Washington Brief - February 2000

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Dateline: December 30, 1999

Scorecard for the 106th Congress, First Session
Overall, legislative action during 1999 was fairly meager, in part because the impeachment process left in its wake a strong sense of partisan animosity that continued throughout the year. As you can see from the following brief wrap-up of the First Session, when Congress recessed on November 19th, it rolled over to the new year many legislative issues of concern to AALL members:


  • The Collections of Information Antipiracy Act (H.R. 354) was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee, no floor action. AALL opposes H.R. 354.


  • The Consumer Investor Access to Information Act (H.R. 1858), including an exclusion for primary legal materials drafted by AALL, was reported out of the House Commerce Committee, no floor action. AALL supports H.R. 1858.


  • No action on either the Congressional Openness Act (S. 393) or the Congressional Research Accountability Act (H.R. 654) which mandate that more congressional documents, including Congressional Research Service reports, be accessible to the public via the Internet. AALL supports both bills.


  • The Chemical Safety Information, Site Security and Fuels Regulatory Relief Act (S. 880/P.L. 106-40) provides for a presidential study to determine the increased risk of terrorist and other criminal activity associated with the posting of "worst-case scenario" information on the Internet. AALL supports full disclosure of this information through the Internet and the community right-to-know.


AALL's Legislative and Regulatory Agenda for the 106th Congress, Second Session
  1. Appropriations: We will support the full FY2001 appropriations requests for, among others, the Law Library of Congress, the Library of Congress, and the Federal Depository Library Program.


  2. Database Legislation: We expect early action on database legislation and will again be calling on our members for grassroots support in fighting H.R. 354 and supporting H.R. 1858.


  3. Digital Distance Education: As part of a coalition of the library and K-higher education communities, we will continue to urge enactment of distance learning legislation, as recommended in the U.S. Copyright Offices's May 1999 Report on Copyright and Digital Distance Education.


  4. Fair Use Rulemaking Proceeding: We began working on this important process last spring and the recent Federal Register Notice of Inquiry (64 Fed. Reg. 66,139 (1999)) has given us a list of specific questions to answer and a deadline of February 10, 2000. We will be seeking member input on current and future adverse effects of the Sec. 1201 anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA.


  5. Possible Closing of NTIS: It is now unclear whether or not the Department of Commerce will move forward on its legislative proposal to close the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) by the end of FY 2000. Nonetheless, we hope to grasp the opportunity to improve public access to NTIS' important scientific, technical and business reports.


  6. Reauthorization of the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). We have already commenced coalition meetings to plan a strategy for using the reauthorization process to incorporate into the PRA principles of public access to affirm that government information in all formats belongs to the people.


The battle in the states to oppose the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act has intensified, particularly in my home state of Virginia. The Virginia Library Association and ALA joined VALL and AALL in testimony opposing UCITA before the Joint Commission on Technology and Science's Advisory Committee (http://www.aallnet.org/aallwash/tm120799.asp). As "minority" members of the Advisory Committee, Jim Heller and Sally Wiant have been effective in voicing our concerns with UCITA. At the top of the list is the claim by UCITA's proponents that federal copyright law preempts state contract law (Sec. 105 (a)). We disagree with that assessment and believe that the preemptive effect of federal copyright law is very complex and unclear. The fate of UCITA in Virginia may well be determined next week, when the Advisory Committee holds its final meeting and makes its recommendation to the full Commission.

In my November column, I alluded to the library communities' desire to form a broad-based coalition of UCITA opponents. That effort has been very successful and For a Competitive Information and Technology Economy, better known as 4CITE, is our new coalition that currently consists of almost twenty businesses, library and consumer groups, and other information policy organizations [4CITE URL to be inserted here when available]. And we continue to add new members as word about the very harmful provisions of UCITA spreads.

The GRC has worked hard, through the chapters, to pinpoint a UCITA liaison in each state to alert us to any pre-legislative activity so, as in Virginia, we can organize opposition early on. For more information about recent GRC activities, be sure to read Meg Collins' article, page ****. Also, we need your help so please subscribe to the AALL-ADVOCACY listserv to get timely updates on UCITA and join the opposition in your state.

Attorneys Fees for Hyperlaw, Inc.
On December 16, 1999, Judge John Martin, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York responded affirmatively to a request by HyperLaw for an order granting the company attorneys fees from their court battle with West Publishing Company. Judge Martin noted that West had violated Section 403 of the Copyright Act that prohibits the assertion of copyright in a work consisting predominantly of federal government works unless the copyright notice identifies the portions that are not subject to copyright. He ordered West to pay HyperLaw $813, 724 in attorneys fees (see Hyperlaw Inc. v. West Publishing Co., 94 Civ. 589).


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