organization's treaties, there has been little news to report. However, as a member of the Digital Future Coalition (DFC), we will continue to support the treaties while opposing any implementing legislation that fails to preserve the balance between creators and users of electronic information that is inherent in the Copyright Act.
S. 1146--the Ashcroft Bill
Speaking of the need for balanced rights in the digital age, the library community and the other members of the DFC played a proactive role in the drafting process for S. 1146. This pro-user, pro-library legislation, the "Digital Copyright Clarification and Technology Act," was introduced last month by Sen. John Ashcroft (R-MO). S. 1146 would ensure that fair use, preservation, and distance learning are protected in the electronic environment. On the House side, the DFC has been working hard behind the scene to find a Republican co-sponsor to a similar bill that Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) is prepared to introduce before Congress adjourns. How refreshing to have legislation that addresses our concerns--be prepared for some grassroots lobbying next year to support both bills.
H.R. 2652--New Database Protection Bill
Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) introduced the "Collection of Information Antipiracy Act" in early October that would prohibit the unfair use of data extracted from a collection of information. James Neal, Director of the Eisenhower Library at Johns Hopkins University, presented testimony on behalf of the library community before the House Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property on October 23rd. The statement listed our major concerns with this legislation: no data exists to support the need for a new form of intellectual property protection; it would have serious consequences for libraries and consumers, and fails to provide adequate exemptions to support education and libraries; its terms are ill-defined and overly broad; and lastly, no term limits are provided.
A labor dispute between the unions and the White House has stalled any action this year on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee's efforts to revise the law governing printing and procurement for agencies, Congress, and the courts. Ranking Minority Member Sen. Wendell Ford (D-KY) has delayed endorsing the latest version of the draft bill until the labor issue is resolved. In addition, Ford and his staff share the concerns of the library community with many of the draft bill's provisions, including the lack of strong enforcement, the definition of what is government information and the scope of the FDLP, and the failure to address adequately the government-wide transition to electronic dissemination. Due to this delay, the bill will not be posted to the committee's Web site until bi-cameral, bi-partisan consensus has been reached. The process of our negotiating favorable public access provisions will continue throughout the recess, and we expect that a bill will be introduced in late January. We will continue to urge that the final draft be posted to the committee's Web site before it is introduced to allow adequate time for public comment.
Moving from Congressional activity to a new commercial law being drafted by the American Law Institute (ALI) and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL), UCC2B would provide for mass market licenses for online information. For those who missed the Copyright Committee's excellent program on the current efforts to redraft Article 2B of the Uniform Commercial Code that was held in Baltimore, Bob recently addressed the annual meeting of the Association of Research Libraries on this topic. Worried that librarians are unknowingly signing away their fair rights under the Copyright Act, Bob has been attending ALI and NCCUSL meetings held around the country to raise awareness for the concerns of the library community. His well-received speech--available at tm101697.asp--is a must-read for all.
Welcome to the New SuDocs, a Librarian!
Librarians were delighted with Public Printer Michael DiMario's recent announcement of the appointment of Francis J. Buckley, Jr. as the new Superintendent of Documents. Fran comes with many years experience as regional depository librarian and later associate director for public services at the Detroit Public Library. Since 1994 he has been director of the Shaker Heights Public Library in Ohio.
Fran has filled top leadership positions within the American Library Association, including serving on Council, ALA's Legislation Committee, and chairing its Subcommittee on Government Information. Most recently, he has chaired the Inter-Association Working Group on Government Information Policy (IAWG) that was formed last February. While we will miss his leadership in that role, his appointment as the first librarian to serve as Superintendent of Documents is a cause for celebration.
And although Fran may not be well known within the law library community, he takes great pride in having testified before the House Subcommittee on Libraries and Memorials on June 22, 1977 in support of H.R. 4751, the legislation that allowed accredited law schools to become depository libraries. Fast-tracking from 1977 to our annual meeting next summer, law librarians will have the opportunity to meet Fran since he has graciously accepted an invitation to join us in Anaheim and to participate in one of the programs sponsored by the GovDocs SIS.
Mary Alice Baish
Assistant Washington Affairs Representative
Georgetown University Law Library
111 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001