We have seen this happen before in the U.S. (See, for example: The NARA/TGN contract as a bad precedent and GAO *did* sell exclusive access to legislative history to Thomson West) and Canada (Help save the Library & Archives Canada), but this seems like a particularly bad, unjustifiable example of privatization of public information.
- Library and Archives Canada private deal would take millions of documents out of public domain, By Chris Cobb, OTTAWA CITIZEN (June 12, 2013).
Library and Archives Canada has entered a hush-hush deal with a private high-tech consortium that would hand over exclusive rights to publicly owned books and artifacts for 10 years.
...LAC is partnering with Canadiana.org in what is being billed as The Heritage Project -- digitizing 40 million images from more than 800 collections of publicly-held LAC material, much bought by Library and Archives over the years with taxpayers' money.
...Under the agreement, digital images will begin rolling back into the free public domain -- known as "open access" -- as the 10-year exclusive rights expire.
Hat tip to InfoDocket!
Barbara Fister writes about privacy and government secrecy in the wake of the exposure of the government's "Prism" program and other surveillance activities.
- Ordinary Americans, by Barbara Fister, Inside Higher Ed (June 10, 2013).
The effects of government secrecy on the privacy of Americans and its overlap with libraries and the Right to Read has a long history. In recent decades we have had the FBI's "Library Awareness Program" (See Surveillance in the Stacks The FBI's Library Awareness Program By Herbert N. Foerstel, Greenwood Press. Westport, Conn. 1991), the "PATRIOT" Act with its library-records clause, the "Total Information Awareness" program, the "Terrorist Surveillance Act," and more.
Fister quotes from the Church committee hearings of the 1970s. Her article is worth a read.
See more about privacy here on FGI:
- PRIVACY: Key Challenges Facing Federal Agencies (2006)
- Privacy and the "Terrorist Surveillance Act" (2006)
The "Terrorist Surveillance Act" is misnamed. It doesn't authorize the government to spy on terrorists, it authorizes the government to spy on everyone hoping that it can find terrorists.
- Turkle on Privacy (2007)
- Privacy: "I have nothing to hide" (2007)
- Siva on Privacy and 'the Nonopticon' (2008)
- Privacy: "I have nothing to hide" (2011)
- Privacy in the value chain: an important role for libraries past and future (2011)
- Privacy then and now: Some history of the "Patriot" Act (2011)
The Sunlight Foundation is compiling a list of "transparency advocates" (CSOs, groups, networks, government projects) from all around the world. They are making their findings public as a spreadsheet available as a google doc ( https://docs.google.com/a/sunlightfoundation.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ao... ). In addition to name and URL, the list includes focus areas and social media links and much more.
So far they have a list of over 500 opengov groups across the globe. If you don't see your transparency organization in the list, submit information about it to Sunlight Foundation here: http://snlg.ht/19tUoCS
- International Transparency Organizations, Sunlight Foundation.
Law Libraries and the FDLP: An Interview with Sally Holterhoff, American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Washington Blawg (June 3rd, 2013).
AALL past president Sarah (Sally) G. Holterhoff is the Associate Professor of Law Librarianship and Government Information/Reference Librarian at Valparaiso University Law School Library. Sally has chaired AALL's Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) Task Force since its creation in 2012. The Government Relations Office recently sent Sally a number of questions about the mission of the task force, it's past and present work, and the role of law librarians in the FDLP.
Clifford Lynch's new article in American Libraries examines how e-books have failed to deliver on much of their promise. He says that, worse than just failing to provide us cheaper, better, greener reading experience, e-books have become "a weapon capable of considerable social damage" and "a Faustian technology that seduces with convenience." He says e-books are "extracting a corrosive toll on our social institutions and norms" and notes that the failures of e-books are not primarily technological.
Here at FGI we agree strongly with many of his conclusions about digital preservation. For example, he says that "it is neither reasonable nor wise to place all our hopes for preservation of the cultural record on any single library" and we have long advocated digital collections of digital depository information in FDLP libraries because we believe it is unwise to rely on GPO alone to preserve this information for us. He also notes that "The survival and the stability of ebooks are also tethered to the survival, continued interest, and good behavior of the providers." We worry that for FDLP libraries to rely on the "good behavior" of Congress in providing continuing, long-term preservation and free access is a huge mistake. The only way that FDLP libraries will be able to guarantee free access to government information is if FDLP libraries select, acquire, preserve, and control that information that they wish to guarantee.
By examining the promises and failures of e-books, Lynch provides us an analogy to the promises and failures of library practices and policies with regard the preservation of digital government information. He notes that digital preservation must be a concern of all libraries: "Responsible libraries of all types must consider the preservation issues thoughtfully, even if they ultimately conclude (as many public libraries may well) that preservation isn't the library's mission."
- Ebooks in 2013: Promises Broken, Promises Kept, and Faustian Bargains, by Clifford Lynch, [PDF extract of the article from the American Libraries e-content supplement, "Digital Content: What's Next?" (June 2013)]. The complete supplement with other articles is also available.
Here is an entertaining and informative 52 minute podcast that gives an historical overview of patents and copyright and other "intellectual property" issues from an American perspective. Although they do not discuss government information issues specifically, the history they do discuss provides the context for the public good of public information and the attempts to privatize or commodify public information.
This is definitely informative, but The American History Guys of Backstory (Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh) are more like the Car Guys than your high school history teacher. They discuss everyone from Mark Twain to Phyllis Diller and guests include Ananda Chakrabarty, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Kembrew McLeod, University of Iowa, Doron Ben-Atar, Fordham University. Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Virginia, and Chris Sprigman, University of Virginia School of Law.
Listen and enjoy.
- Patent Pending: A History of Intellectual Property, The American History Guys, Backstory (May 20, 2013).
Can genes be patented? Are downloaders inhibiting musical creativity -- or enhancing it? This week's BackStory explores how Americans have viewed "intellectual property" over time. What exactly is intellectual property? And what are protections for these kinds of rights supposed to achieve? The American History Guys look to the past for answers.
- Download the mp3 file.
- Subscribe to the Backstory podcast.
The House Assembly today passed the California Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act (AB 609). The act is now set to be heard in the Senate later this summer. If AB 609 becomes law, it will unlock access to the results of more than $200 million in annual, state-funded scientific research.
- California Open Access Legislation Clears Latest Hurdle, By David Knutson, PLOS blog (May 30, 2013)
Big Hat Tip to Gary at InfoDocket where you can see more links.
GPO's Government Book Talk blog posted an item yesterday about the Sourcebook of the United States Executive Agencies with links to the GPO online bookstore and a suggestion to search for hardcopies of the book in FDLP libraries, using WorldCat. The Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University has a digital copy (pdf) available online.
- All the President’s Men and Women: Sourcebook of the US Executive Agencies, Government Printing Office, Government Book Talk blog (May 24, 2013).
...a first-of-its-kind publication by the Administrative Conference of the United States.
This first edition of the Sourcebook of the United States Executive Agencies was published in December 2012 to break down information and numbers by what they refer to as the "executive establishment," which is the executive branch and all the other Federal agencies, offices, bureaus, and boards that serve the President that do not fall neatly under any of the three branches of the Federal government.
- Sourcebook of United States Executive Agencies, [announcement] Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Vanderbilt University.
- Sourcebook of the United States Executive Agencies, [pdf] David E. Lewis and Jennifer L. Selin, Administrative Conference of the United States, Vanderbilt University, First Edition, 2012.
- ACUS Sourcebook Codebook/Appendix. [pdf] This document describes the data collected for theh ACUS Sourcebook of the United States Executive Agencies. It includes the codebook describing the variables and their coding and the statutory provisions justifying the coding.
- ACUS Sourcebook Data. This Microsoft Excel spreadsheet includes data on 55 statutory characteristics for 10 agencies in the Executive Office of the President, 15 executive departments, and 81 independent agencies. The data was collected by a team of researchers during the summer of 2012. Data collection details are included in the accompanying Sourcebook Codebook and Appendix.
The Congressional War on the Social Sciences, by Kenneth Prewitt, Pacific Standard (May 24, 2013).
"There’s nothing wrong with requiring accountability from government-sponsored science. But when policymakers’ questions misjudge the role that science plays, we have a problem."
House bill 1211 amends the Freedom of Information Act with the intended purpose being to provide for greater public access to information. The bill would require federal agencies to make public information disclosed under FOIA available in an electronic, publicly accessible format and require the OMB to ensure the existence and operation of a single, free website for submitting requests for records and receiving automated information about the status of a FOIA request.
- H. R. 1211 To amend section 552 of title 5, United States Code (commonly known as the Freedom of Information Act), to provide for greater public access to information, and for other purposes., [pdf] Mr. ISSA (for himself and Mr. CUMMINGS), 113TH Congress 1st session, March 15, 2013.
- Bill Summary & Status, Thomas.
- Cost Estimate, H.R. 1211 FOIA Act, by Matthew Pickford, Elizabeth Cove Delisle, Paige Piper/Bach, Theresa Gullo. Congressional Budget Office (May 21, 2013).