Washington Brief - May 2006

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By Mary Alice Baish

Dateline: March 9, 2006

Congressional Hearing on Orphan Works
Yesterday, Maria Pallante, Associate General Counsel and Director of Licensing at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, testified on behalf of 17 organizations, including AALL, before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property. The topic of the hearing was orphan works and the hearing was unique in a number of ways. All seventeen groups—ranging from museums and libraries to publishers and other content owners—have participated during the past year in the Copyright Office's investigation of the problems raised by orphan works. The term refers to the large volume of works that are likely still protected by copyright although their owners cannot be located after a reasonable effort in order to secure licensing permission to use them. Given the diversity of our organizations, it is remarkable that we not only agree that a problem exists, but we also agree on a legislative solution.

Student attorneys at the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic of the Washington College of Law at American University have been working on this issue since 2002 and deserve a lot of credit for developing a legislative fix. The Copyright Office has also supported these efforts. Overall, we agree with most of their January 2006 Report on Orphan Works (www.copyright.gov/orphan/) issued in the wake of a year-long effort that included a public comment period and round-tables and informal meetings. Having so many diverse groups supporting Ms. Pallante's statement strengthened our position and also impressed members of the committee. Chairman Smith indicated at the hearing that he wants to move quickly on this legislation and hopes that statutory language can be agreed upon by the end of March. The outlook for getting a bill enacted this year is very good.

AALL Thanks U.S. Archivist for Moratorium on Declassification
In a letter dated March 7th, AALL President Claire Germain thanked Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States, for issuing a moratorium on NARA's reclassification of approximately 9,500 documents that had previously been available to the public. Most of the documents date back to the 1940s and 1950s and, according to historians familiar with them, pose no threat to our national security and should remain publicly accessible. Weinstein also required NARA's Information Security Oversight Office to conduct an audit of these materials. This issue was brought to our attention by the press and obviously members of Congress interested in overseeing this administration's penchant for secrecy read the same articles. Rep. Christoper Shays (R-4-CT), already an outspoken champion of openness in government, is convening a hearing next week as chair of the Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on National Security. Incidentally, Weinstein, who was sworn in as Archivist in February 2005, will be speaking in St. Louis along with Printer Bruce James at the Town Meeting on E-Life Cycle Management (G1). Please join us in welcoming him to his first AALL conference.

Gearing Up for the FY 2007 Appropriations Cycle
Hearings began this month for the FY 2007 appropriations, a busy time indeed. We have submitted letters for the hearing record for a number of agencies. With so much of the government's budget going to homeland security and defense, it's going to be a lean year for most other agencies. We support the full FY 2007 funding request of $628.465 million for the Library of Congress (LC), including $14.026 million for the Law Library of Congress. Dr. Billington, Librarian of Congress, is asking for only a 4.1% increase over the current fiscal year and there are no special funding requests for the Law Library. The Law Library will, however, benefit from the incremental adjustment of $2 million for the Library's ongoing GENPAC project, if approved. The FY 2007 GENPAC appropriation is vital to the Law Library's ability to continue to acquire foreign and international legal materials in both print and electronic formats.

We also support the full FY 2007 funding request of $151.5 million for the Government Printing Office (GPO). It includes $100.285 million for Congressional Printing and Binding, $43 million for the Salaries and Expenses (S&E) appropriation of the Superintendent of Documents and $8.2 million for GPO's revolving fund. The S&E request includes necessary funds for the cataloging, indexing, and distribution of publications in print and electronic formats to depository libraries and other recipients designated by law. The FY 2007 S&E budget includes a one-time, additional funding request for several important information technology projects designed to expand and improve public access to government information. Also included in the S&E request is $2 million to print and distribute the 2006 edition of the U.S. Code to depository libraries.

In late February, we submitted a letter in opposition to the proposed $2.5 million cut in the FY 2007 budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will likely result in the closure of the Headquarters Library as well as many of its 27 regional and laboratory libraries. This proposed cut to the EPA's FY 2007 budget puts their libraries' collections and services at risk and will seriously harm the public's ability to access the EPA's valuable resources. You'll find all of these letters, our orphan works testimony and much, much more at www.ll.georgetown.edu/aallwash/.

Are We Safer in the Dark National Teleconference—Thanks!
Excitement is building for the first Sunshine Week teleconference from the National Press Club here in D.C. on Monday, March 13th. We are proud that AALL was a founding member of OpenTheGovernment.org, the lead organization planning this event to kick off the 2006 Sunshine Week. As a member of its steering committee, I have written frequently in this column about its many activities and reports. Moderated by Geneva Overholser, currently the Endowed Chair at the Missouri School of Journalism, the national portion of the program will address open government and secrecy—the problems we face, the impacts of secrecy on communities and what the public can do about it. Programs at host sites throughout the country will then allow participants to continue the discussion on issues relevant to their local communities.

I am thrilled to announce that three of our chapters and seven law libraries have agreed to host this important event! Please join me in thanking CALL, LLOPS and NOCALL for stepping up to the plate, as well as the University of Georgia Law Library, Thurgood Marshall Law Library, University of Baltimore Law Library, Kathrine R Everett Law Library, Moritz Law Library, University of Richmond School of Law and University of Tennessee Law Library. Many more law libraries were anxious to participate this year but ran up against spring break or some unavoidable technical issues. I'm very grateful to all of you who expressed interest in hosting this first-ever event—it reminds me how fortunate and proud I am to represent your interests here in Washington!


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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