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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Digital Deposit And The Biennial Survey: context and actions

It is time for the biennial survey of FDLP libraries and, therefore, a good time to review “digital deposit.”

Digital deposit is a very simple concept: It simply means that GPO should treat digital and non-digital government information the same way. In so doing, GPO would allow FDLP libraries to select digital government information and GPO would deposit that digital information with the library. Libraries could then build their own digital collections and provide their own digital services for those collections. This is completely different from GPO’s definition of “online depositories” that point to, but do not have, digital files. In the digital deposit scenario, libraries would continue to be depositories regardless of format. [1]

Over the last twelve years, GPO has asked questions on the the biennial surveys that reveal meaningful FDLP library interest in digital deposit. GPO did not ask the same question on every survey and this makes it difficult to compare results over time. In spite of this, the responses from the FDLP community were remarkably consistent.

For example, when asked (in various ways) if libraries were interested in receiving files via digital deposit, hundreds of FDLP libraries consistently said they were interested: 394 in 2005, 453 in 2007, 416 in 2009, and 300 in 2015. (See the Appendix, below, for the details of all the numbers quoted in this post.)

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Treasury Department scrubs paper from website

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Treasury Department removed from its website a 2012 technical paper that contradicts the statements that the Treasury Secretary has been making about corporate tax cuts.

The 34-page technical paper about corporate income taxes was written by staff of the Treasury Department's Office of Tax Analysis.

The Internet Archive captured the report as recently as May 20, 2017, but shows it gone by September 29.


Internet Archive shows “TP-5”.


Today: Treasury Department shows Technical Papers 1-4 and 6. Number 5 is missing.

The Wall Street Journal article says that the economic analysis in the paper "contradicts Secretary Steven Mnuchin's argument that workers would benefit the most from a corporate income tax cut." Mnuchin has been arguing that workers bear most of the corporate-tax burden, but the paper says that workers pay only 18% of the corporate tax while owners of capital pay 82%.

“The point is central to Mr. Mnuchin’s argument that workers would benefit from the corporate tax cut the administration is proposing, and switching that assumption would significantly alter the estimates of who would benefit from the Republican tax policy framework released on Wednesday.” [WSJ]

The article quotes a Treasury spokeswoman saying that "The paper was a dated staff analysis from the previous administration. It does not represent our current thinking and analysis.

According to the Treasury Department, technical papers of the Office of Tax Analysis are not intended to reflect department policy, but are intended to help improve the quality of analysis:

The OTA Technical Papers Series presents documentation of the models, datasets, and methods developed by staff and used for policy analysis and estimates. The papers are intended to generate discussion and critical comment while informing and improving the quality of the analysis conducted by the Office. The papers are works in progress and subject to revision. Views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent official Treasury positions or policy. [Office of Tax Analysis]

Richard Rubin, the author of the WSJ article notes that other technical papers from 2008 through 2016 remain on its site, along with working papers dating back to 1974. The Technical paper was also published in the National Tax Journal published by the National Tax Association.

  • "Distributing The Corporate Income Tax: Revised U.S. Treasury Methodology." Cronin, Julie Anne, Lin, Emily Y.,Power, Laura, Cooper, Michael. National Tax Journal, Mar 2013, Vol. 66 Issue 1, p239-262.

A search for the paper in Google Scholar still has a link to the URL at the Treasury Department , but that link returns an error message of: "401 UNAUTHORIZED."

Discussing DLC’s Title 44 Recommendations. Thoughts and questions

Depository Library Council (DLC) released its recommendations for Title 44 reform yesterday.

  • Title 44 Reform Recommendations from the DLC (October 03 2017) [PDF file].

These recommendations will be at the center of discussions at the upcoming Fall 2017 Depository Library Conference. The entire Monday afternoon session (October 16) will be devoted to a discussion of Title 44 with Depository Library Council (DLC).

A context for discussion

When we proposed changes to Title 44, we suggest that any recommendation for such change should address at least one of the following four principles.

  1. privacy
  2. free access and use
  3. preservation
  4. modernizing the scope of the FDLP

As we head into discussions of Title 44 at the upcoming DLC meeting, we suggest that attendees evaluate any Title 44 changes being recommended by turning those principles into questions:

    Does this recommendation…

  • protect the privacy of users?
  • help ensure long-term, free public access and use of government information?
  • help ensure the long-term preservation of government information?
  • modernize the scope of the FDLP for the digital age?

Analysis of DLC recommendations

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Strengthening the Discussions about Title 44

Since last week, when we posted Stanford Library Director Michael Keller’s letter to the Committee on House Administration (CHA) and the Joint Committee on Printing (JCP), there has been more activity around the efforts to modify Title 44 of the US Code. We understand that the ALA and its Committee on Legislation (COL), the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT), other ALA divisions and round tables, and The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) are all actively investigating the issues.

When we look at the last ten years of discussions of the FDLP, we can anticipate what some of the proposals will be. We anticipate proposals with high-sounding promises about access and preservation with details that propose changes to Title 44 that will weaken and diminish the role of libraries, promote the fragile model of centralizing control of government information with GPO, entrench GPO’s long-term efforts to replace FDLP with short-term "partners," and make it easier to discard and destroy the FDLP Historic Collections. We also anticipate proposals to promote digitizing the Historic Collections — which can already be done without changes to the law. We imagine that there will be proposals that will not enhance access or preservation or strengthen the role of libraries, but will be pitched as "saving" or "expanding" the FDLP.

This will be confusing! We hope that discussions will focus on changes that will actually strengthen long-term free public access.

With this in mind, we have written four new posts on FGI that explain in clear language the reasons behind and the effects of the six recommendations we have made in our earlier post “This is not a drill. The future of Title 44 and the depository library program hang in the balance.” Our specific proposals are based on 4 principles. We invite you to hold other proposals to the same standards.

Read and discuss!

Strengthening Title 44:

  1. Modernize the definition of "publications"
  2. Ensure Free Access
  3. Ensure Privacy
  4. Ensure Preservation

James and Jim

Strengthening Title 44, part 4: Preservation

Preservation

This is the fourth in a series of four posts in which we elaborate on the reasons behind our recent recommendations for strengthening Title 44 of the U.S. Code.

We recommend changes to chapters 19 and 41 of Title 44 that will require the preservation of digital government information.

Recommendation

Require Preservation

Make changes to §1904 and §1905 to explicitly include “digital public information” that GPO will deposit by sending digital files (including metadata) to FDLP libraries. Define “digital depositories” as FDLP libraries that receive, store, preserve, and provide access to digital government information they acquire through the Depository Program. (GPO’s current use of terms such as “digital-only depositories” and “All or Mostly Online depositories” for libraries into which nothing is deposited are misleading to Congress and the public.) In addition, modify the text of §1911 to define a class of FDLP digital preservation libraries. Those FDLP libraries will agree to retain all digital content sent through the depository program, will preserve that content, and will make it available for the free use of the general public. Add text to §4101 requiring GPO to preserve and provide free public access to all the digital content that it adds to its “electronic storage facility for Federal electronic information.”

Current Law

Neither Chapter 19 (FDLP) nor Chapter 41 (govinfo.gov) use the word “preservation” or contain any requirements for the long term preservation of digital government information.

There are retention requirements for selective depositories in §1911 and for regional depositories in §1912, but, by GPO policy, these requirements currently only apply to so-called “tangible” items and exclude so-called “online” items. GPO’s persistent attempts over the last decade to weaken the current retention requirements suggest that it may want to change the law to further weaken or even scrap the existing retention requirements (Jacobs and Jacobs 2017b).

Chapter 41 can be read as implying that digital information will be preserved, but even that is limited in scope. Section 4101 requires GPO to provide access to and store only two digital titles, the Congressional Record and the Federal Register. It leaves it up to the Superintendent of Documents to determine what content is added to — or withdrawn from — govinfo.gov.

Title 44 does have provisions for the preservation of some government information, but these are limited. Chapter 21 establishes the National Archives And Records Administration (NARA) in Chapters 29, 31 and 33 defines the scope of preservation. Chapter 36 gives the Office of Electronic Government some responsibility for overseeing preservation of government information.

Analysis

Chapter 41 of Title 44 does not require GPO to preserve anything. The law can and should be strengthened to make preservation an explicit requirement, not a policy option that could change with the political exigencies of the moment. The law should also be modernized to reflect the reality of born-digital publishing by expanding the scope of what is preserved.

The task of preserving enormous amounts of digital government information is daunting and probably beyond the ability of any single government agency. GPO has recognized and admitted in its National Plan that it needs partners. But GPO’s current policies have effectively blocked FDLP libraries from participating as digital preservation partners — and there is barely a trickle of FIPnet partner libraries agreeing to be “preservation stewards” preserve minuscule numbers of physical documents. GPO has, through policy, even attempted to redefine “depository” libraries as libraries into which nothing is deposited.

The existing laws that define preservation outside of FDLP are limited in scope and effect. The Chapters of Title 44 cited above and the Federal Records Act and similar laws and regulations cover only a portion of the huge amount of information gathered and created by the government. Most government agencies do not have a mission that includes either the long-term preservation of their information or free public access to it. The preservation plans that do exist are subject to interpretation by political appointees who may not always have preservation as their highest priority.

Our recommendations (including broadening the scope of FDLP) would give GPO, along with its FDLP library partners, a clear responsibility for the long-term preservation of and free public access to public government information.

Specifically, our recommendation would prevent GPO from removing content from govinfo.gov once it has been added. It would give FDLP libraries the flexibility to select digital government information and build their own digital collections and services. It would set up a new category of digital-depository preservation-partner that would strengthen long-term digital preservation without weakening GPO or govinfo.gov. These changes would complement, not replace govinfo.gov.

Effects

The recommended changes to Title 44 would have several positive effects.

  • The recommendation would modernize the law to recognize born-digital information by redefining the scope of Chapter 41 to include all federal digital “public information.”
  • By including digital public information in the depository program, GPO would immediately gain dedicated, legally-mandated partners for digital preservation and online access.
  • The changes would enhance access by promoting digital collections in FDLP libraries. When libraries have curated collections that they control, they can develop robust discovery and access services tailored to the needs of the communities they serve. (Jacobs and Jacobs 2016, Jacobs 2009)
  • By explicitly specifying retention requirements for deposited digital government information, the law would enhance digital preservation by putting many digital copies under different technical, administrative, and financial control.
  • The recommendation would modernize the law for the digital age by establishing a new class of FDLP digital preservation libraries.
  • The recommendation would close the loophole in the current law that allows GPO to withdraw content from its digital storage and access facility.
  • By focusing on digital preservation rather than on weakening the existing retention requirements for paper publications, these changes would enhance rather than weaken preservation of all government information.

Endnotes

Authors:
James A. Jacobs, University of California San Diego
James R. Jacobs, Stanford University

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