ARCHIVED: Opposition to Key Provisions of H.R. 2281

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May 29, 1998

The Honorable Thomas J. Bliley
Committee on Commerce
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-6115

Dear Representative Bliley:

Since the Administration first began its review several years ago on how to revise the Copyright Act to move it into the digital age, the American Association of Law Libraries has monitored the development of proposed legislation and participated in formal discussions and hearings. I write to you today on behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries to express our gratitude to you for asserting the Committee on Commerce's jurisdiction over H.R. 2281. I believe that, in its current form, this bill to implement the World Intellectual Property Organization's copyright treaties, recently reported out of the Judiciary Committee, will stifle technological development and foreign and domestic commerce to the detriment of both industry and consumers.

H.R. 2281 remains a very controversial bill for many reasons. The approach taken in this anti-competitive bill is to regulate technology, thereby stifling technological innovation at the expense of U.S. companies that produce computers, software, and VCRs. These are robust industries, world leaders on the technological cutting edge, who contribute to the economic well-being of our nation. Further, H.R. 2281 fails to maintain the important balance between copyright owners and consumers that has long been the hallmark of U.S. copyright law. It clearly shifts the balance to the owners and creators of digital information and lacks the provisions of current copyright law that provide for the interests of students and teachers, librarians and researchers.

The American Association of Law Libraries was founded in 1906 to promote and enhance the value of law libraries to the legal and public communities, to foster the profession of law librarianship, and to provide leadership in the field of legal information. Today, with 4,800 members, the Association represents law librarians and related professionals who are affiliated with a wide range of institutions: law firms; law schools; corporate legal departments; courts; and local, state and federal government agencies. AALL is also an active member of the Digital Future Coalition (DFC), a broad based group of forty-two member organizations, ranging from nonprofit library and consumer groups to telecommunications, computer and network access industries. While we represent diverse interests and viewpoints, we agree that the public interest must be safeguarded and that Congress must maintain a balanced approach to updating the Copyright Act for the digital age.

As law librarians who both create and provide access to digital information, we are particularly critical of the failure of H.R. 2281 to include fair use provisions (Section 107 of the Copyright Act) to allow reproduction, under certain limitations, of materials "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research." Section 1201 (a)(1) of H.R. 2281 effectively prohibits the circumvention of a technological protection measure for any purpose at all, even to make fair or otherwise lawful use of copyrighted material. Section 1201 (d) of H.R. 2281 is meaningless in its attempt to preserve fair use since it is limited to acts of "infringement" and not to acts of "circumvention." Together, these provisions create significant new proprietary rights for copyright owners while at the same time barring users from making otherwise lawful uses of the material.

Chairman Bliley, I urge you and members of your committee to reflect carefully on the flawed approach taken with H.R. 2281 that clearly upsets the balance in copyright law in favor of the owner of information over the rights of the consumer to have access to information. We believe that H.R. 3048, introduced by Representatives Rick Boucher and Tom Campbell that now has almost fifty co-sponsors, including many members of the Commerce Committee, is a much better approach. It will implement the WIPO treaties and at the same time update provisions of the Copyright Act in a balanced manner to bring fair use, distance education, first sale and ephemeral copying provisions into the digital age.

We are confident that you and the members of the Committee on Commerce will agree with us on the shortcomings of H.R. 2281. I look forward to appearing before the Committee on Friday, June 5, 1998, in order to testify on behalf of the library community regarding the serious flaws of this legislation. Thank you very much for your consideration in this matter.


Robert L. Oakley
American Association of Law Libraries
Washington Affairs Representative


Members, House Committee on Commerce
Members, House Rules Committee
House Speaker Newt Gingrich
Majority Leader Dick Armey
Majority Whip Tom DeLay
Democratic Leader Richard A. Gephardt
Democratic Whip David Bonior