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Part 11: Nonlawyer’s Journey through Title 44 – Introducing the Sales Program

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.

After a few weeks hiatus, I’m ready to tackle another major section of Title 44 that affects the dissemination of government information and Federal Depository Libraries. I’m speaking of 44 USC chapter 17: Distribution and sale of public documents. While this is a section of law that many depository librarians, myself included, wish didn’t exist, it does and so needs to be examined. In addition, it was first proposed with good intentions. In an age of paper, the Sales Program helped provide some of the funding needed to make publications freely available to the public through Federal Depository Libraries. In a mostly electronic age I believe that the existence of the sales program is a direct threat to free access to government information, at least to access at times and places of a citizen’s choosing.

But I’ll more to say about the interactions current and possibly future between the depository program and the sales program after we’ve concluded our examination of chapter 17. Unless people ask questions either through comments or by e-mailing me at dnlcornwall AT alaska.net

We begin our consideration of chapter 17 with Sec. 1701:

TITLE 44–PUBLIC PRINTING AND DOCUMENTS

CHAPTER 17–DISTRIBUTION AND SALE OF PUBLIC DOCUMENTS

Sec. 1701. Publications for public distribution to be distributed by the Public Printer; mailing lists

Money appropriated by any Act may not be used for services in an executive department or other Government establishment at the District of Columbia, in the work of addressing, wrapping, mailing, or otherwise dispatching a publication for public distribution, except maps, weather reports, and weather cards issued by them or for the purchase of material or supplies to be used in this work. The Public Printer shall perform this work at the Government Printing Office. The head of an executive department, independent office, and establishment of the Government at the District of Columbia, shall furnish from time to time to the Public Printer mailing lists, in convenient form, and changes in them, or penalty mail slips, for use in the public distribution of publications issued by the department or establishment. The Public Printer may furnish copies of a publication only in accordance with law or the instruction of the head of the department or establishment issuing the publication.
This section does not apply to orders, instructions, directions, notices, or circulars of information printed for and issued by an executive department or other Government establishment or to the distribution of public documents by Senators or Members of the House of Representatives or to the Senate Service Department, House of Representatives Publications Distribution Service, and document rooms of the Senate or House of Representatives.

(Pub. L. 90-620, Oct. 22, 1968, 82 Stat. 1278.)

Historical and Revision Notes

Based on 44 U.S. Code, 1964 ed., Sec. 95 (Aug. 23, 1912, ch. 350, Sec. 8, 37 Stat. 414; July 2, 1954, ch. 455, title I, Sec. 101, 68 Stat. 397).
“House of Representatives Publications Distribution Service” is substituted for “House Folding Room” because of the change of name under authority of Public Law 88-652. The term “executive department, independent office, and establishment of the Government” is substituted for “executive department and other Government establishment” for uniformity.

Section Referred to in Other Sections
This section is referred to in section 1722 of this title.

As near as I can read this section, it seems to keep maintenance of mailing lists of items with the agencies, while insuring that agency money won’t be used in mailing publications to customers. But if a publication is being distributed within the government only, then the agency picks up the distribution tab.

If someone has some better insight, please offer it in the comments. Next time we will look at 44 USC 1702, which spells out some of the sales duties of the Superintendent of Documents, the same official who is in charge of the Federal Depository Library Program.

[Update – July 25, 2006]
I was mistaken about the Sales Program EVER subsidizing the depository program. Here is the the real story straight for Superintendent of Documents Judy Russell:

—– Original Message —–
From: “Russell, Judith C. (SuDoc)”
To: “‘Discussion of Government Document Issues'”
Cc:
Sent: Tuesday, July 25, 2006 5:05 AM
Subject: RE: New Discussions at FGI: July 24, 2006

In his most recent analysis of Title 44, Dan Cornwall states: “In an age of paper, the Sales Program helped provide some of the funding needed to make publications freely available to the public through Federal Depository Libraries.”

The GPO Sales Program is by statute a self-sustaining program. Revenue from the Sales Program has never been used to fund the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), which receives its funding from annual Congressional appropriations.

By providing a means for individuals and organizations to purchase copies of Federal government publications, the GPO Sales Program complements free public access through tangible depository collections and free online access. It will continue to serve the public by providing an alternative to
using tangible Federal publications in libraries or downloading/printing copies from the Internet.

Judy Russell

Judith C. Russell ([email protected])
Managing Director, Information Dissemination (Superintendent of Documents)
U.S. Government Printing Office
Phone: 202-512-0571
Fax: 202-512-1434

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


1 Comment

  1. The GPO Sales Program is by statute a self-sustaining program. Revenue from the Sales Program has never been used to fund the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), which receives its funding from annual Congressional appropriations.

    By providing a means for individuals and organizations to purchase copies of Federal government publications, the GPO Sales Program complements free public access through tangible depository collections and free online access. It will continue to serve the public by providing an alternative to using tangible Federal publications in libraries or downloading/printing copies from the Internet.

    Judith C. Russell
    Superintendent of Documents

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