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Pt. 10: Nonlawyer’s journey through Title 44: Implementation of depository library program by Public Printer

This post, all earlier postings in this series, and my “not a lawyer” disclaimer can be found at http://freegovinfo.info/title44 or through our library under Nonlawyer’s Journey through Title 44.

Today I conclude my examination of Federal Depository Law (though NOT Title 44) with Sec. 1914. Implementation of depository library program by Public Printer. In choosing to stop here, I will not comment on two other sections of depository law:

  • Sec. 1915. Highest State appellate court libraries as depository libraries.
  • Sec. 1916. Designation of libraries of accredited law schools as depository libraries.

If you really want to see those sections, just look them up in 44 USC ch. 19.

Now, for Section 1914:

TITLE 44–PUBLIC PRINTING AND DOCUMENTS

CHAPTER 19–DEPOSITORY LIBRARY PROGRAM

Sec. 1914. Implementation of depository library program by
Public Printer

The Public Printer, with the approval of the Joint Committee on Printing, as provided by section 103 of this title, may use any measures he considers necessary for the economical and practical implementation of this chapter.

(Pub. L. 90-620, Oct. 22, 1968, 82 Stat. 1287.)

Historical and Revision Notes

Based on 44 U.S. Code, 1964 ed., Sec. 81c (Pub. L. 87-579, Sec. 10,
Aug. 9, 1962, 76 Stat. 356).

As I read this section, this part of the law gives the Public Printer a considerable amount of discretion in administering the Federal Depository Library Program, as long as his or her measures do not directly violate other provisions of 44 USC ch. 19.

I believe this flexibility is a good thing. It means that the Government Printing Office (GPO) can deal with digital publications without waiting for legislation from Congress. It means that it can work with depositories to improve service to users of government information without taking every little matter back to Congress. I do not know for certain, but it is probably part of the statutory justification for the Future Digital System.

On the down side, this means that librarians and other users of federal information have a heavy burden of proving that GPO is not acting in the interests of the government information community. For instance, GPO could institute heavy duty Digital Rights Management and/or charge users merely to view documents from home and not be in violation of Title 44, provided they made some provision that people could physically go a library and access the content – though not necessarily be able to print it out.

To date, while GPO has tried to sell information over the Internet in the past, they have not tried to lock down documents. But there’s no legal barrier to doing so, which is possibly part of the reason they are insisting on a policy neutral system for the Future Digital System.

What motive could GPO have for wanting to restrict electronic information in the future? Well, that relates to the next section of our journey through Title 44. The next few months of this series will take us to 44 USC Ch. 17– Distribution and Sale of Public Documents.

Before I hear anyone boo that the government should NEVER have sold information paid by the taxpayers in the first place, let me say that when this part of the law was put into place decades ago, it was to promote the free access of government information through depositories. In an age of paper, it made sense.

But more about that next time in Part 11 of our journey. For now, I’d like to see if anyone has questions, comments or challenges to the first ten parts of this layman/practitioner analysis. If you have any, please either put them in comments below, or drop me a line at dnlcornwall AT alaska DOT net. If you do e-mail me, please let me know whether you mind me giving a public response through the blog and whether I can use your name.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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