Vol. 2015, Issue 08
A Look Ahead
So-Called Cybersecurity Legislation Called Into Question
As the Senate enters its final work week before the August recess, the fate of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA) (S. 754) hangs in the balance. Last week, AALL joined a broad coalition of privacy advocates, tech companies, and civil liberties groups to oppose CISA, a bill which does more to increase surveillance, undermine transparency, and leave your personal information vulnerable to attack than it does to protect against cyber threats. Amid the outpouring of opposition and crunch for time, several Senators have signaled that consideration of the bill may be pushed till fall, though a number of scenarios are possible.
First, the Senate will hold a procedural vote an unrelated bill banning federal funds to Planned Parenthood. If that measure fails to get the 60 votes needed to advance today, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) told reporters last week that CISA would be next in line for floor time, likely beginning debate on Wednesday and finishing as early as Thursday evening. However, how Senator McConnell handles the amendment process could determine the bill’s success; demand to amend the bill is widespread and bipartisan. Senator McConnell could agree to allow each party to offer a certain number of amendments relevant to the bill or seek to “fill the tree” with his own amendments, preventing others from consideration. Privacy advocates who oppose CISA, like Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), may try to prevent debate altogether.
While AALL believes strongly in the need for legislative improvement to cybersecurity information sharing practices, we know CISA, as written, is not that fix. Under CISA, companies in the private sector would be authorized to share information about their users’ Internet activity with the federal government, even when that data is unnecessary to identify or protect against a threat. Information shared with one federal agency could then be shared throughout the government, potentially putting your personal information in the hands of agencies like the National Security Agency and vulnerable to hacking. Further, CISA would add a new exemption to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the first time since 1967, an unnecessary and deeply troubling anti-transparency provision.
Law librarians helped to prevent similarly bad legislation, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, from advancing in 2011 and 2013. Now, we need your help again. With the situation in flux, it is important to keep the pressure on Congress and voice your concerns. See below for information about contacting your Senators to urge them to oppose CISA for the automatic and over-broad surveillance authorities and transparency-weakening provisions it would enable.
Tell your Senators to Oppose the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act
The Senate is expected to consider CISA (S. 754) this week. This legislation contains dangerous provisions that would allow companies to liberally share sensitive personal information with the government for purposes unrelated to cybersecurity and without meaningful oversight. The bill would also create a new FOIA exemption for the first time since 1967.
CISA would permit companies to share our information with each other and with the government in the name of cybersecurity. Despite demanding narrower cybersecurity use restrictions, President Obama has not issued a veto threat for CISA. Please write your Senators today to urge them to oppose CISA. Our pre-written email alert makes the process easy. Just enter your home address, customize your email, and send it on its way.
By law and tradition, Congress recesses for the month of August, providing ample opportunity for you to engage your federal lawmakers on the policy issues most affecting law librarianship. On tap this summer: the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) (S. 779), which was voted out of committee just last week. FASTR would expand open access policies by requiring agencies with annual extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to research manuscripts stemming from funded research.
Though we’ll likely see another short-term appropriations solution for Fiscal Year 2016, we still need your help to educate you members of Congress about the need for sufficient funding for the Government Publishing Office and Library of Congress. Other salient issues include updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act.
Plan now to reach out to your Members of Congress through meetings, library tours, email, letters, and town halls. The relationships you create will prove beneficial far beyond the end of summer! Please contact the Government Relations Office for help with scheduling and talking points.
AALL in the States
The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) is poised for introduction this fall: The District of Columbia City Council will likely reintroduce the bill in September in tandem with a number of uniform acts. In anticipation, AALL and the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, DC sent a letter in support of UELMA to chair of the Council’s Judiciary Committee. The Ohio Regional Association of Law Libraries (ORALL) Government Relations Committee Chair Mary Jenkins reports that ORALL anticipates UELMA introduction in Ohio in September. GODORT of Ohio (the Government Documents Roundtable) passed a resolution of support for UELMA adoption in the state last month.
Vermont Law School Library Announces Public Access
Submitted by Anne McDonald, LLNE Government Relations Committee Co-Chair
The Julien and Virginia Cornell Library at Vermont Law School now provides legal reference service to the public, filling the gap left by the closure of the Vermont State Law Library on July 10. The Law School Library received a $67,000 grant from the state to offset the costs of the new public services. Director Cynthia Lewis said in a statement, “Libraries play an important role in providing access to justice. The closure of the state law library program will have an impact on attorneys, alumni and, most importantly, self-represented litigants in Vermont. Our plans include serving as an information resource not only for self-represented litigants, attorneys and alumni, but also for public librarians who assist Vermonters with reference questions about legal issues.” The Law Librarians of New England (LLNE) chapter of AALL opposed the closure of the State Law Library, but is pleased to see the Vermont Law School Library offer a workable solution.
Roundup and Review
- We believe the U.S. Copyright Office belongs in the Library of Congress
- White House announces new FOIA pilot program
- AALL urges the President to consider these necessary qualifications for the next Librarian of Congress
- New materials from the AALL Copyright and Digital Access to Legal Information Committees’ Joint Subcommittee on State Copyright Issues: Definition and Guidance for Evaluating Copyright Status of Online State Primary Legal Material; Copyright Statutes for State Primary Materials; and a handy Flowchart for Examining Copyright Status of Print State Primary Legal Resources