ARCHIVED: Legislative and Regulatory Update - September 25, 1997

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Dateline: September 25,1997

Oakley Testifies at Two Copyright Hearings

Bob Oakley recently testified on behalf of 23 major national library, educational, and scholarly associations on Internet service provider liability before subcommittees of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees. In his testimony on H.R. 2180, one of the WIPO-related bills, Oakley urged that libraries and educational institutions not be held liable for copyright infringement by their network users. To do so would stifle an institution's ability to be the public's "on-ramp" to the Internet; liability should be based rather on the conduct of an individual user. At the same time, Oakley stressed that schools, universities and libraries establish and promote policies to create an atmosphere in which patrons learn to use copyrighted materials appropriately.

During the hearings, it became apparent that more members of Congress are getting tuned into library-related issues such as fair use and distance learning. During the Senate hearing on September 4, 1997, Oakley commended Sen. John Ashcroft (R-MO) for having introduced S. 1146, the "Digital Copyright Clarification and Technology Act" the previous day. Ashcroft's bill addresses library exemptions for fair use, preservation, distance learning, temporary reproduction, and on-line liability. During the House hearing two weeks later, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) announced that he would introduce shortly a bill that would meet the concerns of the library community on these digital copyright issues.

Things may be beginning to look better on the international scene as well. Despite the fact that the protection of databases is being promoted strongly by the European Community, representatives at a September WIPO meeting concluded that more review is needed before any agreement can be made on a possible WIPO database treaty.

Legislative Branch Appropriations FY 1998

After two years of funding itself at reduced operational budgets, the Conference Committee met on September 17, 1997 and voted a 2% raise in funding for Congress for FY 1998. When enacted, the bill will provide the Library of Congress with $227 million; of that amount, $9.6 million is earmarked for acquisitions and $5.5 million to initiate the implementation of an integrated library system. The news wasn't quite so favorable for the Government Printing Office. The conferees agreed to the Senate's slightly lower appropriations of $29 million for the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) Salaries and Expenses that supports the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP).

In addition, conferees took to heart a September General Accounting Office (GAO) report criticizing the SuDocs Sales Program for reducing its inventory during FY 1996 by destroying "thousands of volumes" in its warehouses without notifying the originating agency. GPO policy has been changed to prevent such an occurrence in the future and to require that historically significant publications must remain in the Sales Program permanently. Conferees also mandated that GPO spend up to $1.5 million for a GAO management audit of selected procedures and operations. While the audit could prove serious for GPO, LC faced a similar one in 1996 that eventually led to a favorable outcome for the Library and strengthened library services.

Personnel Changes at GPO

The library community was saddened by the news of the untimely resignation of Superintendent of Documents Wayne Kelley earlier this month. A champion of the public's right to government information and the depository library program, Kelley had served at GPO since 1991 and this year assumed the additional duties of Deputy Public Printer. Having worked closely with Mr. Kelley, from the GPO Study to the current debate over how to preserve the public interest in the revision of Title 44, I will miss his leadership and commitment very much. On September 22, 1997 Public Printer Michael DiMario swore in Robert Mansker as the new Deputy Public Printer. Mansker has served as the Deputy Minority Staff Director of the Joint Committee on Printing since 1995. His many years of Hill experience and his management skills should prove to be a valuable asset to the GPO.

At Long Last--Title 44 Bill to be Released Next Week

Efforts to reach consensus with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on legislation to revise Title 44 slowed progress to a crawl during the summer months. However, JCP Staff Director Eric Peterson will bring the new draft bill to the monthly meeting of the Inter-Association Working Group (IAWG) next week. The latest "concepts" list for the legislation includes:


  • adopting a new system of printing procurement by "executive agents," including GPO;


  • GPO's continued role in production and procurement for legislative branch agencies;


  • reducing "in-house" printing in all three branches;


  • a provision through which the SuDocs would receive electronic notification of all procurement orders, thereby being able to "ride" the order for sufficient copies for FDLPs and the Sales Program;


  • appropriations through the SuDocs to cover the costs of obtaining agency publications and no-fee access to fee-based electronic products and services for depository libraries.

There are some troubling aspects to these concepts, including turning the SuDocs into a "Superintendent of Government Publications" and participating libraries into "Federal Publications Access Libraries." This would be a huge step backwards from our goal of ensuring once and for all that electronic information is part of the FDLP.

In addition to meeting with the IAWG, Mr. Peterson has accepted an invitation to participate in the GRC's October conference call to discuss the proposed legislation. In order to make the 96-page bill available to our committee, as well as to other interested constituencies, Peterson plans to post the draft legislation on the Senate Rules Committee's Web site.

NCLIS/GPO Study Coming Along

At discussions during the ALA conference in San Francisco last June, I convinced GPO staff and members of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Services (NCLIS) that the long- overdue study of agency plans to assess standards and formats for electronic government information must not be limited to executive agencies, but also must include Congress and the judiciary. The final draft of the Statement of Work, which will collect data from agencies in all three branches, has just been completed and we are quite pleased with the progress thus far. Phase II involves research and data collection followed by an interim analysis that should be completed in March.

Missed the GRC's "Sea Change in Access to Federal Government Information" Program in Baltimore?

Don't despair! Presentations by the key officials from the GPO, the Office of Management and Budget, the Administrative Office of the U.S Courts, and the National Archives and Records Administration are available at seachange.asp.


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