Washington Brief - July 1999

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Dateline: May 27, 1999

Please join us for W-2: Law Librarians Meet the 106th Congress: AALL Advocacy Training and Legislative Day. This first-ever AALL lobbying day--on Friday, July 16, 1999--is your exciting opportunity to join colleagues from all over the country in raising the visibility of law librarians on Capitol Hill. The issues that you will be addressing are very important, timely and substantive, and your representatives need to hear about them from you! What better opportunity to promote AALL and build upon your knowledge and expertise to educate your elected representatives on a wide range of information policy issues. We invite you to participate in our advocacy workshop, so please register today and we'll see you here on July 16th!

Report on Copyright and Digital Distance Education
Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 25, 1998 to summarize the U.S. Copyright Office's report on distance education that was mandated by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Despite the short six-month time frame for the report, it is comprehensive and thorough, reflecting testimony and comments from the various constituencies during the series of hearings held at schools and universities throughout the country. AALL and the library community were very active in representing the library role of supporting distance education programs, and our concerns were included in the final report. Although we have not yet had time for a full review of all its details and the report does not include legislative language, its findings and recommendations appear well-balanced between the need to extend the current distance education provisions of the Copyright Act into the digital age while concurrently addressing concerns of the publishing community about widespread redissemination of copyrighted materials on the Internet. The report analyses the concerns of both sides and concludes that legislation should be enacted to recalibrate the law while maintaining the policy balance. In addition, the report very clearly articulates that the fair use doctrine is technology neutral and it recommends that the legislative history explicitly confirm and clarify the fair use principle. The report is available at http://www.loc.gov/copyright/cpypub/de_rprt.pdf and you'll find the policy recommendations in section VII.

FTC Comments Concerning the Law Book Industry
Kudos to CRIV members, especially Christine Graesser, for their fine efforts in seeking input from our membership and in drafting comments on the Guides for the Law Book Industry (C.F.R. Part 256). The Washington Office transmitted the comments in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission on May 17, 1999. In the introduction, we noted that AALL actively participated in the development of the Guides back in the 1970s, and that our members are probably the major consumers of legal information in both print and electronic formats. The comments reflect AALL's belief that the need for the Guides--to provide a standard for fair trade practices regarding the marketing, sale and updating of legal information products--is as important today as when they were first developed. We further note that the FTC's current review of the Guides is a propitious time to update them to reflect the electronic environment. In responding to several questions posed by the FTC regarding the Guides, CRIV offered not just broad comments but specific language, particularly regarding electronic formats, and proposed a new guide on Licensing Agreement for Electronic Resources based on the 1997 Principles for Licensing Electronic Resources. You'll find the text of our comments at Ftcguide.asp.

Good news from Texas?!?
We are being quietly optimistic that Governor George W. Bush will sign two pieces of legislation in the next few days that are particularly important to the law library community and the citizens of Texas. The first is H.B. 1477, a bill to increase funding for Texas county law libraries that sailed unanimously through the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence and the House Committee on Judicial Affairs. When H.B. 1477 is enacted, it will be a particularly joyful event, not only because it will raise the filing fee to increase support for county law libraries, but also because we worked closely with Jill Henderson of the Taylor County Law Library in 1995 when she and several colleagues first attempted to get this legislation enacted. Patience and practice make perfect, Jill--congratulations to you and to our Texas chapters on this well-deserved victory! The second bill that Bush is expected to sign is H.B. 1507 which also sailed unanimously through its committees of jurisdiction. H.B. 1507 amends the definition of "practice of law" to exclude the "design, creation, publication, distribution, display or sale" of products in any format as long as they "clearly and conspicuously state that the products are not a substitute for the advice of an attorney."

If enacted in its current form, H.B. 1507 would likely render moot Nolo's lawsuit against the Texas Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee (UPLC), according to Nolo's lead counsel, Peter Kennedy, and allow the continued sale of self-help products in Texas. AALL and the Texas Library Association are co-plaintiffs with Nolo Press, and our participation in the lawsuit clearly proves that we are gaining political clout!

Update on EPA and WCS Data
Since early February, we have been aligned with right-to-know and other non-profit organizations to provide unfettered public access to the non-classified EPA information on risk management plans. These include information about chemical hazards and "worst-case scenario" (WCS) data that the EPA must make available to the public under the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990. Two bills have been introduced recently, S. 880 and H.R. 1790, that exempt this data from FOIA and propose that federal depository libraries provide electronic access to the information but that it be restricted--no copying and no downloading allowed. These restrictions are contrary to the mission and practices of the Federal Depository Library Program and to AALL's firm belief that there be no downstream restrictions on the use of federal government information. This is an important public policy issue because it would legitimize a new category of government information--that which an agency might deem "sensitive" for whatever reason--and permit restrictions on its use. Stay tuned because these bills are on the fast track.


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