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Topic du jour? Access!

Things are heating up in Washington — and we’re not just talking about the temperature!  Access is the topic du jour this week!  Much is happening on a number of fronts — from Congress to the U.S. Copyright Office to the FCC with regard to access and accessibility.  Advances in technology are spurring legislative and regulatory action to ensure Internet and telecommunications services are accessible to all Americans — whether it’s updating the Americans with Disabilities Act, ensuring public access to taxpayer-funded research or protect intellectual freedom by keeping an open, neutral Internet.  Here’s the roundup.

Section 1201

It’s far too rare that we librarians, libraries and the public who use them (ok, everyone) get as big a win as we all did on Monday.   The ALA, along with ACRL and ARL (together known as the bad-a$$ Library Copyright Alliance, a.k.a. the LCA), took time to applaud the Librarian of Congress for broadening exceptions to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  In other words, all faculty (not just media and film profs.) in colleges and universities in the U.S. can circumvent technological protection measures when creating film clip compilations for classroom and educational use.  And, it gets better, higher ed. students in film and media classes can do the same — a first for extending this exception to students!

The Librarian of Congress’s decision also granted other exceptions, too.   Of particular interest to us librarians includes the renewal of the exception to circumvent protections that block the read-aloud/screen-reader function on e-books — a win for those with reading disabilities.  And perhaps the “sexiest” exception garnering the most popular press is the Librarian’s green light to “jailbreak” iPhones — a positive move toward more interoperability.

Quite honestly, the entire rulemaking exceeded my colleagues and my expectations — what a way to start the week!

Also, it is worthy to note that so many in the library community and beyond deserve a pat on the back for these wins — it truly did take a village.

Accessibility

On Monday, the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, H.R. 3101, with an overwhelming majority voting in favor of the bill (328 ayes to 23 nays).  This bill, along with its companion in the Senate, is important to the public because it requires Internet providers to make available Internet and assistive technologies to be usable, compatible and available to provide same-time access to the disabled.

We now turn our attention on the Senate’s companion bill, the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, S. 3304, which recently moved to the full Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation from the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.  One House down, one Senate to go…

It’s FRPAA time! (ok, make that “Federal Research Public Access Act of 2009” time!)

Such a long name for a simple concept — providing open, free access to federally funded research we, the public as taxpayers, have already paid for!

On Thursday, July 29 at 2:00 p.m. the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Information Policy, Census and National Archives Subcommittee will hold a hearing on FRPAA, H.R. 5037.  The fact that this hearing has been scheduled is good news from the library community’s perspective because it will provide yet another opportunity to explain why we think the public should have no-fee, timely access to federally funded research.

Specifically, H.R. 5037 and its companion in the Senate, S. 1373, would require agencies and departments with annual extramural research budgets over $100 million to make available via the Internet the final manuscript of articles resulting from research funded by U.S. taxpayers (you).

And, of course, we wouldn’t be good librarians if we didn’t worry about preservation! Fortunately, the legislation requires the manuscripts to be maintained and preserved in a digital archive, ensuring the research is and will continue to be available to the public.  Undoubtedly, such an archive would allow librarians in our schools, our colleges and universities and our public libraries the ability to better assist library patrons with their information and research needs as well as allow direct access for everyone.

House hearings are typically webcast, so tune in tomorrow to watch all three witness panels testify on this issue!

Net Neutrality

Finally, a note about ALA’s recent activity on Internet or “net” neutrality — the ALA filed comments in response to the FCC’s Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on July 15. We discussed our filing in support of net neutrally in a post a couple weeks ago.  In addition, the ALA also joined forces with ARL and EDUCAUSE  in a separate filing in support of net neutrality stressing that libraries, librarians and higher education and those we serve rely on a fast, reliable and open Internet.  Expect much more to come on this issue in coming weeks and months…

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Corey Williams

Corey Williams is a former member of the Washington Office government relations team.

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