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CA Legislature drops copyright language in AB 2880. Much rejoicing commences!

According to my pal Kris Kasianovitz over at Free State Government Information, California Assembly Bill AB 2880, which would have granted state agencies sweeping powers to copyright their materials — a horrendously bad idea to say the least! — has been amended to remove ALL language about copyright! Please see these posts by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) (big thanks to their coalition advocacy effort on this) and Courthouse News.

EFF summed up the problem thusly:

“Such a broad grant of copyright authority to state and local governments will chill speech, stifle open government, and harm the public domain. It is our hope that the state legislature will scuttle this approach and refrain from covering all taxpayer funded works under a government copyright.”

Thank you to any and all who sent opposition letters to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The amended version is swiftly making it’s way through the Senate.

Law Library of Congress acquires Federal Register from Hein. Yay access, but questions remain

Here’s the good news: The Law Library of Congress has acquired the digital Federal Register (1936 – 1993) from Hein, which until now had only given licensed access to the collection to libraries which had subscribed. The collection is available from the LoC website.

But this raises a few troubling questions:

  1. While the collection seems to be in the Public Domain, the Library of Congress, in its agreement with Hein, states that access “precludes bulk downloading and commercial reuse” and “is provided for personal, educational, and research use.” I’m not a lawyer, but I was unaware that Public Domain material could have license restrictions placed on its use. This small print limits both public access and digital preservation efforts.
  2. Related to #1, I don’t mind the block on the commercial reuse, but bulk access would be very cool for the researchers I know who are interested in corpus and textual analysis. LC should have a process in place to facilitate that kind of access. Bulk access should also be allowed for Web harvesting and preservation efforts of the Internet Archive and others.
  3. The historical content is not yet available via FDsys (which has 1994 – present) or federalregister.gov (also 1994 – present), and I’m not sure if LC’s historical content will be integrated with the current content as it should be since the content 1994 – present is controlled by NARA and GPO. This also limits access as users will need to know that they need to search at least 2 sites to get access to the complete run of FRs.
  4. Related to #3, what will happen to the Government Publishing Office’s project in partnership with the National Archives currently underway to digitize the Federal Register itself and make it available via FDsys/govinfo.gov/federalregister.gov? If GPO and NARA decide that LC’s access is good enough, will they pull the plug on their project? This would be a very bad thing because the GPO/NARA project *will* give access to the historic run (1936 – 1993) in conjunction with the material already available on FDsys and federalregister.gov. And that content will no doubt be in the public domain, will be available for bulk download and will make its way into LOCKSS-USDOCS for distributed preservation by FDLP libraries.

In conclusion, pretty good access to the historic Federal Register is pretty good, but the American public deserve amazing access AND digital preservation assurances for the long term.

The Law Library acquired this collection from William S. Hein & Co., Inc. to make all volumes of the Federal Register available in open access to researchers.  The collection starts with the first Federal Register in 1936 and contains all volumes through 1993. For more recent volumes, see federalregister.gov and FDSys (volumes 1994-2015). The Law Library website for the collection is //www.loc.gov/collections/federal-register/.

via Federal Register Volumes Now Available Online | In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress.

Legislative Data and Transparency Conference 2016

The Congressional Committee on House Administration just finished up the 2016 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference. It was 8 hours chock full of good discussions and panelists from government and the open data community discussing bulk data, open source software, etc. Here’s the agenda for the day, helpful collaborative live notes by my pal Daniel Schuman and others and a lively #LDTC16 twitter feed with lots of back channel discussions and links. A few highlights for me were Josh Tauberer‘s “Mr Smith goes to open source Washington” presentation, the “Consuming the law” panel — which included Scott Matheson, the current chair of the Depository Library Council — and the “Future of Publishing Legislative Data and Documents” where GPO’s Lisa LaPlant had some good food for thought about the future of publishing legislative data and documents.

Watch the entire day as it was live-streamed!

The 2016 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference (#LDTC16), hosted by the Committee on House Administration, will take place on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium.

The #LDTC16 brings individuals from Legislative Branch agencies together with data users and transparency advocates to foster a conversation about the use of legislative data – addressing how agencies use technology well and how they can use it better in the future.

via Legislative Data and Transparency Conference 2016 | Committee on House Administration.

Hurry! Action alert on continued funding for ACS and US Census!!

Care about the US Census and American Community Survey? Of course you do! That being the case, it’ll behoove you to contact your Senators ASAP about a couple of draft amendments coming out in the discussion about the FY2017 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill. The Census Project has the details:

TO CENSUS PROJECT STAKEHOLDERS: Time-sensitive Action Alert

The U.S. Senate has started consideration of the FY2017 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill. We learned today of two amendments that seriously threaten planning for the 2020 Census, as well as the American Community Survey and other important Census Bureau programs, such as the 2017 Economic Census.

(1) Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) will offer an amendment to add questions on citizenship and legal status to the 2020 Census form. The senator’s stated purpose for collecting this information is to exclude undocumented residents (and perhaps all non-citizens; he has used the terms interchangeably in the past) from the state population totals used for congressional apportionment, which are derived from the decennial census (Article I, sec. 2, of the Constitution).

This amendment is a serious threat to a fair and accurate census. Please see our Talking Points, below, for reasons why the Senator’s goal is unconstitutional and how adding these questions to the form would create a “chilling effect” during the census in communities throughout the country and would undermine years of careful planning and preparation for the 2020 Census, now only a few years away.

(2) Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) will offer an amendment to cut the Census Bureau’s funding level by $148 million, essentially wiping out ANY funding “ramp up” for the 2020 Census. With final testing and key design decisions scheduled for 2017, failure to provide any funding increase over FY2016 would force the Bureau to abandon most (if not all) plans to modernize the census; it would have to fall back on the 2010 Census design, at an additional cost of $5+ billion (with a “b”!). Alternatively, the Census Bureau would have to eliminate the American Community Survey and/or 2017 Economic Census, which provides the baseline data for all key national economic indicators, such as GDP. Please see our fact sheet on “Why Full Funding Matters” for talking points (and feel free to share it directly with Senate offices). (The Fischer amendment does not propose a funding reduction to pay for another program in the bill, but simply as a cost-saving measure, so it should be easier for Senators to oppose it.)

We urge your organizations to contact your Senators ASAP and ask them to oppose Vitter Amendment #4687 and Fischer Amendment #4711 to the FY2017 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill (S. 2578), for the reasons outlined in the talking points and fact sheet.

WE ALSO ANTICIPATE THAT OTHER ANTI-CENSUS AND ACS AMENDMENTS COULD ARISE DURING CONSIDERATION OF THE CJS BILL. Therefore, please use the opportunity to ask Senators to OPPOSE ALL AMENDMENTS THAT REDUCE THE FUNDING LEVEL FOR THE CENSUS BUREAU (the CJS bill already cuts the Administration’s budget request for the Census Bureau!) AND THAT UNDERMINE THE AMERICAN COMMUNITY SURVEY, INCLUDING AMENDMENTS THAT WOULD MAKE RESPONSE VOLUNTARY. (For Talking Points on that issue, see our fact sheet about the importance of the ACS).

While the timing of these and other amendments is uncertain due to a filibuster of the CJS bill on gun control issues, the Senate could consider these amendments at any time, so we urge you to reach out to your Senators as soon as possible.

Thank you for your continued support of a fair and accurate 2020 Census and comprehensive ACS!

June 10, 2016

SUPPORT A FAIR AND ACCURATE 2020 CENSUS!
OPPOSE VITTER AMENDMENT #4687 TO ADD
CITIZENSHIP/LEGAL STATUS QUESTIONS TO THE CENSUS FORM
(FY2017 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill – S. 2578)

The Vitter amendment seeks to achieve a purpose that is clearly unconstitutional. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution clearly states that apportionment of the House of Representatives is based on a full count of all residents in each state, regardless of citizenship or legal status.
Republican and Democratic Administrations alike have concluded that excluding undocumented residents and/or non-citizens from the state population totals used for congressional apportionment would be unconstitutional.

The 14th Amendment was enacted, in part, to repeal the provision in Article I that counted slaves as only three-fifths of a person for apportionment purposes. The Vitter amendment evokes this shameful legacy.

The 14th Amendment clearly contemplates that all persons will be counted in the decennial census for apportionment purposes, without regard to eligibility to vote. In fact, many population groups that could not (women; African Americans; Native Americans) or cannot (children; noncitizens; incarcerated persons or those who do not have voting rights by virtue of a felony conviction) vote have always been counted in the census for purposes of congressional apportionment and redistricting.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently confirmed by a vote of 8 – 0, in Evenwel v. Abbott, that the Constitution envisions that members of Congress will represent the interests of all residents of a congressional district, regardless of a person’s eligibility to vote. The same principle applies to the apportionment of seats in Congress that is the basis for redistricting.

The Vitter amendment would put the accuracy of the 2020 Census at risk in every State and every community.

The decennial census has never included questions about citizenship or legal status. (The American Community Survey, the modern version of the census long form, includes a question on citizenship status only.)

Every census since the first enumeration in 1790 has included citizens and non-citizens alike.
Asking about immigration status in the Census is unnecessarily intrusive and will raise concerns among all respondents – both native-born and immigrant – about the confidentiality and privacy of information provided to the government. This will have a chilling effect and keep many residents from responding, jeopardizing the accuracy of the census in every State and community.
Congress allocates roughly $450 billion annually in federal program funds to states and localities, for a range of vital services, based on census data. An inaccurate census will skew the fair distribution of program funds for the next decade.

The Vitter amendment would disrupt 2020 Census planning at a pivotal point, undermining years of research and testing and likely increasing census costs significantly.

The Census Bureau is completing a multi-year research and testing phase of the 2020 Census. By next year, it must finalize all major design elements and prepare for an end-to-end readiness test in early 2018.

Adding new questions on citizenship and legal status would require the Bureau to go back to the drawing board on questionnaire design and testing — such a requirement would threaten its ability to be ready to conduct the 2020 Census on time. But robust testing would be essential, given the probable chilling effect of adding these questions to the form.

Furthermore, the Census Act requires the Census Bureau to submit topics to be included in the 2020 Census by April 1, 2017 — a milestone the Bureau approaches only after years of careful testing and evaluation of questions. The Vitter amendment essentially would require the Bureau to conduct a census using an untested questionnaire, a sure recipe for disaster and an inaccurate result.
The results of many years of painstaking research and testing for the 2020 Census would no longer be reliable, because adding new questions on citizenship and legal status would undoubtedly affect response rates, outreach and advertising strategies, and other important elements of the nation’s most complex peacetime activity. Congress will have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars already spent to plan the 2020 Census, and the cost of the census will rise significantly as the Bureau tries to evaluate untested questions with little time to spare and then count millions of people who will be more reluctant to participate because of the new queries.

For more information: Terri Ann Lowenthal, Senior Advisor, The Census Project ([email protected]).

Yay! The Memory Hole is back!!

I was so happy to see that the Memory Hole — which for a long time posted amazing FOIA’d and found government documents but which went dark in 2009 — is back to work. Russ Kick is doing yeoman’s work to shake loose and shine light on amazing documents. I often save copies in the Stanford Digital Repository and make them available via our library catalog. I hope others will do the same. Scroll to the bottom of the site to subscribe to weekly updates. Welcome back Russ and the Memory Hole!!

The Memory Hole 2 – run by Russ Kick – saves important documents from oblivion. Its predecessor, The Memory Hole (2002-2009), posted hundreds of documents, many of which will be reposted on the new site.

The Memory Hole 2 achieves its mission in several ways:

  • Discovering what documents the US government has pulled offline, recovering them, and reposting them here. In this way, The Memory Hole 2 is the reverse of its namesake in George Orwells 1984, in which official documents that were no longer convenient for the powers-that-be were sent to a furnace through a hole in the wall.
  • Digitizing and posting important documents that previously existed only on paper.
  • Filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for documents across the federal government (including Cabinet-level departments, regulatory agencies, intelligence agencies, and the military), then posting the results. I also sometimes file at the state and local levels, as well as with governments outside the US.
  • Posting documents obtained by other researchers.
  • Proactively mirroring important documents that seem in danger of being pulled offline.
  • Posting documents that are available but are languishing in obscurity. This may include documents buried in huge search-only archives (not browsable), forgotten news reports, startling passages from books, court decisions, etc.
  • Converting documents from inconvenient or cumbersome formats into convenient ones. This might include taking hundreds of one-page and two-page PDF files and merging them into a single document, or making a photo gallery out of images in scattered locations.
  • I do some behind-the-scenes work by downloading gigabytes worth of documents from government websites that use dirty tricks to block automatic archiving and caching, As long as the documents stay on the official sites, I may not post them, but if they ever go missing, I have copies.

via About — The Memory Hole 2.

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