Category Archives: Advocacy

Network Neutrality in the Cross Hairs

Jointly authored by Larra Clark, Krista Cox and Kara Malenfant.

It is widely reported that network neutrality is one of the most endangered telecommunications policy gains of the past two years. The ALA, ARL and ACRL—with EDUCAUSE and other library and higher education allies—have been on the front lines of this battle with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Congress, and the courts for more than a decade. Here’s an update on where we stand, what might come next, and what the library community may do to mobilize.

What’s at stake: Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular services or websites. Net neutrality is essential for library and educational institutions to carry out our missions and to ensure protection of freedom of speech, educational achievement, research and economic growth. The Internet has become the pre-eminent platform for learning, collaboration, and interaction among students, faculty, library patrons, local communities, and the world.

In February 2015, the FCC adopted Open Internet rules that provided the strongest network neutrality protections we’ve seen, and which are aligned with library and higher education principles for network neutrality and ongoing direct advocacy with FCC and other allies. The rules:

  • Prohibit blocking or degrading access to legal content, applications, services, and non-harmful devices; as well as banning paid prioritization, or favoring some content over other traffic;
  • Apply network neutrality protections to both fixed and mobile broadband, which the library and higher education coalition advocated for in our most recent filings, as well as (unsuccessfully) in response to the 2010 Open Internet Order
  • Allow for reasonable network management while enhancing transparency rules regarding how ISPs are doing this;
  • Create a general Open Internet standard for future ISP conduct; and
  • Re-classify ISPs as Title II “common carriers.”

As anticipated, the decision was quickly challenged in court and in Congress. A broad coalition of network neutrality advocates successfully stymied Congressional efforts to undermine the FCC’s Open Internet Order, and library organizations filed as amici at the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit. In June 2016, the three-judge panel affirmed the FCC’s rules.

What’s the threat: During the presidential campaign, and with more specificity since the election, President-elect Donald Trump and members of his transition team, as well as some Republican members of Congress and the FCC, have made rolling back network neutrality protections a priority for action.

Here’s a sample of what we are reading and hearing these days:

As in the past, attacks on network neutrality may take many different forms, including new legislation, judicial appeal to the Supreme Court, initiating a new rulemaking and/or lack of enforcement by new FCC leadership, or new efforts by ISPs to skirt the rules.

For instance, there may be an effort by some Members of Congress to craft a “compromise” bill that would prohibit blocking and degradation by statute but reverse the FCC’s decision to classify ISPs as Title II common carriers.  We are wary, however, that this so-called compromise may not give the FCC the authority to enforce the statutory rules.

So, now what? As the precise shape of the attacks is still taking form, the library and higher education communities are beginning to connect and engage in planning discussions. We will monitor developments and work with others to mobilize action to ensure Open Internet protections are preserved.

Library advocates can help in several ways:

  • Stay informed via District Dispatch blog (subscribe here) and ARL Policy Notes blog (subscribe here).
  • Sign up for Action Alerts so we can reach you quickly when direct action is needed.
  • Share your stories, blog and engage on social networks about the importance of network neutrality and the need to defend it.

Larra Clark is Deputy Director for the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy and Public Library Association. Krista Cox is ARL Director of Public Policy Initiatives. Kara Malenfant is ACRL Senior Strategist for Special Initiatives.

National Library Groups Question Proposed Copyright Office Reforms

Library Copyright Alliance Logo

Earlier today the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee released a multi-part policy statement entitled “Reform of the U.S. Copyright Office” soliciting public comment on the proposals they outline as a prelude to legislation anticipated in the next Congress. The Library Copyright Alliance, a group of national library organizations collectively representing more than 120,000 libraries in the United States and serving an estimated 200 million patrons annually, released the following statement in response to the Committee’s action:

The Library Copyright Alliance appreciates Chairman Goodlatte’s and Ranking Member Conyers’ transparency and inclusiveness as they move into the final stages of preparing legislation to modernize the U.S. Copyright Office.  LCA looks forward to working with and will participate fully at every stage in that process but underscore two key points today.
First, while we enthusiastically support modernization of the Copyright Office and appropriation of the resources needed to accomplish it, the Librarian of Congress – confirmed in large part for her expertise in managing complicated library technology overhauls – should not defer the appointment of a new Register of Copyrights who can immediately act to bring the office into the 21st Century.  That need is simply too pressing to wait for what promises to be a long legislative debate over the Copyright Office’s possible autonomy from the Library of Congress to be concluded.
Second, any effort to reform the Copyright Office should not interfere with the long-standing legal requirement of depositing copies of works in the course of registering them with the Copyright Office.  The deposit requirement has enabled the Library of Congress to become the world’s greatest research library. Copyright Office modernization should not come at the expense of the Library’s collection and the tremendous public benefits that it provides.

The Library Copyright Alliance consists of the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries.

ACRL Comments on NSF Strategic Plan

On September 26, 2016, ACRL provided feedback to the National Science Foundation (NSF) in preparation for updates to its Strategic Plan. As reflected in previous ACRL support for governmental policies and legislation that facilitate open access and open education, including the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) mandate (mentioned in the NSF strategic plan) and the Fair Access to Science & Technology Research Act and Federal Research Public Access Act bills, ACRL is fundamentally committed to the open exchange of information to empower individuals and facilitate scientific discovery. In the comments to NSF, ACRL offered six recommendations to allow for research data and articles to be freely shared:

  1. Accelerate scientific discovery by encouraging the use of the shortest possible – or no – embargo period for access to NSF-funded publications;
  2. Improve the discoverability, utility and value of NSF-funded articles by depositing them in the PubMed Central repository, which currently houses more than four million articles from the NIH and six other Federal agencies in a standardized, machine-readable XML format;
  3. “Public access” is not “open access” – ensure that NSF articles meet OSTP requirements for enabling productive reuses – including computational analysis, and text and data mining – by requiring the use of a standard open license;
  4. The OSTP memorandum of February, 2013 speaks equally to public access to scientific publications and to scientific data in digital formats. NSF should improve the Agency’s accountability and transparency by requiring that data underlying NSF articles needed to validate/reproduce the articles’ conclusions be made publicly available upon publication;
  5. Incentivize NSF researchers to freely and quickly share articles and their underlying data through funding reviews and promotion processes; and
  6. Further improve NSF’s accountability and transparency by establishing a publicly accessible mechanism to track policy compliance results, including reporting on the number of articles produced from NSF-funded research, and how many are publicly accessible.

Read more in ACRL’s full feedback to NSF.

ACRL Commends Court Decision to Uphold Network Neutrality

On June 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit released its long-awaited opinion in U.S. Telecom Association v. FCC, upholding the FCC’s Open Internet Order from February 26, 2015, by a 2-1 vote. That order was significant for declaring broadband as a utility and setting rules to govern network neutrality by ensuring that broadband providers can’t block or degrade Internet traffic by creating “fast lanes” and “slow lanes.”

ACRL President Ann Campion Riley of the University of Missouri joined the ALA and others in applauding this recent decision to uphold net neutrality protections, saying “The U.S. Court of Appeals decision yesterday supports the high bandwidth applications and services that enable real-time collaboration, content creation, sharing, and learning by educational and community institutions, including libraries. We are pleased the court recognizes the importance of keeping an open Internet and ensuring that Internet providers do not discriminate against users by charging premiums or restricting access, content, applications, or services.”

ACRL has long had an interest in net neutrality, most recently joining three other library associations in a September 2015 amicus brief to support the FCC’s net neutrality rules and including net neutrality on ACRL’s 2016 legislative agenda as a policy issue of concern. Read more about libraries’ advocacy supporting network neutrality.

ACRL Joins In Opposing California Law to Exert Copyright Over Public Records

On June 6, ACRL joined a broad coalition of more than 20 education, library, free speech, open government, and public interest organizations in a letter to the State of California Senate Judiciary Committee opposing legislation in California that would grant blanket authorization to state entities to assert copyright over taxpayer-funded work.

The letter comes in response to California’s A.B. 2880, a state bill that would allow governments at the California state, county, and local levels to exercise copyright restrictions on government-produced materials. The bill was approved by the California State Assembly in a 73-3 vote, and now sits with the State Senate Judiciary Committee.

The core arguments outlined in the letter stress that the legislation:

  1. turns current law on its head rather than clarifying currently law;
  2. would establish a default rule enforceable by federal litigation that all state records can be restricted by copyright;
  3. imposes restrictions on the dissemination and use of written and audiovisual materials; and
  4. discourages research and reporting on public data and threatens citizen participation in government by reserving statutory damages as high as $150,000 per infringed work.

Read more about this legislation in a blog post from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and, if you are a California resident, contact your state legislators and let them know you oppose A.B. 2880.

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