It’s now or (almost) never for real NSA reform; contacting Congress today critical!

It was mid-summer when Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the outgoing Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, answered the House of Representative’s passage of an unacceptably weak version of the USA FREEDOM Act by introducing S. 2685, a strong, bipartisan bill of his own. Well, it’s taken until beyond Veterans Day, strong lobbying by civil liberties groups and tech companies, and a tough stand by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but Leahy’s bill and real National Security Agency (NSA) reform may finally get an up or down vote in the just-opened “lame duck” session of the U.S. Senate. That result is very much up in the air, however, as this article goes to press.

Now is the time for librarians and others on the front lines of fighting for privacy and civil liberties to heed ALA President Courtney Young’s September call to “Advocate. Today.” And we do mean today. Here’s the situation:

Thanks to Majority Leader Reid, Senators will cast a key procedural vote late on Tuesday afternoon that is, in effect, “do or die” for proponents of meaningful NSA reform in the current Congress. If Senators Reid and Leahy, and all of us, can’t muster 60 votes on Tuesday night just to bring S. 2685 to the floor, then the overwhelming odds are–in light of the last election’s results–that another bill as good at reforming the USA PATRIOT Act as Senator Leahy’s won’t have a prayer of passage for many, many years.

Even if reform proponents prevail on Tuesday, however, our best intelligence is that some Senators will offer amendments intended to neuter or at least seriously weaken the civil liberties protections provided by Senator Leahy’s bill. Other Senators will try to strengthen the bill but face a steep uphill battle to succeed.

Soooooo….. now is the time for all good librarians (and everyone else) to come to the aid of Sens. Leahy and Reid, and their country. Acting now is critical . . . and it’s easy. Just click here to go to ALA’s Legislative Action Center. Once there, follow the user-friendly prompts to quickly find and send an e-mail to both of your U.S. Senators (well, okay, their staffs but they’ll get the message loud and clear) and to your Representative in the House. Literally a line or two is all you, and the USA FREEDOM Act, need. Tell ‘em:

  • The NSA’s telephone records “dragnet,” and “gag orders” imposed by the FBI without a judge’s approval, under the USA PATRIOT Act must end;
  • Bring Sen. Leahy’s USA FREEDOM Act to the floor of the Senate now; and
  • Pass it without any amendments that make it’s civil liberties protections weaker (but expanding them would be just fine) before this Congress ends!

Just as in the last election, in which so many races were decided by razor thin margins, your e-mail “vote” could be the difference between finally reforming the USA PATRIOT Act. . . or not. With the key vote on Tuesday night, there’s no time to lose. As President Young wrote: “Advocate. Today.”

Posted in Legislation, OGR, Privacy & Surveillance Tagged with: , , , ,

ALA applauds strong finish to the E-rate proceeding

FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C.

FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Today, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler held a press call to preview the draft E-rate order that will be circulated at the Commission later this week. The FCC invited Marijke Visser, associate  director of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy, to participate in the call. ALA President Courtney Young released a statement in response to the FCC activity, applauding the momentum:

ALA has worked extremely hard on this proceeding to move the broadband bar for libraries so that communities across the nation can more fully benefit from the E’s of Librariesâ„¢. That is, as Chairman Wheeler recognizes, libraries provide critical services to our communities across the nation relating to Education, Employment, Entrepreneurship, Engagement and Empowerment.

Of course, the extent to which communities benefit from these services depends on the broadband capacity our libraries have. Unfortunately, for all too many libraries, the bandwidth needed is either not available at all or it is prohibitively expensive.

But what Chairman Wheeler described today will go a long way towards changing the broadband dynamic. With support and guidance from our Senior Counsel, Alan Fishel, ALA stood fast behind our recommendations through many difficult rounds of discussions. After today we have every indication that ALA’s unwavering advocacy and determination over the past year and a half will add up to a series of changes for the E-rate program that will provide desperately needed increased broadband capacity for urban, suburban, and rural libraries across the country.

ALA applauds Chairman Wheeler for his strong leadership throughout the modernization proceeding in identifying a clear path to closing the broadband gap for libraries and schools and ensuring a sustainable E-rate program. The critical increase in permanent funding that the Chairman described during today’s press call will help ensure that libraries can maintain the broadband upgrades we know the vast majority of our libraries are anxious to make. Moreover, the program changes that were referenced today–on top of those the Commission adopted in July–coupled with more funding is without a doubt a win-win for libraries and most importantly for the people in the communities they serve.

Larry Neal, president of the Public Library Association, a division of ALA, and director of the Clinton-Macomb Public Library (MI), also commented on the FCC draft E-rate order.

“The well-connected library opens up literally thousands of opportunities for the people who walk through the doors of their local library,” said Neal. “Libraries are with you from the earliest years with family apps for literacy, through the school years with STEM learning labs, to collaborative workspaces and information resources for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and the next generation of innovators. This should be the story for every library and could be if they had the capacity they needed.”

Posted in E-Rate, OITP, Telecommunications Tagged with: , , , , , ,

ALA welcomes President Obama’s strong affirmation of net neutrality

FCC BuildingYesterday President Barack Obama re-affirmed his commitment to network neutrality principles and to the strongest rules to protect the open internet. The American Library Association (ALA) welcomes his statement and outline of principles that echo those of public comments filed by the ALA and a coalition of library and higher education organizations this year.

“The ALA heartily agrees with the essential elements of network neutrality affirmed by President Obama: no blocking, no throttling, increased transparency, and no paid prioritization,” said ALA Incoming President Sari Feldman. “As the President noted, these elements are ‘built into the fabric of the internet since its creation.’ In fact, the initial protocols for the internet were developed by institutions of higher education, and universities were the first to deploy private high-speed data networks that formed the test-bed for what later became the public internet.

“Since then, our nation’s libraries and institutions of higher education have become leaders in creating, fostering, using, extending and maximizing the potential of the internet for research, education and the public good. An open “neutral” internet is absolutely crucial to fulfill our missions and serve our communities.

“Further, we are heartened that both the President and recent statements from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler reflect an understanding that network neutrality must apply to both fixed and mobile broadband. We look forward to continuing to work with the FCC to secure strong, legally enforceable rules that ensure the internet remains an open platform for information exchange, intellectual discourse, creativity, innovation and learning for all,” Feldman concluded.

Posted in Network Neutrality, OITP, Telecommunications Tagged with: , ,

ALA to host copyright policy discussion in Washington, D.C.

The way we access and use information in the digital age is fundamentally mediated by copyright policy. For several decades, this policy has been largely shaped by commercial interests. However, in the last three years, several court decisions have been more protective of public access to information and accommodating to the needs of the education, research, and library sectors. Is this a real trend and will it continue?

On November 18, 2014, the American Library Association (ALA) will host “Too Good to Be True: Are the Courts Revolutionizing Fair Use for Education, Research and Libraries?,” a symposium that will explore copyright policy in a digital and networked environment. During the discussion, a diverse panel of copyright policy experts from the library and publishing fields will attempt to make sense of key court cases such as UCLA v. AIME, Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, and the high profile U.S. Supreme Court case Kirtsaeng v. Wiley. These experts will discuss the prospects these decisions may create for public policy development over the next few years informed by the 2014 midterm elections and the upcoming 2016 general election. RSVP for the event.

This event is offered under the rubric of the Policy Revolution! Initiative of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP). Central to this initiative is strengthening the library community’s engagement and visibility in national public policy. Look for additional outreach activities in 2015.

Panelists include:

Mary Rasenberger is the newly appointed Executive Director for the Authors Guild. Mary has worked in the area of intellectual property, technology, and copyright law for 25 years. Prior to joining the Authors Guild, Mary was a partner at Cowan DeBaets Abrahams and Sheppard where she counseled publishing, media, entertainment, internet, and other technology companies, as well as authors and artists in all areas of copyright and related rights, including licensing, litigation, infringement analysis, policy, enforcement and digital rights. From 2002 to 2008, Mary worked for the U.S. Copyright Office and Library of Congress as senior policy advisor and program director for the National Digital Preservation Program. Mary also worked at other major New York law firms and for BMG Music.

Jonathan Band has represented a wide range of clients, including technology companies and library associations, on domestic and international copyright policy matters for more than 25 years. He has filed amicus briefs on behalf of the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) in numerous important cases, such as Kirtsaeng v. Wiley, Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, Authors Guild v. Google, and the recently decided Georgia State e-reserves case. He also has represented the Library Copyright Alliance in connection with the Marrakesh Treaty for the print-disabled and the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s ongoing review of copyright.

Brandon Butler is the practitioner-in-residence at the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Clinic at American University’s Washington College of Law (WCL). At the clinic, Professor Butler supervises student attorneys who represent clients in a variety of IP matters. Before joining the WCL faculty, Brandon was the director of Public Policy Initiatives at the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). While there, he worked on a host of issues ranging from fair use to network neutrality to the PATRIOT Act. He is a co-facilitator, with Professors Peter Jaszi and Patricia Aufderheide, of the “ARL Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries,” released in January 2012.

RSVP now if you would like to attend the no-cost event.

Posted in Copyright, Events, OITP, Washington Office News Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Libraries again fight for exemptions from “Digital Locks” copyright law


For astronomers, it might be once in a few million years when a key comet comes back around.  For a soccer-crazed world, it’s every four years until the World Cup is back in play.  For library-focused copyright “geeks” the not-really-magic-at-all interval is 3 years.  That’s how often librarians, educators, disabled persons, internet security researchers, technologists, businesses and anyone else who needs access to copyrighted digital information secured with digital locks has to apply for special exemptions from Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). That’s the part of the law that prohibits the “circumvention” of  “technological protection measures” (TPMs) employed by the owners of copyrighted works to block unauthorized access to them.

Unfortunately, TPMs also block perfectly lawful uses that don’t require prior authorization, such as fair uses for education or journalism or converting text to speech for the print disabled.  Nonetheless, it’s still an actual  crime under the DMCA to circumvent TPMs even if the eventual use of the protected material is perfectly legal unless a specific exemption to circumvent (i.e., pick the digital lock) for that otherwise lawful use has been granted!  To make matters worse, even once the expensive and time consuming case for an exemption has been made successfully, the recipient of the exemption has to make the case in full to the U.S. Copyright Office all over again every three years.

ALA, in tandem with other library organizations, has actively participated in this so-called “Triennial Rulemaking” process at every opportunity since the DMCA was passed in 1998.  This time around, in conjunction with the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and Association of Research Libraries (ARL), ALA is pursuing the renewal of two critical exemptions.  One has permitted the circumvention of TPMs that otherwise would prevent educators from incorporating film excerpts into their lectures and curricula.  The second allows TPMs to be worked around so that e-reader devices may be freely used by the print disabled to convert digitally “locked” text into accessible speech.  Many others have filed for a wide range of other exemptions to facilitate all kinds of valuable commercial and non-commercial activities.  Our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation have helpfully created and will maintain this online repository for all filings made in the 2015 Rulemaking.

The latest Triennial Rulemaking is just getting going, but libraries will continue to lobby Congress and the Copyright Office for sensible changes to the rulemaking process that would alleviate some of the significant and senseless burdens placed upon those who seek exemption renewal, particularly in the absence of any opposition.  With luck, it won’t take until a comet comes around again for such common-sense changes to be made.



Posted in Copyright, e-books Tagged with: , , , ,


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