May 22, 2013
GPO Makes FY 2014 Budget Request
According to this May 21, 2013 press release, "GPO is requesting $128.5 million for FY 2014, which is provided through three separate accounts in the annual Legislative Branch Appropriations bill" for
- The Congressional Printing and Binding Appropriation covers the cost of information products in digital and print formats that GPO produces for Congress. About 70% of this cost is for preparing the electronic files used for both digital access and printing. For FY 2014, GPO is requesting $79.7 million.
- The Salaries and Expenses Appropriation of the Superintendent of Documents primarily covers the cost of the Federal Depository Library Program, which works in partnership with approximately 1,200 libraries nationwide to provide public access to Federal Government information in digital and print formats. For FY 2014, GPO is requesting $35.8 million.
- The GPO Revolving Fund receives appropriated funds for specific technology investment and facility improvements. For FY 2014, GPO is requesting $12.9 million. The request includes funding for the continued development of GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) to support increased online access to congressional and Federal agency information as well as other digital information technology improvements.
Hat tip to beSpacific. [JH]
May 08, 2013
CRS on Marijuana Legalization by the States
The Congressional Research Service has weighed in on the apparent conflict between federal and state drug laws in light of legalization in Colorado and Washington for small amounts of recreational marijuana. Here is part of the Summary that lays out the issues:
The Colorado and Washington laws that legalize, regulate, and tax an activity the federal government expressly prohibits appear to be logically inconsistent with established federal policy toward marijuana, and are therefore likely subject to a legal challenge under the constitutional doctrine of preemption. This doctrine generally prevents states from enacting laws that are inconsistent with federal law. Under the Supremacy Clause, state laws that conflict with federal law are generally preempted and therefore void and without effect. Yet Congress intended that the CSA would not displace all state laws associated with controlled substances, as it wanted to preserve a role for the states in regulating controlled substances. States thus remain free to pass laws relating to marijuana, or any other controlled substance, so long as they do not create a “positive conflict” with federal law, such that the two laws “cannot consistently stand together.”
This report summarizes the Washington and Colorado marijuana legalization laws and evaluates whether, or the extent to which, they may be preempted by the CSA or by international agreements. It also highlights potential responses to these recent legalization initiatives by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and identifies other noncriminal consequences that marijuana users may face under federal law. Finally, the report closes with a description of legislative proposals introduced in the 113th Congress relating to the treatment of marijuana under federal law, including H.R. 499 (Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013); H.R. 501 (Marijuana Tax Equity Act of 2013); H.R. 689 (States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act); H.R. 710 (Truth in Trials Act); H.R. 784 (States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act); and H.R. 964 (Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2013).
The report is State Legalization of Recreational Marijuana: Selected Legal Issues. It was issued on April 5, 2013. The order code is R43034. [MG]
April 11, 2013
Short Takes On The News: (Lack of) Privacy In Email and Windows 8 Allegedly Killing the PC
Two stories in the news lately should be disturbing to privacy advocates. One is about email privacy. The IRS doesn’t believe in it. The ACLU has acquired a copy of the 2009 IRS Search Warrant Handbook which has this handy quote: "emails and other transmissions generally lose their reasonable expectation of privacy and thus their Fourth Amendment protection once they have been sent from an individual's computer." Declan McCullagh has the story in CNET News. There is reference to the Warshak case where the Sixth Circuit required a warrant under probable cause for the government to get access to email content. Warshak, however, is not a national rule at this point.
This leads to the second story of interest, which is another McCullagh report, this time on the House Intelligence Committee killing any semblance of privacy protections offered in revisions to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Representative Jan Schakowsky proposed various amendments that would have limited the NSA and other intelligence agencies from collecting sensitive information about Americans. The Committee adopted the bill yesterday without amendments by a vote of 18-2 and sent it to the House floor for a vote. Maybe the IRS is on to something.
Microsoft and Windows 8 are in the news regularly, and usually with negative commentary. The latest developments are consistent with that negativity. Microsoft stock dropped today because of very recent reports by IDC and Gartner showing significant drops of 14% in PC shipments during the first quarter of this year. Gartner is predicting a 20.4% decline in PC shipments in the next four years. Despite Microsoft’s entry in the phone and tablet business with Windows 8 and Surface Products, consumer choice may not ride with those offerings to extend the Windows franchise. In fact, IDC calls Windows a catalyst in holding back the market for PCs.Much of the commentary out there describes the Modern UI interface as confusing, especially on non-touch equipment such as desktop computers. That confusion coupled with older PCs that are still good enough for content creation spells trouble for Microsoft’s prospects according to analysts. I don’t believe the PC is going away ultimately, at least until tablets can match PCs in power and features. The writing is on the wall though for PCs in a casual computing setting. No one needs a PC to check in with social sites while travelling. I also won’t complain about the Modern UI on a non-touch desktop PC . It’s easy enough to ignore by using local accounts and clicking on the desktop tile. That may not be how Microsoft would like its customers to use Windows 8. Nonetheless, bypassing the Start Screen is not the anguish filled experience some make it out to be. Now if Microsoft killed the desktop outright, that would be bad. [MG]
April 03, 2013
More On Statutes And Copyright
Joe’s post below reminds me of the story of how the Illinois Compiled Statutes came to be. If I remember correctly, Lexis wanted to publish a copy of the Illinois Revised Statutes. West claimed the copyright in the numbering system. The legislature passed several public laws attempting to place the organizational scheme into the public domain. Governor “Big Jim” Thompson vetoed these attempts. The legislature finally passed a bill placing a new organizational scheme into the public domain. More details on this are available from the Illinois Legislative Reference Bureau.
For a more detailed look at copyright in statutory compilations, see State Ownership of Copyrights in Primary Law Materials by Irina Y. Dmitrieva, 23 Hastings Comm. & Ent. L.J. 81 (2000-2001), available on Hein Online. [MG]
April 02, 2013
So Much For Aaron's Law: Congress Considers Expansion of CFAA
I’ve been getting a rash of emails lately from progressive organizations concerned over the proposed changes Congress is considering to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). As readers may recall, the Act as it currently stands, was the basis for the late Aaron Swartz’ aggressive prosecution for bulk downloads of JSTOR documents at MIT. That prosecution drew outrage for the way it was handled by the Justice Department and for the fact that the law as written could ensnare harsh penalties for rather mild misconduct. Representative Zoe Lofgren vowed to introduce a bill that would reign in the breadth of the Act and even crowd-sourced it for full effect. That bill may have pleased those sympathetic to Aaron Swartz, but it unsurprisingly went nowhere.
I’ll let my cynicism with the political process show a bit here as I refer readers to an article published today in CNET by Declan McCullagh that describes proposed amendments that would expand rather than limit the Act’s coverage. Professor Orin Kerr is quoted in the piece:
This language is really, really broad. If I read it correctly, the language would make it a felony to lie about your age on an online dating profile if you intended to contact someone online and ask them personal questions.
The rest of it describes failed attempt after failed attempt to beef up the CFAA over the last several years. The latest context for amending the Act now includes things such as cybersecurity, DDoS attacks, foreign espionage conducted via the Internet, Wikileaks, and other threats to the United States. Who knows, that may do the trick this time, Aaron Swartz notwithstanding.
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) criticized Attorney General Eric Holder for the Department’s handling of the Swartz case, calling it prosecutorial zeal and possibly misconduct. Holder called it a "good use of prosecutorial discretion." This kind of back and forth is nothing more than a political game between the administration and its opponents. The CFAA, in the meantime needs serious reform. That reform should not be held hostage to ideological fights or scare tactics. It seems unfortunate that Congress can’t come up with language that protects government, commercial, and personal security while not criminalizing trivial conduct. We’re all going to suffer if this one goes through as it is. [MG]
March 27, 2013
California State Judiciary, Just Another Fee-for-Service Branch of Government?A budget proposal for the California state court system is causing quite a stir. It includes "charging $10 for so much as a peek at any file in any courthouse" as a new fee and doubling the per page copy charge from $1 to $2 according to the Santa Rose Press Democrat's editorial Price-gouging plan to fund state courts. Maria Dinzeo provides a detailed report of reaction to the budget proposal at Tide of Criticism Meets Court Admin Office Idea for New Fee (Courthouse News). [JH]
March 22, 2013
Sign of the Times?
If enacted Texas HB 1989 would allow service of process via Facebook and that would be a first in the U.S. Bradley Shear warns "the biggest problem with service via social media is authentication. Even though a digital account may appear to belong to a litigant in a judicial proceeding, account authentication is required to ensure that the account belongs to the right person." [JH]
March 20, 2013
Opposing CISPA This Week
A coalition of Internet advocacy organizations and individuals launched a week of action to lobby against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), HR 624, yesterday. Participating organizations listed by EFF include ALA and ARL. For details on how to participate, see Stop CISPA: A Week of Action to Oppose Broad Cybersecurity Legislation. See also EFF's analysis at CISPA, the Privacy-Invading Cybersecurity Spying Bill, is Back in Congress.
While not currently listed as participating in the week-long campaign by EFF -- the list is being "updated on a daily basis throughout the week" -- AALL has stated its concerns about CISPA in a formal statement here. [JH]
March 19, 2013
Lobbying for More Than Just UELMA
We all know the intent behind UELMA. Authentication, preservation and permanent public accessibility to the most basic state-level digital primary legal resources, namely "state constitutions, session laws, codified laws, and administrative rules with the effect of law" by state actors designated as "official publishers” to carry out the provisions of the Act in those instances where state governments are delivering such legal materials in electronic formats. After that it is game on because UELMA does not affect any contractual relationship between an official state publisher and a commercial publisher, nor does it affect copyright claims.
Is UELMA flawed because of what it leaves unaffected? Of course not. The Uniform Laws Commission could not venture into contract and copyright laws. However, as folks lobby for UELMA adoption (current status available on the ULA site see also AALL's 2013 bill tracking report) they may want to take a look at what is happening in California.
California was the second state to adopt UELMA. SB 1075 was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown on September 13, 2012. If my always faulty memory isn't up to its usual tricks, I believe the Act takes effect in 2015. However state copyright claims and state publishing contracts with a commercial vendor remain an issue.
Lobbying for Creative Commons licensing in addition to UELMA. Recently California Assemblyman Brian Nestande (R-42nd Dist.) tossed AB 292 into the bill hopper. It calls for applying a Creative Commons License to the California Code of Regulations to allow any individual, at no cost, to use, distribute, and create derivative works based on the material for either commercial or noncommercial purposes because the California Office of Administrative Law holds an exclusive copyright on the CCR. I doubt Assemblyman Nestande would mind if I republish his office's press release in full. So here it is:
The agency responsible for reviewing and approving new regulations, the Office of Administrative Law (OAL,) holds an exclusive copyright over regulations that are created with taxpayer dollars. All taxpayers already fund the activities of government, including the creation of new regulations. Restricting access to these regulations requires taxpayers to pay twice for the same government activity. Because all taxpayers are bound by the law, businesses are compelled to pay for complete access to the regulations that bind them. The cost of purchasing access to the regulations can vary from $30 to more than $3,000, depending on what sections of regulations are needed.
AB 292 will provide that the full text of the California Code of Regulations shall have an open access creative commons attribution license, allowing any individual, at no cost, to use, distribute and create derivative works based on the material for either commercial or noncommercial purposes.
While OAL is required to post a copy of the California Code of Regulations (CCR) on its Web site, it makes this version prohibitively difficult to navigate, and restricts access with the following restriction: “no part of this Web site may be reproduced, duplicated, copied, downloaded, stored, further transmitted, disseminated, transferred, or otherwise exploited without Thomson Reuters’ prior written consent.” These restrictions require businesses to purchase complete access from Thomson Reuters, from which OAL derives a share of the profits.
When the Legislature enhances the profitably of an activity, it incentivizes that activity. By allowing OAL to profit from access to taxpayer funded activities, the Legislature is inherently making a statement that California needs more regulations. By giving a profit motive to approve regulations, it incentivizes the approval of more regulations.
Allowing OAL to profit from the sale of access to the regulations it has the authority to approve creates an inherent conflict of interest. OAL currently uses its proprietary copyright to issue an exclusive license to Thomson Reuters in exchange for a $400,000 annual license fee and 7% of all royalties. As more businesses are covered by new regulations, more businesses need to purchase access to those regulations from Thomson, and OAL derives a larger profit. This makes it difficult to be truly objective when approving new regulations, if it directly benefits from expanding the state’s regulatory burden.
Due to the restrictions OAL sets forth on access to state regulations, search engines such as Google cannot legally access and index the CCR. In addition, developers cannot create user-friendly applications for smartphones and tablets that would allow the public to easily access, manipulate, and share regulations. This in turn can limit innovation and transparency.
Additionally, because of these restrictions to the CCR no individual can legally reproduce the text of a regulation. This prevents covered entities from freely sharing and discussing new regulations. Even a petition to repeal a regulation would violate OAL’s copyright if it quotes from the text of that regulation. This hindering of political speech is counter to an open and transparent government.
Finally, access to statutes and regulations should be consistent across all of California government. Unlike OAL’s copyright over administrative law, the Legislature holds no copyright over the laws it creates. Legislative Counsel covers the cost of making laws and is available to every taxpayer because this is a proper and legitimate role of government.
By making the CCR free and readily available to the public, we are creating a more transparent government and easing the burden on businesses that must purchase access to the regulations that bind them.
In those instances where states claim copyright ownership of primary legal resources, UELMA lobbyists might want to look to AB 292 for model language to include or at least submit as companion legislation. Such language should also eliminate any commerical publisher's copyright claims to section heading texts in codifications of otherwise public domain primary legal resources if created by the publisher. This way any individual could at no cost easily use, distribute, and create derivative works based on the material for either commercial or noncommercial purposes.
End note: Granted potential separation of powers issues abound but I would push further for Creative Commons licensing of state publications. For example the Ohio Judicial Conference, an independent statutory entity within the judicial branch of government, claims copyright ownership for Ohio Jury Instructions. Lexis has the contract to publish OJI in print. List price is a whopping $544. Compare that to other state agency authored pattern jury instructions pricing.
Granted Lexis OJI includes some editorial enhancements -- "explanatory Committee Notes, references to Ohio Revised Code sections, cases and other materials for your own research," is updated at no small expense, and even includes a CD (not yet, if ever, to be replaced by a "free" eBook). But for a print version, Lexis OJI is the only game in the Buckeye State.
For online distribution of OJI, the Ohio Judicial Conference currently limits licensing to three vendors. At the moment they are Lexis, West and Casemaker. Why not more? To create a bidding war? Isn't it time to stop an "independent statutory entity within the judicial branch of government" from milking this cash cow?
I have no doubt that watchdogs in other states can find similiar examples at many, if not most, branches of state government. [JH]
January 24, 2013
An UELMA Update
Published on SLAW by Judy Gaskell. Read more about it at Can You Trust Law Online? a 2012 UELMA Update. [JH]
January 10, 2013
FISA: The Movie!
December 16, 2012
Now What's Going to Wake Me Up After I Fall Asleep Watching TV?
Under the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, the FCC issued rules that require commercials have the same average volume as the programs they accompany. The CALM Act rules went into effect on December 13, 2012. From the FCC's Loud Commercials FAQ:
Q: Will the new rules eliminate the problem of loud commercials?
A: The rules should eliminate any systematic difference between the loudness of commercials and the loudness of the programming they accompany. The ATSC practice that Congress directed us to adopt does not set an absolute cap on loudness. Rather, it requires commercials to have the same average volume as the programming they accompany, so that the volume a consumer chooses is the one at which both the programming and the advertisements will air. We hope and expect that compliance with this practice will significantly reduce the problem of loud commercials for consumers.
December 12, 2012
Approaching the Fiscal Cliff in the Blind
The Sunlight Foundation, along with the Institute for Policy Innovation, OpenTheGovernment.org, Public Citizen and U.S. Public Interest Research Groups sent a letter dated December 10, 2012 to President Obama, Senator Reid, Senator McConnell, Representative Boehner and Representative Pelosi urging them to "ensure that any legislation resulting from the negotiations is online for 72 hours prior to consideration in Congress" and that any side agreements, including promised votes on future legislation, are also made public. In addition, meetings with lobbyists and other influencers attempting to impact the outcome of the negotiations should also be disclosed online in real time.
The text of the letter is published in Lisa Rosenberg's Groups Urge Transparency Around Fiscal Cliff Negotiations on The Sunlight Foundation's blog. On Nota Bene, Emily Lawson offers some useful resources in her Guide to the "Fiscal Cliff". [JH]
December 11, 2012
Protecting the Copyright Monopoly: Content Industry Associations Successfully Issued a Political Takedown Notice
Last month, the House Republican Study Committee issued a policy brief which concluded that the current US copyright regime inhibits productivity and innovation.
What! In a nutshell, that was the conclusion of the RSC's policy brief titled “Three Myths About Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix It" (dated Nov. 16, 2012). The RSC's conclusion was based on an examination of "three myths on copyright law and possible reforms to copyright law that will lead to more economic development for the private sector and to a copyright law that is more firmly based upon constitutional principles." The three myths are:
- The purpose of copyright is to compensate the creator of the content
- Copyright is free market capitalism at work
- The current copyright legal regime leads to the greatest innovation and productivity
Each myth was debunked. Quoting from David Post's Republicans Going Copyleft?! on The Volokh Conspiracy:
The Report is well worth reading. Current copyright law is “hampering scientific inquiry,” “stifiling the creation of a public library,”discouraging added-value industries,” “penalizing legitimate journalism and oversight,” and “retarding the creation of a robust DJ/Remix industry.” The Report proposes a series of rather radical — in the Jeffersonian sense — reforms, from dramatically shortening the copyright term (a no-brainer, actually) to expanding fair use and limiting the damages from infringement claims.
Oops! However the policy brief was retracted 24 hours after being released because it had been "published without adequate review" according to RSC Executive Director Paul Teller. "Without adequate review" is code for failing to protect the copyright monopoly for the content industry. In The Case of the Vanishing Policy Memo, Slate's Matthew Yglesias writes:
Common sense suggests there were other reasons for the retraction. Derek Khanna, a tech-savvy young Republican staffer who came to Washington with Sen. Scott Brown before shifting to the RSC to work primarily on cybersecurity and government oversight issues, is clearly well-versed on the subject. He simply lacked the authority to enact a change in position on a topic dominated by powerful interest groups with a ton of money. Khanna’s supervisors seem to have paid too much attention to the merits of the memo and not enough to the larger politics when vetting it. According to Mike Masnick at TechDirt, when news of the memo filtered out to the Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Association of America, those organizations "went ballistic and hit the phones hard, demanding that the RSC take down the report."
"Ballistic" as in both content industry associations assumed that the RSC knew how to lap dance for their campaign contributions.
Why? While not addressing the RSC's policy brief, Kevin Smith hits the nail on its head.
What has developed in the content industries is a sense that copyright exists to support their businesses, so any new way they find to extract a little extra money from the rights they hold should be endorsed and protected by the courts.
Quoting from Kevin Smith's Oct. 18, 2012 LJ article Why Are Some Publishers So Wrong About Fair Use?
You're Fired! In a Dec. 6, 2012 Slate post, Matthew Yglesias reported that the RSC fired the policy brief's author, Derek Khanna. Perhaps he will find a gig with Public Knowledge. At least that think tank group is more open-minded than the RSC. From the Mission Statement:
Public Knowledge preserves the openness of the Internet and the public’s access to knowledge; promotes creativity through balanced copyright; and upholds and protects the rights of consumers to use innovative technology lawfully.
Read More About It. It might have been retracted but Public Knowledge archived a copy of Three Myths About Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix It. See also Gigi Sohn's Public Knowledge blog post, The Debate over Copyright Reform Cannot Be Censored. [JH]
September 27, 2012
What's the Over-Under Bet? Originalism, Law & Economics, and Intellectual Property
In the "now for something completely irrelevant" category to the dustup between Scalia and Posner about Reading Law (2012) [something relevant here], I like both Scalia and Posner. They are "characters." It is not that I have any sort of personal relationship with either but as a nearly invisible PTE at the University of Chicago Law Library while attending Chicago's Graduate Library School in 1978-1980, I sorted Scalia's mail with him looking over my shoulder on Saturday mornings. I also routinely had to step over the library's books that were spilling out of Posner's office into the library's walkways to get to the stacks to pull something from the shelves.
I accepted the opinion of the professional librarians that Scalia was an up-and-comer. Mention was not made about his "orignialism" at the time but then we law librarians do have a professional bias toward performing legislative history research.
With plenty of time on my hands working weekends at Chicago's Law Library, I spent a fair amount if it reading Posner's classic The Economic Analysis of Law (multiple copies on reserve). It was the first treatise that made me start thinking about "The Law" because what Posner wrote was so foreign to my then naive understanding of what the law is. It was just by chance that reading and scratching my head over Law & Economics was a productive exercise because Posner et al. has proven to be the only "Law & ..." academic-produced school of thought that has had any real impact in the world of statutory and regulatory developments.
In an issue close to the interests of legal information professionals, drums have been beating about rescuing IP legal analysis from the myopia of the Law & Economics school which reduces intellectual property to economic efficiency arguments. The scholarly arguments come from Law & Culture's public policy analysis which attempts to reframe IP as cultural property. See Reclaiming IP Legal Analysis from Law and Economics. Not good enough without proving that the costs associated with IP are inefficent under a Law & Econ analysis.
Toss in an originalist interpretation of the "Copyright Clause"? Limited duration was viewed in the context a person's working life by our Founding Fathers. Applied to books, maps and charts, the Copyright Act of 1790 was for 14 years, with an option to renew for another 14 years. Clearly, this dovetailed into the human life span context. Too bad, however, that the Founding Fathers did not simply state "until the creator dies."
Toss in a more fundamental public policy argument that the current IP regime cannot be effectively enforced in the 21st century because of the inability to police widespread social behavior. See "Hacking" New and Old Prohibitions: From the 18th Amendment to Today's Copyright Laws. Will that resonant with legislators who remember the arguments found in Thoreau's Resistance to Civil Government (Civil Disobedience) (1849)?
What's the over-and-under bet on that happening when legislators' pockets are being filled by corporations whose lawyers are drafting copyright legislation.
Traditionally Congress has relied on copyright lawyers from the major interested companies, to sit down and write copyright legislation, a recipe not designed to protect the public interest. Congress shows little interest in becoming educated in the details of copyright legislation, enacting what the major interested parties agree on. The line at the top of the page [Article I, Section 8, Clause 8] from the U.S. Constitution is the charge given to Congress to "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times..." Recent experience, and economic theory suggests that enlarging and encouraging the public domain and "intellectual and innovative commons" may do more to promote the progress of science and useful arts than locking material away as coporate asset. And "limited times" is surely not 95 years.
September 12, 2012
Freeing CRS Reports
Using the recently published CRS report entitled Researching Current Federal Legislation and Regulations: A Guide to Resources for Congressional Staff (RL33895 August 31, 2012) as a jump-off, AALL's Washington Blawg issues a reminder to contact your representative because
[t]he House Administration Committee is poised to consider H.Res. 727, the Congressional Research Service Electronic Accessibility Resolution of 2012, which would make CRS reports available online in a free, public database. It’s likely the bill could come to a vote in the lame duck session.
The Washington Blawg post illustrates the differences in information access available through the Congressional Legislative Information System and THOMAS by quoting from Free Government Information's Comparing LIS and Thomas post.
Both FGI's post and the CRS report are recommended for legal research instructional purposes. While the CRS report does reference some non-government resources, I'm still scratching my head over why the very well established OpenCongress is not listed while GovTrack is for federal bill tracking. [JH]
September 11, 2012
Los Angeles Considers Using Library Cards As IDs for Undocumented Citizens
It’s campaign season. We’ve all seen stories about battles in Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, and other states over the use of IDs as a mechanism to either keep the voter rolls clean or deny the ballot box to otherwise valid voters. Take your pick. I don’t express a point of view here on the merits of voter ID laws. But I do want to point out that the city of Los Angeles is looking into making the municipal library card an ID that can link to other services such as bank accounts.
The Los Angeles Times reports that such a card would contain a person’s name, address, and a photograph. It would be given to anyone who could provide proof of residency in Los Angeles irrespective of immigration status. The proposal is designed to offer some forms of financial security and protection to those who would not otherwise qualify for a bank account. A third party would work with the city and banks to establish the accounts for card holders. The cards could then be used as ATM cards for a small monthly fee. Access to banking services reduces the need for payday loan services which tend to be the only financial outlet for those who cannot open a bank account directly.
The story notes there are similar programs in other California cities, though this is the first time a library card is proposed as a multi-function identification card. The concept has received its share of criticism from immigration groups that support a tighter line on the enforcement of immigration laws. They see the Los Angeles program as promoting a service that can be exploited by criminals and terrorists. I’m not so sure myself. I see it as a way of bringing services to an otherwise exploitable group living in Los Angeles. The card does not confer status on anyone. It can’t lead to a driver’s license or protect anyone from immigration proceedings. If anything, it documents the undocumented, assuming the proof residency the city requires is high. It all depends on the details of implementation. Either way, the population the card would serve is already there with or without it.
There isn’t any word on how the library system feels about this. I would expect use of the public library would increase as a consequence. I would hope the city funds the program and the library system adequately if it is serious about the proposal. Let’s see if it goes forward. And if it does, let’s see if it works. [MG]
September 06, 2012
"Hacking" New and Old Prohibitions: From the 18th Amendment to Today's Copyright Laws
About The New Prohibition: A Look at the Copyright Wars Through the Lens of Alcohol Prohibition by Temple Law prof Donald Harris [SSRN; University of Tennessee Law Review, Forthcoming) Techdirt's Mike Masnick writes "[w]hile that might be slight (or significant) hyperbole, law professor Donald Harris has put together a fantastic paper that compares the two situations and finds an awful lot of similarities." See So Many Similarities Between Copyright Law And Prohibition.
OK, well, there are always structural similarities that can be identified as elements of legally sanctioned prohibitions. Clearly the most important thesis offered by Harris, one shared by the similarity between copyright restrictions and the 18th Amendment, is that both could not (can not) be rigoriously enforced when a legal scheme was (is) inconsistent with widespread citizen interests and behavior.
Here's the abstract for The New Prohibition: A Look at the Copyright Wars Through the Lens of Alcohol Prohibition [SSRN]:
Over the past decade, copyright holders and content providers have increased legislative and judicial protection for copyrighted works and have concurrently increased enforcement efforts. Much of this has been directed at curbing massive filesharing. Despite the tremendous amount of resources expended in such efforts, filesharing continues at unabated and never before seen levels. Filesharing continues and enforcement efforts has failed because neither the laws nor the copyright industry’s efforts take into account the immense resistance and civil disobedience engendered by efforts to prevent a considerable segment of society from recognizing the reality of the Internet. Moreover, such enforcement efforts also fail to address the evolving nature of copyright. Rather than continuing to impose on society laws that society feels are both unjust and illegitimate, new copyright laws much reflect current societal morals and norms. These current norms suggest that filesharing is here to stay. As such, this Article offers a different look at the controversy surrounding the filesharing.
This Article argues that legislators, commentators, and the copyright industry must entertain laws that embrace filesharing, and seek other ways to incentivize artists and other creators. The Article traces Alcohol Prohibition of the 1920s and 1930s as an historical example of laws that were inconsistent with the vast majority of society’s morals and norms. Looking back, one can see many similarities between the Alcohol and Filesharing Prohibitions. The Article suggests, then, that lessons learned from the failed “noble experiment” of Alcohol Prohibition should be applied to the current filesharing controversy. Doing so, the Article advocates legalizing certain noncommercial filesharing. A scheme along these lines will comport with societal norms and will force new business models to replace outdated and ineffective business models.
Hat tip to PinHawk Blog. [JH]
August 28, 2012
California Suspends Open Meetings Law for Three Years
Why? As part of the California Budget Act of 2012, OMB Watch reports that the state's open meetings law was suspended in an effort to reduce state expenditures, adding by way of commentary, that "[i]n suspending the law, the state is sacrificing not only a fundamental element of a democratic society, but a vital tool that can actually save money." Details and analysis at California Suspends Open Meetings Law to Save Money.
Hat tip to Free Government Information. [JH]
August 26, 2012
CRS Report on Gun Control Legislation
From the Summary:
[Gun Control Legislation (RL32842, Aug.3, 2012) discusses] salient and recurring gun control issues that have generated past or current congressional interest. Those issues include (1) screening firearms background check applicants against terrorist watch lists, (2) combating gun trafficking and straw purchases, (3) reforming the regulation of federally licensed gun dealers, (4) requiring background checks for private firearms transfers at gun shows, (5) more-strictly regulating certain firearms previously defined in statute as “semiautomatic assault weapons,” and (6) banning or requiring the registration of certain long-range .50 caliber rifles, which are commonly referred to as “sniper” rifles. To set these and other emerging issues in context, this report provides basic firearms-related statistics, an overview of federal firearms law, and a summary of legislative action in the 111th and 112th Congresses.
Hat tip to beSpacific. [JH]