Washington Brief - September 1999

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Dateline: July 29, 1999

"Law Librarians Meet the 106th Congress" a Huge Success!

Our first-ever advocacy training and legislative workshop on Friday, July 16, 1999, attracted fifty-some energetic AALL members who spent the morning learning about key issues and successful strategies for meeting with legislators and their staff. During the afternoon, workshop participants made more than one hundred office visits on Capitol Hill, then returned for the debriefing session energized and inspired. The four issues covered during their Hill visits were:

  • Funding for the Law Library of Congress;
  • Public access to government information and our new Next Generation Electronic Government Information Access Act of 1999;
  • Support for the House Commerce Committee database protection bill with the addition of AALL's amendment excluding primary legal materials; and
  • Distance education for the digital age.

Comments from our participants were very positive, including "Now I can really be valuable in the legislative process!"; "The experience of speaking with legislative staff was great!"; "I learned that our voice really matters and all constituents have an ear in D.C.!"; and "I understand how it's important to cultivate an ongoing relationship with our Senators and Representatives."

Requests for a repeat workshop next year in Philadelphia were overwhelming, and the Government Relations Committee and Washington Office will be jointly proposing a half-day advocacy training session. If you are among those who would like to return to D.C. for meetings on the Hill, please contact either Keith Stiverson, our new GRC Chair, or myself, so that we can gauge interest. As another follow-up measure, we are in the process of setting up, through Headquarters, an AALL Advocacy listserv that will be announced via broadcast e-mail to all members at the end of August.

Workshop participants are very anxious to stay "in the know" on these important legislative issues and to continue building a relationship with their representatives and staff. From the perspective of the Washington Office, our members' visits opened many doors for us. In addition, the new advocacy listserv is going to be invaluable in the days to come. Thanks to everyone who attended! Wasn't it great fun? And last (but far from least), we will be sending out personal thank-you notes to the many chapters who generously supported the end-of-the-day reception that was welcome relief from the exhausting experience of trotting back and forth to Capitol Hill on a very warm July day. The reception provided a great opportunity for participants to talk about the issues and strategize for the coming year. Thank you, chapters!

AALL Amendment to H.R. 1858

This spring, House Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley (R-VA) introduced the committee's database protection bill, the Consumer and Investor Access to Information Act of 1999 (H.R. 1858). In early June, we wrote to all members of the committee urging them to adopt the following amendment to explicitly exclude primary legal materials from this legislation:


Protection under this chapter shall not extend to primary legal materials, including court opinions, statutes, codes, regulations, or administrative agency decisions, from any Federal, state, or local jurisdiction, unless such materials were permanently available on an interactive computer network, without restriction, in an official, no-fee, publicly accessible electronic form at the time that the extraction occurred.

As noted above, support for our amendment was a key issue during Hill visits made by the participants of the Law Librarians Meet the 106th Congress workshop. That grassroots support greatly assisted our efforts to get this language added by Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) to his Manager's Amendment which was unanimously endorsed during mark-up by the Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection on July 29th. Detailed information about the amendment is in the AALL Issue Brief entitled Equal and Equitable Public Access to the Rule of Law (ib069901.asp). We expect the full Committee mark-up this week and we have broadly disseminated an updated action alert, also available on our web site, to which AALL members have energetically responded. Thanks to all who have helped, and stay tuned!


Despite the strong opposition of AALL, others in the library community, and many consumer and software groups, members of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) voted to adopt the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) on July 29, 1999. In April 1999, the American Law Institute (ALI) withdrew from efforts to seek consensus with NCCUSL on drafting a revision to Article 2B of the Uniform Commercial Code dealing with "mass-market" or "shrink-wrap" licenses. NCCUSL nonetheless decided to move forward on its own by renaming 2B and making some slight modifications. If enacted by the states, UCITA would govern all contracts dealing with computer software and the licensing of information stored in a digital format. The most recent AALL letter opposing UCITA notes that it is an expansive contract regime:


  • that threatens the basic functions of libraries to purchase materials and to contract for information for our users, to make information available on a non-discriminatory basis, and to protect patrons from restrictions on the use of the materials;
  • that threatens to restrict the ability of libraries to archive digital information, including information in the public domain, for future generations of users;
  • that creates new costs and burdens for libraries and their staff; and
  • that jeopardizes the public domain, creating a new expansive intellectual property right for factual collections of information.
Update on FY 2000 Appropriations Request for the FDLP

House and Senate conferees will be meeting shortly to reach consensus on H.R. 1905, the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act for FY 2000. Both House and Senate have agreed to fund the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses for the Federal Depository Library Program at $29,986,000, an increase of $722,000 over FY 1999 (H. Rept. 106-156). This amount is, however, a reduction from the $31.2 million requested by the Government Printing Office and there are concerns about a last-ditch effort by some House members to do an across- the- board cut that might reduce it further. No funds were requested for the Joint Committee on Printing for FY 2000.


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