Washington Office

CapitolAmerican Library Association Washington Office

Much discussion of copyright issues, but little concrete action

A lot of discussion took place during the year on such topics as e-books, digital libraries, library lending models, and orphaned works, but it all yielded little legislative action. The only tangible copyright legislative activity focused on squelching online piracy: In the U.S. Senate, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (the PROTECT IP Act of 2011, or PIPA) was introduced to crack down on rogue websites dedicated to the sale of infringing counterfeit goods. The ALA community’s specific concern is the bill’s potential impact on First Amendment rights.

In addition, the Office of Government Relations (OGR) and the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) continue to monitor copyright-related court cases that have the potential to affect libraries, including Golan v. Holder (dealing with a challenge to the constitutionality of restoring the copyright of foreign works that were previously in the U.S. public domain) and Cambridge University et al. v. Patton et al (which has to do with Georgia State University’s electronic reserves policy).

Library Copyright Alliance weighs in

Library Copyright Alliance, American Library Association, Association of research Libraries,Association of College and Research Libraries

ALA, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries continue to partner in the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA). Over the course of the year, the LCA took action on a number of issues by issuing comments on pending legislation and court cases, joining briefs, and releasing papers and guides on a wide range of copyright and fair use issues, including the Google Book Search settlement and the lending rights of libraries.

In response to the March 2011 rejection of the proposed Google Book Search Settlement, the LCA issued a statement saying that copyright law continues to present significant barriers to libraries interested in mass digitization initiatives because of orphan works issues. The group also released “A Guide for the Perplexed Part IV: The Rejection of the Google Books Settlement,” an analysis of the latest decision in the Google Books Search case and its potential effect on libraries. This guide is the latest in a series prepared by LCA legal counsel Jonathan Band to help inform the library community about this landmark legal dispute.

In the wake of the settlement rejection, several interested parties are discussing with renewed vigor the issues of orphan works, mass digitization, and even modernization of Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act. As part of this initiative, the LCA released a statement describing the key features that copyright reform proposals should include in order to constitute significant improvement over current law for libraries and their users. The statement, which represents the needs of library stakeholders in these debates, provides helpful guideposts for these discussions.

In April, ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) sent letters to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in support of public access to federally funded research. The letters, sent to commemorate the third anniversary of the NIH Public Access Policy on April 7, asked NIH to shorten the current embargo and asked HHS and OSTP to expand public access policies to other federal agencies.

Confronting the FutureConfronting the future of public libraries

In June, the OITP released “Confronting the Future: Strategic Visions for the 21st Century Public Library,” a policy brief by OITP Fellow Roger E. Levien, president of Strategy and Innovation Consulting. The report explores how emerging technologies, combined with such challenges as financial constraints or shifts in the nature and needs of library users, require libraries to evolve rapidly and make strategic decisions today that will influence their future for decades to come.


A coalition to develop technology access benchmarks

The OITP and the Public Library Association joined with other library and government leaders to develop a series of public-access technology benchmarks for public libraries. With $2.8 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and with the Urban Libraries Council as the project lead and facilitator, the coalition will develop guidelines that define quality technology services at libraries. After an initial test of benchmarks in California, Oklahoma, and Texas, the prototypes will be refined and launched for broad use in spring 2012.

OITPOITP introduces new series to complement policy briefs

OITP introduced “OITP Perspectives,” a new series to complement its OITP Policy Briefs by providing an outlet for more specialized topics. The first publication, “Digitizing Hidden Collections in Public Libraries,” was written by Gwen Glazer, staff writer/editor and social media coordinator at Cornell University Library, who served as the Google Policy Fellow for the OITP in the summer of 2010. A related webinar is also available online.

Bill proposes including libraries in Workforce Investment Act

On April 15, 2011, U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) introduced the Workforce Investment through Local Libraries (WILL) Act, which proposes including libraries in the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The bill, H.R. 1616, would amend the WIA to include library representation on state and local workforce investment boards and assure coordination of employment, training, and literacy services carried out by public libraries. The goal of the WILL Act is to allow libraries access to WIA funds to continue to provide job search support in communities nationwide.

Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

In August, U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) introduced a bill to provide the Consumer Product Safety Commission with greater authority and discretion in enforcing the consumer product safety laws, and for other purposes. The bill, H.R. 2715, protects libraries in two ways: It requires the manufacturers of books to ensure that their processes are safe and fall within the limits of the law, and it also states that “the third party testing requirements established … shall not apply to ordinary books or ordinary paper-based printed materials” and then defines both ordinary book and ordinary paper-based printed materials. The bill passed the House by a vote of 421–2 and was passed in the Senate without amendment by unanimous consent.

Watch continues after PATRIOT Act is extended without changes

USA Patriot ActIn May, Congress passed reauthorization of three key sections of the USA PATRIOT Act, without any changes, for four more years. By establishing the next sunset deadline of June 1, 2015, Congress has effectively kicked the ball out of bounds rather than address issues in the act itself. The OGR has actively worked with ALA colleagues throughout the association for USA PATRIOT Act reform since it was first introduced in 2001 and will continue to monitor activity and work to address ongoing issues with the legislation.

Patrice McDermott and Roberta Stevens
Patrice McDermott (left) and ALA President Roberta Stevens with the Madison Award plaque.

Patrice McDermott receives 2011 James Madison Award

ALA President Roberta Stevens presented the 2011 James Madison Award to Patrice McDermott, director of OpenTheGovernment.org, during the 13th annual National Freedom of Information Day Conference celebration. McDermott previously served as deputy director of the OGR, where she led the OGR’s work on government information and privacy policy and e-government policy issues, and as assistant director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Popular webinars address legislative issues

The OGR offered four webinars in 2011: “New Ideas for Connecting with the 112th Congress Legislators,” “Budget and Appropriations 101: Understanding the Process and Timelines,” “10 Quick and Painless Steps to Effective Advocacy for Libraries,” and “Advocacy and Lobbying: What’s the Difference?”

National Library Legislative Day

Vote for LibrariesNational Library Legislative Day, held May 9–10, drew 361 people from 47 states, plus an additional 5,000 individuals who participated in Virtual Library Legislative Day. A first day of briefings was followed by a reception with members of Congress and their staff; the next day, participants met with their federally elected officials, and OGR staff and advocates met with several congressional committees and outside groups, including the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee; the National Telecommunications and Information Administration; the House Education and Workforce Committee; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the American Federation of Teachers; and the National Education Association.

Library advocates who couldn’t make it to Capitol Hill for the event were still able to be a part of the effort by calling and/or emailing their elected officials on May 10 or any time the week of May 9–13. The Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations, the Washington Office, Chapter Relations, and the Office for Library Advocacy led Virtual Library Legislative Day, an opportunity for all library advocates to make their voices heard on a national level. The 2011 effort saw four times as many messages sent as the prior year.

Peter Suber receives L. Ray Patterson Award

The 2011 L. Ray Patterson Copyright Award went to Peter Suber, professor of philosophy at Earlham College, senior researcher at Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and fellow at Harvard University Library’s Office for Scholarly Communication. Suber was recognized for his work in the open access movement to provide free, public access to scientific information for the public good. The award is named for a key legal figure who explained and justified the importance of the public domain and fair use. Sponsored by the OITP and the Copyright Advisory Subcommittee, the Patterson award is a crystal trophy.