Today, the American Library Association posthumously awarded activist Aaron Swartz the 2013 James Madison Award for his dedication to promoting and protecting public access to research and government information. ALA President, Maureen Sullivan presented the award to Swartz’s family during the 15th Annual Freedom of Information Day in Washington, D.C.
Before his untimely death in January, Swartz was an outspoken advocate for public participation in government and unrestricted access to peer-reviewed scholarly articles. Swartz was a co-founder of Demand Progress, an advocacy group that organizes people to take action on civil liberties and government reform issues. Swartz was also a leader in the national campaign to prevent the passing of the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill that would have diminished critical online legal protections.
“Aaron loved libraries,” said Bob Swartz, Aaron’s father. “I remember how excited he was to get library privileges at Harvard and be able to use the Widener library there. I know he would have been humbled and honored to receive this award. We thank you. Aaron’s goal was to make knowledge freely available to everyone and we can all further his legacy by making this happen.”
“We are honored for Aaron to become the first person to win the James Madison Award posthumously,” said Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Swartz’s partner. “Librarians have always understood the importance of open access better than anyone, and they were great friends to Aaron. Aaron fought to ensure that the corpus of human knowledge would be available to anyone who wanted to learn, not just those with the privilege of access to a major research university.
“He saw the revolutionary potential of the internet in this regard. I hope that Aaron’s death and this award can serve as a wake-up call to the U.S. Congress and the federal government: We must no longer allow corporate greed to be the bottleneck to people’s access to academic knowledge.”
Swartz was revered as a gifted computer programmer long before he became a public activist. He helped to develop the web feed format RSS, the website framework web.py and the social news website Reddit. As a teenager, Swartz designed the code layer for the Creative Commons licenses. Continue reading
Jazzy Wright is the Press Officer of the American Library Association's Washington Office. Email her at email@example.com.
The American Library Association (ALA) applauds the numerous websites that have taken to the Internet to protest two Congressional bills – PIPA and SOPA – in a very public way. By either going dark or brandishing their website with a black box, sites such as Wikipedia, Reddit, Craigslist, Google, Tumblr and many others, are demonstrating in a very real way the potential impact of these bills.
The day-long blocking of websites highlights the outright denial of access to information these bills would likely impose. Ironically, for two bills that are supposed to combat “foreign” counterfeiting or copyright infringing, today’s demonstration highlights how they would likely hit home right here in the U.S.
The ALA is on the record having taken a strong stance in opposition to these bills and we also constructed the PIPA, SOPA and OPEN Act Quick Reference Guide (pdf). In addition, the ALA deplores any legislation that would incentivize and likely increase surveillance of online activity promoted by these bills. These bills, if passed, would likely blanket Internet activity with an immediate chilling effect – on first amendment free speech rights, intellectual freedom and privacy rights, among others.=
Posted in Copyright, Intellectual Freedom, OGR, Telecommunications, Washington Office News
Tagged black wednesday, Congress, craigslist, google, PIPA, piracy, reddit, SOPA, tumblr, wikipedia
The last month or so has seen a flurry of anti-piracy, online infringing, copyright-related bills. The latest newcomer is the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act or OPEN Act (S. 2029). Introduced on December 17, 2011 by Sen. Wyden (D-OR), along with Senators Moran (R-KS) and Cantwell (D-WA), the OPEN Act is being heralded as a more palatable alternative to existing anti-piracy bills – The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 or PIPA (S. 968), and The Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA (H.R. 3261).
All three bills take aim at any website beyond U.S. borders that distribute counterfeit or copyright infringing products. To capture how all three bills compare and contrast, I’ve constructed the PIPA, SOPA and OPEN Act Quick Reference Guide (pdf). Not meant to be comprehensive (it would be pages and pages), nor too legalese (I’m a librarian, not a lawyer – although I did consult our legal consultant), the chart helps depict the nuanced and not-so-nuanced differences among the bills.
What you’ll see (hopefully at a glance), is unlike PIPA or SOPA, the OPEN Act focuses solely on curbing online infringement by cutting off websites’ payment processing and ad networks. In contrast, PIPA and SOPA go further in that they also incentivize internet companies to cut off access to websites. The tactics the latter two bills employ have a potential chilling effect on 1st Amendment free speech rights and intellectual freedom, as well as weaken cyber security, and threaten privacy.
Also, the guide captures the status of the bills as of today, January 10. It is worth noting that the bills are in the midst of the legislative process – the U.S. House Judiciary committee will resume markup of SOPA on January 17th and the U.S. Senate has scheduled a cloture vote on PIPA for January 24th. In addition, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Rep. Issa (R-Calif.) announced a hearing has been scheduled for January 18th on the potential impact of Domain Name Service (DNS) and search engine blocking.
The ALA will continue to voice strong opposition to PIPA and SOPA, while further analysis of the OPEN Act is needed.
Posted in Copyright, Intellectual Freedom, OGR, Telecommunications, Washington Office News
Tagged Congress, free speech, OPEN Act, PIPA, Privacy, SOPA, surveillance
In a perplexing turn of events, Rep. Issa (R-CA) recently introduced the Research Works Act (H.R. 3699), on December 16, 2011. Co-sponsored by Rep. Maloney (D-NY), the bill would effectively turn back the clock on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access policy put into place in 2008. The bill was referred to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of which Rep. Issa is chairman.
If you recall, the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), (H.R. 5037), introduced in April 2010 in the 111th Congress, was modeled after the NIH Public Access policy. The ALA strongly supported FRPAA as it aimed to ensure free, timely, online access to the published results of federally funded (i.e. tax-payer funded) research by eleven U.S. federal agencies and departments. The bi-partisan supported bill mirrored a Senate version of FRPAA (S. 1373), and a brief history of these bills is available here.
The ALA has been a long-time, ardent supporter of increasing access to information of all types, including federally funded research. This latest bill, the Research Works Act, would act in direct contradiction and therefore the ALA vehemently opposes the bill.
The truly perplexing part is how Rep. Issa can fight the good fight against an egregious anti-piracy copyright bill (SOPA, H.R. 3261), and at the same time turn so abruptly and set his sights on nullifying the NIH Public Access policy. The ALA will be keeping close tabs on the Research Works Act bill and track whether there is even a hint at it gaining traction.
Addition posts on the bill
The clock is ticking and the time to act is NOW to STOP SOPA! On Thursday, December 15 at 10:00 a.m. (EST) the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary will meet to markup and potentially vote in committee on H.R. 3261, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA. This egregious bill, introduced in October by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), not only threatens the future of the Internet as we know it, it jeopardizes protections currently enjoyed by individual citizens, as well as libraries. The bill has the potential to do significant damage in a number of ways – including the possibility of criminal prosecution of a library for streaming, censorship of internet activity, invasion of privacy rights, and even threatens national cyber security, among others.
With less than 48 hours to markup, what can you do? You can ACT and it’s easy!
- Call your member of Congress – we’re targeting the members of the House Judiciary Committee. However, don’t hesitate to call your own member even if they are not on the committee. The louder and farther the reach of our message at this critical time the better!
- Easy, step-by-step instructions on how to place the call, along with talking points to communicate your position, are all available at the ALA’s Legislative Action Center’s (LAC) special alert titled “Ask your Representative to vote “NO” on SOPA” (Talking points included!)
- Please complete the LAC “feedback” card after you act.
- Tell your colleagues and friends (via email, twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.) that you acted to help protect the future of the internet on behalf of libraries and those you use them and forward this message or send them the alert so they can act, too!
Additional Related Information:
- Although a Manger’s Amendment to bill H.R. 3261 (pdf) was submitted on Monday, December 12 by Rep. Smith, the revised language addresses only some of the many significant concerns raised. The ALA had sent a letter to the U.S. House Judiciary leadership raising specific copyright-related concerns on behalf of libraries.
- Late last week Reps. Issa (R-CA) and Wyden (D-OR) introduced draft bill language for the “Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act” or OPEN. In the spirit of openness and transparency, they created a web site www.keepthewebopen.com allowing the public to review the draft text and comment. The ALA, as member of the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), sent a letter (pdf) thanking the congressmen for the draft bill and for their inclusive public process. (More attention will be devoted in the coming days and weeks to this draft bill language after the markup on SOPA on Thursday!)
- Our friends at the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) have done a terrific job collecting the letters to Congress, In the Press and on blogs and the list of organizations and individuals opposing SOPA, if you’d like to track what others are saying.
Calling your U.S. Representative to ask them to vote “NO” on SOPA is easy and an effective way to advocate for libraries and those we serve!
Associate Director, Office of Government Relations
American Library Association
Posted in Copyright, Cybersecurity, Intellectual Freedom, Library Advocacy, OGR, Telecommunications
Tagged Center for Democracy and Technology, chilling effect, Congress, Jobs, SOPA, surveillance