Washington eBulletin – February 2017

Vol. 2017 Issue 02

A Look Ahead

Monitoring the New Congress and New Administration

The new Congress and new Administration are off to an inauspicious start on issues related to access to government information, open government, and privacy. During the past few weeks, AALL has been tracking a variety of troubling developments, including:

  • News reports that indicate there are gag orders on agency employees, preventing them from talking to the press and even Congressional offices
  • Changes at WhiteHouse.gov that, while expected and within the law, include the disappearance of pages for the Office of Management and Budget (including important information circulars like the recently updated A-130) and delays in posting of Executive Orders and other materials
  • The selection of Commissioner Ajit Pai, a vocal net neutrality critic, to lead the Federal Communications Commission
  • The confirmation hearings of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to be Attorney General. AALL expressed dep concerns about the Senator’s privacy record in a letter to the Judiciary Committee

AALL is committed to advocating for access to government information, and our Government Relations Policy is clear: Accessible government information, including legal and legal-related information, is both an essential principle of a democratic society and a valuable public good created at taxpayer expense. As we wrote in our Statement on Access to Government Information, “AALL will continue to monitor information policy developments that hinder a transparent government, and we will speak out against threats to the public’s right to know.”

While the news from Washington has been generally dispiriting, there has been some good news as well. For example, Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-Kans.) and nine cosponsors recently reintroduced the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387), which would update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to more adequately protect the privacy of email, text messages, photos, and other information stored in the cloud. Among other things, the bill would end ECPA’s arbitrary “180-day rule,” which permits email communications to be obtained without a warrant after 180 days. We also anticipate opportunities in the coming months to support greater access to Congressional Research Service reports, legislative data, and other transparency and accountability measures. It won’t be easy, but with your help we can push back against policies that harm law libraries and library users. Read on to learn how you can get involved.

Act Now

Join the AALL Advocacy Team

Become a part of AALL’s network of law library advocates who have committed to speak out for the policy issues that impact the profession. Fill out our short Advocacy Team Survey to share some basic information about yourself and your policy interests; AALL will use the information you provide to build on our successful grassroots advocacy program. Thanks for all that you do!

AALL in the States

2017 UELMA Introductions

The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) has been introduced this year in Maryland, New York, Texas, and Washington. On January 19, 2017, AALL member Anna Endter testified before the Washington Senate Law & Justice Committee on behalf of the Law Librarians of Puget Sound. On January 26, AALL past president Steve Anderson testified before the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on behalf of AALL. Anderson was joined by Joan Bellistri and Mary Jo Lazun, who testified on behalf of Law Library Association of Maryland. We expect additional UELMA introductions in the coming weeks. Keep track of bill introductions through the Uniform Law Commission’s website and find UELMA advocacy resources on AALLNET.

Roundup and Review  

  • AALL submitted comments to the House Judiciary Committee in response to the Committee’s proposal to reform the Copyright Office. We also submitted a response to the Library of Congress’s survey on the qualifications of the next Register of Copyrights
  • We published an issue brief on the fair use case Fox News Network, LLC v. TVEyes, Inc.