Washington eBulletin – June 2021

COVID-19 STIMULUS BENEFITS NOW AVAILABLE TO ELIGIBLE LAW LIBRARIES 

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package that contains several benefits for the legal information industry. This includes the following new programs:

  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services’ (IMLS) American Rescue Plan Grants, which will provide direct support to museums and libraries, including eligible law libraries, to address community needs created or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. More information is available on IMLS’ website. The deadline for submitting applications is June 28, 2021.
  • The Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Emergency Connectivity Fund, which will provide funds to eligible schools and libraries, including public law libraries, to support the purchase of Wi-Fi hotspots, laptops, tablets, and other devices to loan to patrons. More information is available on the FCC’s website. The application is expected to open in June 2021.

U.S. territories, states, and local and tribal governments received $350 billion in funding through ARPA. Law libraries may benefit from some of these funds, through aid to small businesses and nonprofits and investments in education, government services, and broadband infrastructure.

ARPA also includes another round of stimulus checks for individuals and provided an additional $300 per week of enhanced unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021.

FUNDING FOR THE LEGAL INFORMATION INDUSTRY / FISCAL YEAR 2022

President Biden’s Budget of the U.S. Government for Fiscal Year 2022 (Budget) includes proposed budget increases for the legislative branch agencies that provide permanent public access to and preservation of essential government information, including the Library of Congress, the Law Library of Congress, and the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO). The Budget also includes increases to several grant programs that promote public access to legal information and support access to justice, including the IMLS and the Legal Services Corporation. AALL supports the President’s proposals to increase funding for these agencies.

In May 2021, AALL submitted testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee in support of funding for the Library of Congress, the Law Library of Congress, and the GPO. Funding for these agencies will support greater access to legal information, including the digitization of legal materials and preservation partnerships with law libraries. Funding for these agencies is especially important as their workload has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ADDITIONAL FEDERAL LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

In addition to advocating for funding for the legal information industry, AALL has been advocating for additional legislative priorities, including the following issues:

BALANCED COPYRIGHT LAWS

In March 2021, AALL submitted comments to Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) on his draft legislation, the Digital Copyright Act of 2021 (DCA), which would update the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The proposed changes in the draft legislation amend the DMCA in ways that would significantly impact the ability of law libraries to provide equitable access to copyrighted materials. While AALL supports some of the changes in the DCA that promote access to legal information, we are concerned that other changes may limit the abilities of law libraries to provide access to copyrighted works and preserve these works. AALL continues to advocate for the needs of law libraries as Senator Tillis works on updates to the DMCA.

In April 2021, AALL submitted comments on the development of regulations affecting law libraries in the implementation of the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act. Under the new law, qualifying law libraries will be eligible to preemptively opt out of proceedings before the Copyright Claims Board, which was established to evaluate copyright infringement matters for small claims. We will share more information with members about how to opt out once it is available.

EQUITABLE ACCESS TO OFFICIAL LEGAL INFORMATION

AALL continues to advocate for legislation to modernize the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) to provide additional flexibility for law libraries to meet the government information needs of their users and their organizations.

In April 2021, the GPO selected AALL’s nominee, Allen R. Moye along with fellow AALL member Richard A. Leiter, to serve on the Depository Library Council (DLC). Leiter and Moye join AALL member Jennifer Bryan Morgan on the DLC. As members of the DLC, Moye, Leiter, and Morgan provide advice and recommendations to the GPO on improving policy and operational matters related to the FDLP.

UNIFORM ELECTRONIC LEGAL MATERIAL ACT

AALL continues to work with AALL chapters to advocate for the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act. In May 2021, AALL president Emily R. Florio discussed AALL’s support for UELMA on a free webinar hosted by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC). The webinar also featured AALL past president Barbara Bintliff, who served as the reporter for ULC’s UELMA Drafting Committee. Recently, the Southeastern Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries (SEAALL) has been advocating for UELMA in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Law Librarians of New England (LLNE) has been advocating for UELMA in Massachusetts.

AALL’s UELMA resources page includes advocacy materials that can be used by law librarians and legal information professionals to support state advocacy efforts. Please email Janet Peros, chair of the AALL Government Relations Committee or Emily Feltren, AALL director of government relations if you would like more information.

SAVE THE DATE / VIRTUAL LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY TRAINING 

The AALL Virtual Legislative Advocacy Training will be held on Tuesday, September 21, 2021. The training is free for AALL members. Additional details will be available soon.