Washington Office

ALA weighs in on proposed Google Book Search settlement

ALA Washington Office logo

In late October 2008, Google, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers proposed a major agreement to resolve the class-action lawsuit brought in response to Google’s Book Search digitization project to scan millions of books provided by research libraries.

A month later, ALA and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) released “A Guide for the Perplexed: Libraries and the Google Library Project Summary” to help the library community digest the complex settlement proposal and understand its implications for libraries. ALA, the ARL, and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) then filed a brief on May 4 with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York urging the judge “to exercise vigorous oversight of the interpretation and implementation of the settlement to ensure the broadest possible benefit from the services the settlement enables.” 

The associations asserted that although the settlement has the potential to provide public access to millions of books, many features of the settlement—including the absence of competition for new services—could compromise fundamental library values such as equity of access to information, patron privacy, and intellectual freedom.

On June 17, the library groups released “A Guide for the Perplexed Part II: The Amended Google-Michigan Agreement” after the University of Michigan entered into an amended agreement that would govern its relationship with Google if the proposed Google Book Search settlement is approved.

National Library Legislative Day draws 400 to D.C.

More than 400 librarians and library supporters traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend National Library Legislative Day May 11-12, 2009. Participants spent the first day at briefings on a variety of issues including appropriations, telecommunications, and the USA PATRIOT Act and then took part in a congressional reception overlooking the U.S. Capitol Building. On May 12, participants put their knowledge to work while meeting with their elected officials and their staffs.

ALA President Rettig speaks at National Press Club

Jim Rettig at the National Press Club

ALA President Jim Rettig at the National Press Club.

ALA President Jim Rettig held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington on May 11, 2009, as part of National Library Legislative Day. Rettig’s remarks highlighted key library issues, including the many ways libraries assist individuals during economic downturn and the importance of funding libraries so that they can continue to meet the needs of the American public. The press conference later aired on C-SPAN 2.

Leaders draft principles for traditional cultural expression

In mid-February 2009, a dozen experts met at the Washington Office to discuss principles for traditional cultural expression and to begin the process of writing a statement of principles. This working meeting followed information-collection activities at the conference that the OITP held on this topic in November 2008. Ultimately, the principles will be brought to the ALA Council for endorsement as ALA policy.

Library organizations oppose Fair Copyright in Research Works Act

ALA and the Association of College and Research Libraries were among the library and research organizations renewing their opposition to the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, reintroduced in Congress as H.R. 801. The legislation would reverse a mandate by the National Institutes of Health that all research funded by NIH grants be made freely available in PubMed Central within one year of publication.

Library Copyright Alliance gains strength

The ACRL became an active partner in the Library Copyright Alliance, joining ALA and the ARL to work toward a unified voice and common strategy for the library community in responding to and developing proposals to amend national and international copyright law and policy for the digital environment. The LCA’s efforts included issuing a statement on “Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries and Archives” at the World Intellectual Property Organization Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights Eighteenth Session in Geneva and providing testimony at the Library of Congress to support the expansion of exemptions to the anticircumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Education secretary helps kick off summer volunteer program

Arne Duncan with Cozine and Rettig

Education Secretary Arne Duncan (in white shirt) is flanked by New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (seated) and ALA President Jim Rettig.

ALA President Jim Rettig facilitated a roundtable discussion with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, and regional librarians in a special kickoff event for President Obama’s summer volunteer campaign, “United We Serve,” June 22 at Fanwood (N.J.) Memorial Library.

Office for Information Technology Policy

OITP receives $850,000 Gates Foundation grant

In December 2008, the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) received an $851,889 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide research and expertise that will help state library agencies ensure that library broadband connections are sustainable. The OITP also developed and disseminated case studies demonstrating how public libraries can successfully sustain broadband for patrons.

In support of summits in the seven pilot states, OITP developed state profiles of library connectivity and made them available to summit participants. The first four summits—in Massachusetts, Virginia, New York, and Arkansas—were held in late April to mid-June.

Copyright tools and materials released

OITP logo

In January 2009, OITP released the Section 108 Spinner to help librarians determine whether a particular reproduction is covered by Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Code, which allows libraries and archives, under certain circumstances, to make reproductions of copyrighted materials without the permission of the copyright holder.

In February, OITP, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), and the National Council of Teachers of English released a revised version of copyright lesson plans for middle-school students. New features of the lessons include models of collaborative teaching between classroom teachers and school library media specialists and connections to the AASL’s Standards for the 21st Century Learner.

OITP also released two new online copyright education tools: the Fair Use Evaluator and the Exceptions for Instructors eTool. The Fair Use Evaluator is an online tool that can help users understand how to determine if the use of a protected work is a “fair use.” It helps users collect, organize, and document the information they may need to support a fair-use claim and provides a time-stamped PDF for the users’ records. The Exceptions for Instructors eTool guides users through the educational exceptions in U.S. copyright law, helping to explain and clarify rights and responsibilities for the performance and display of copyrighted content in traditional, distance, and blended educational models.

OITP gives advice on broadband

On May 20, 2009, OITP and the Library of Michigan jointly hosted a Broadband Summit at in East Lansing, Michigan, to discuss the impact of broadband on economic development in communities and how libraries can serve as hubs for broadband expansion. ALA’s telecom consultant John Windhausen was the keynote speaker.

The Washington Office also released two documents that provide an overview of broadband funding programs and offer strategies for libraries that are considering applying: “Broadband Funding: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” and “Guidance for the Library Community: Preparing a Proposal for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.”

ALA files comments with FCC

In response to a Notice of Inquiry from the Federal Communications Commission, the OITP filed comments on E-rate program oversight in November 2008. The OITP noted that the E-rate has become so complex that it is almost impossible for the typical school or library to be 100 percent accurate in the application and invoicing processes and asserted that the FCC therefore needs to consider the difference between intentional fraud and errors due to program complexity. Second, the OITP suggested that the training of firms to conduct audits is insufficient, as it is commonly understood that it takes an applicant three years and two complete application cycles to grasp the very basics of the program, while firms are reportedly trained in less than three days.

In a separate issue, ALA filed comments in response to an FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on adding services to its Eligible Services List. ALA acknowledged the FCC’s commitment to helping libraries and schools in tough economic times but encouraged them to consider how the proposed new services support the program’s stated purpose: “to provide access to advanced telecommunications and information services.”