ALA and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) renewed their opposition to a petition filed by the Coalition of E-book Manufacturers seeking a waiver from complying with disability legislation and regulation (specifically Sections 716 and 717 of the Communications Act as Enacted by the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010). Amazon, Kobo, and Sony are the members of the coalition, and they argue that they do not have to make their e-readers’ Advanced Communications Services (ACS) accessible to people with print disabilities.
Why? The coalition argues that because basic e-readers (Kindle, Sony Reader, Kobo E-Reader) are primarily used for reading and have only rudimentary ACS, they should be exempt from CVAA accessibility rules. People with disabilities can buy other more expensive e-readers and download apps in order to access content. To ask the Coalition to modify their basic e-readers is a regulatory burden, will raise consumer prices, will ruin the streamlined look of basic e-readers, and inhibit innovation (I suppose for other companies and start-ups that want to make even more advanced inaccessible readers).
We believe denying the Coalition’s petition will not only increase access to ACS, but also increase access to more e-content for more people. As we note in our FCC comments: “Under the current e-reader ACS regime proposed by the Coalition and tentatively adopted by the Commission, disabled persons must pay a ‘device access tax.’ By availing oneself of one of the ‘accessible options’ as suggested by the Coalition, a disabled person would pay at minimum $20 more a device for a Kindle tablet that is heavier and has less battery life than a basic Kindle e-reader.” Surely it is right that everyone ought to be able to buy and use basic e-readers just like everybody has the right to drink from the same water fountain.
This decision will rest on the narrowly question of whether or not ACS is offered, marketed and used as a co-primary purpose in these basic e-readers. We believe the answer to that question is “yes,” and we will continue our advocacy to support more accessible devices for all readers.
I just returned from the Annual Meeting of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA), held in Teton Village, Wyo., just down the road from Grand Teton National Park and Jackson. From the moment I left the airport, I knew I was not in D.C. any longer, as there were constant reminders about avoiding animals. There were road signs informing drivers about “moose on the loose;” strong suggestions about hiking in groups and to carry bear spray; and warnings about elk hunting so “please wear bright colors.” In D.C., we only worry about donkeys and elephants engaging in political shenanigans.
Work on our Policy Revolution! Initiative attracted me to the COSLA meeting, to leverage the presence of the state librarians, and also librarians from the mountain states. Our session focused on four aspects of work related to developing a national public policy agenda:
The wide open spaces and rugged individualistic culture of Wyoming, symbolized by Steamboat, reminded me of the vastness of the United States, and great resources and resourcefulness of our people. In this time of library revolution, we need to move beyond our conventional views of the world to figure out how libraries may best serve the nation for decades to come. With the next presidential election just around the corner, and with it the certainty of a new occupant in the White House, it is timely and urgent to develop and coalesce around a common library vision.
One thought on the way home was stimulated by the Wyoming session. What should be the priority for national action? Three possibilities occur to me:
Should a national public policy agenda systematically favor one of these directions?
Many thanks to COSLA for hosting us, with particular thanks to Ann Joslin and Tim Cherubini (and his staff). I also appreciated the opportunity to sit in a number of sessions that included generous doses of our long-time friends E-rate, ebooks and digital services. We had a special treat as Wyoming’s senior U.S. Senator, Michael Enzi (R-WY), addressed the group, regaling the audience with his love of reading and libraries.
I had the opportunity for a quick tour around the area. I was impressed with the large, modern Teton County Library (in Jackson), which has good wireless access—yay! After seeing the Grand Tetons and tooling about Jenny Lake, it is gonna be hard to settle back down to the political chaos that is Washington, D.C.
I was just asked if I could summarize the last year’s worth of E-rate work we have done in the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office. Here’s the challenge: Can I do it in two pages or less? Apparently the answer is yes and this blog post may also be an all-time record for brevity (for which I am not known). So even though the summary and timeline (pdf) is right at two pages (and spiced up with bulleted lists and descriptive headers), you can get the gist of it right now:
In addition to ALA’s comments, we submitted another joint letter to the Commission urging it to address the broadband capacity gap for libraries. The Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL), Organizations Concerned about Rural Education (OCRE), the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), and The Rural School and Community Trust joined ALA and the Public Library Association (PLA) on the letter.
Throughout the modernization proceeding, the Commission has made clear that its review of the E-rate program is a multi-phase process. In a speech made on September 29, the Chairman indicated that the next phase of the proceeding must address the “rural fiber gap.” Since that time, the focus at the Commission has been to identify policy changes that would address the barriers that prevent libraries and schools from securing affordable high-capacity broadband. The Commission is also looking at the need to increase the overall size of the fund. The Chairman is advocating that closing the fiber gap is a significant driving factor in determining the need for more funding. He is also looking at related issues such as the lack of competition among service providers—particularly in rural areas—and the lack of affordable broadband when it is available. ALA advocated for action on these three issues (availability, affordability, and increased funding) and is pleased that these issues are squarely before the Commission now.
All indications are that the Commission plans to vote on a second Order during their November open meeting, November 21. What does this mean? The Chairman must circulate a draft Order to the Commissioners October 31. One week before the public meeting, the Commission enters into the Sunshine Period where outside parties other than members of Congress or other federal agencies may not make presentations or otherwise advocate at the Commission. Commission staff, however, may reach out to outside parties to ask questions. During the open meeting the Commission staff present the draft Order, and Commissioners may ask questions and make statements prior to voting to adopt the Order (or not). The Order is made publicly available after the vote if it is adopted. Any rule changes go into effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
• Ongoing coverage in the District Dispatch
• ALA E-rate filings to the FCC
• FCC E-rate modernization summary (pdf)
• FCC E-rate modernization fact sheet (pdf)
• Handy collection of major FCC E-rate modernization documents
• The rulemaking process at the FCC
Read the E-rate summary and timeline (pdf)
I will pat myself on the back (somebody has to). I wrote in the 2004 edition of Copyright Copyright, “Fair use cannot be reduced to a checklist. Fair use requires that people think.” This point has been affirmed (pdf) by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the long standing Georgia State University (GSU) e-reserves copyright case. The appeals court rejected the lower court’s use of quantitative fair use guidelines in making its fair use ruling, stating that fair use should be determined on a case-by-case basis and that the four factors of fair use should be evaluated and weighed.
Lesson: Guidelines are arbitrary and silly. Determine fair use by considering the evidence before you. (see an earlier District Dispatch article).
The lower court decision was called a win for higher education and libraries because only five assertions of infringement (out of 99) were actually infringing. Hooray for us! But most stakeholders on both sides of the issue, felt that the use of guidelines in weighing the third factor—amount of the work—was puzzling to say the least (but no matter, we won!)
Now that the case has been sent back to the lower court, some assert that GSU has lost the case. But not so fast. This decision validates what the U.S. Supreme Court has long held that fair use is not to be simplified with “bright line rules, for the statute, like the doctrine it recognizes, calls for case-by-case analysis. . . . Nor may the four statutory factors be treated in isolation, one from another. All are to be explored, and the results weighed together, in light of the purposes of copyright.” (510 U.S. 569, 577–78).
Thus, GSU could prevail. Or it might not. But at least fair use will be applied in the appropriate fashion.
Thinking—it’s a good thing.