ARCHIVED: Legislative and Regulatory Update - March 27, 1997

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Dateline: March 27, 1997

Mary Alice Baish
Assistant Washington Affairs Representative
Georgetown University Law Library
111 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
202/662-9200 *FAX:202/662-9202

AALL Comments on ABA Citation Proposal

Responding to a Federal Register notice for public comments, AALL's Committee on Citation Formats submitted a statement to the Judicial Conference of the United States on March 12, 1997 urging the courts to adopt the medium-neutral citation system endorsed by the American Bar Association. AALL's comments focused on two key goals:


  • to increase access to legal information by facilitating the transition and expansion of the text of the law from paper to electronic media;
  • to guarantee that both the text of the law and the means of citing the law are in the public domain. While the majority of the more than 300 public comments that were submitted favored the move to a paragraph numbering system, judges and clerks expressed opposition amid concerns about additional workload.

Bob Oakley will reiterate AALL's strong support for the ABA-endorsed citation system during the public hearing here in Washington on April 2, 1997. Both statements are available on AALLWASH.

CDA Back in the Headlines...

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) on March 19, 1997. The Justices displayed a keen understanding of the nature of the Internet as they rapidly fired off tough questions to both counsels. They easily could have continued the debate longer than the 70-minute time period allowed. Deputy Solicitor General Seth Waxman fielded tough questions on how the CDA could even work. He proposed that adults might get an age verification ID for about $5/year that would allow them access to sites that might contain "patently offensive" materials. Justices Breyer expressed concern that teenagers could be prosecuted for discussing their sexual experiences with peers via the Internet, when they can freely discuss such matters with one another on the telephone. Justice Souter expressed concern that a parent, sitting next to their child in their own home, could be prosecuted if the child were allowed to look at restricted materials. Bruce Ennis of Jenner & Block ably represented the American Library Association, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition that includes AALL. He emphasized that the CDA is ineffective and could not be enforced because of the global nature of the Internet. He stressed that filtering software is already available, allowing a parent to block certain types of materials, and that the CDA is not the least restrictive means of accomplishing Congress's goal of protecting minors from pornography. The transcript of the oral arguments is at The decision is expected by July.

...As Is the Illinois Obscenity Bill

Information available not just through the Internet but in all formats would be effected if the Illinois legislature passes a bill similar to last year's that would define obscenity at the county level. The Washington Office's recent letter urging Illinois House members to oppose the new legislation was delivered to them by a volunteer of the Illinois Library Association (ILA) and was also widely distributed on the ILA's legislative listserv.

Lehman Cautions Against Aggressive WIPO Action on Databases

In a recent letter to the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks Bruce Lehman cautioned that the U.S. will not commit to further international discussions on database protection until national debate and consultation have taken place. However, backed by strong support of the information industry, a database bill is expected to be introduced by May. Along with other library associations, we continue to urge members of Congress to first ask basic threshold questions on the need and merits of this new form of protection before considering any legislation.

JCP "Concepts" Paper on Title 44

Joint Committee on Printing (JCP) Staff Director Eric Peterson has developed a concepts paper outlining some innovative recommendations to revise Title 44. These will be the subject of two April hearings by the Senate Rules Committee, and a bill may be introduced by Memorial Day. While the Inter-Association Working Group on Title 44 has held two weekend-long meetings and continues to debate various options, we are now shifting our focus to comment on these JCP proposals, many of which look promising, that would:


  1. strongly affirm that there can be no copyright or copyright-like restrictions on information created at taxpayer expense;
  2. move the JCP's regulatory functions to the Public Printer, thereby solving the long-standing Chadha problem, but leaving congressional oversight and budget authorization with the Senate Rules and House Oversight Committees;
  3. establish the Government Printing Office as an independent regulatory agency that would provide central procurement services for all branches of government, and empower the Public Printer with the ability to promulgate regulations and enforce compliance;
  4. reaffirm a strong depository program and repeal the print-based provisions of Title 44 to recognize all formats.

We have been working closely with Mr. Peterson since his arrival at the JCP in mid-January. His ability to focus on the goals set by Sen. Warner and to bring all participants to the table for these critical preliminary discussions are a welcome change. I am especially pleased that he quickly accepted our invitation to tour the depository collection of Georgetown University's main campus library next week. It is very refreshing that the person in charge up on the Hill clearly is interested in understanding the role and responsibilities of depository libraries and the complex issues involved as we move to a more electronic program.

Madison Awards Recognize NOCALL/SCALL Victory

The Coalition on Government Information has honored financier and philanthropist George Soros as its 1997 James Madison Award recipient. The Northern and Southern California Associations of Law Libraries, nominated by the Washington Office, were awarded honorary citations for promoting freedom of information. The enactment of their bill last year ensures the preservation of California legislative records and agency rulemaking files and serves as a model for other states to emulate. Former California Senator Nicholas Petris, sponsor of the NOCALL/SCALl bill, was also recognized with a certificate. Well done!

Looking for Volunteers for New NTIS Depository Pilot Project If you're in a depository library that collects reports published by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) and would be interested in participating in an electronic pilot project with NTIS, please contact me for more information. A very successful "pre-pilot" project with the University of California at Davis will be broadened this summer to other libraries. GM_end_converted_content--->