Issue 107, January 2005

Table of Contents

  1. Think Your Commute is Tough?
  2. GPO Proposes 21st Century Digital Information Factory
  3. NRC Takes Down Information from its Online Reading Room
  4. Web Won't Let Government Hide
  5. GPO's Web Harvesting Project
  6. National Historical Geographic Information System
  7. ALA Midwinter meeting, Jan 14-17, 2005, Boston, MA
  8. More FDLP Information
  9. The Most Frequently Asked Government Documents Questions in a Public Library
  10. GPO Revises Policy for Restricting Public Access to Documents
  11. NIH Waffling on Providing Free Access to Federally Financed Research Articles?
  12. Stop GPOs Abrupt Decision to Eliminate Print Distribution of Important
    Government Information to Our Nations Federal Depository Libraries
  13. Cass Hartnett will Help Demystify Government Documents at ALA this Summer
  14. Matthew Lesko Gets Bad Press from New York Consumer Protection Board
  15. Copyright Office Seeks Feedback on Orphan Works
  16. A Culture of Secrecy
  17. Innovative Legislative Tracking Tool Now Available
  18. Commission on Civil Rights Drops Reports from Web Page

(1) Think Your Commute is Tough?

The hard-and-fast rule on Martz Trailways Bus No. 101: no talking.

Almost as soon as the bus lurches from the station at 5:05 a.m., the 42 bleary-eyed commuters slouch into their seats and squeeze as many z's as they can on the two-hour ride into New York City. The only sounds are soft snores.

"The sun isn't even up," says Sandra Foster, 42, who's been making the 85-mile trip into Manhattan for nearly a year to her job as an information-technology recruiter. "The last thing anyone wants to do is chat."

Foster is one of 3.4 million Americans who endure a daily "extreme commute" of 90 minutes or more each way to work. They're among the fastest-growing segment of commuters, according to a Census study, Journey to Work, released in March. Their commute times are more than triple the national average of 25.5 minutes each way.

For many extreme commuters, the distance is so far they actually travel through several weather zones — from the edge of the Mojave Desert to the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, or from Pennsylvania resort towns in the Poconos to midtown Manhattan.

Extreme commuting is being driven by strong forces. And this year's surge in gasoline prices hasn't deterred people from driving longer distances to get to work. Workplace shifts make it easier to telecommute, use flextime or work part time. Accelerating prices for close-in housing push people farther from cities to find affordable homes.

And government planners, desperate to keep traffic moving, are spending billions to improve mass transit, including far-flung routes for express buses and commuter rail lines. Whatever the outlook, extreme commuters are pounding out the corridors of what will become the next generation of suburbs.

For government statistics behind the story, see Journey to Work and Place of Work by the Census Bureau and Journey to Work Trends in the United States and its Major Metropolitan Areas: 1960 - 2000, prepared by Nancy McGuckin, Consultant, and Nanda Srinivasan, Cambridge Systematics, Inc. for the US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Planning (Publication No. FHWA -EP-03-058), June 30, 2003.

The full article by Debbie Howlett and Paul Overberg appears in USA TODAY, Nov. 29, 2004.

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(2) GPO Proposes 21st Century Digital Information Factory

The Government Printing Office, which recently reported strong operating results for its last fiscal year, today announced the publication of A Strategic Vision for the 21st Century, which sets forth the agency's plans to transform itself from a 19th century, heavy-metal printing operation into a nimble 21st century digital information factory.

"We had to wake up. Last month 50% of all Government documents were born digital and will never be printed by the Government. But the GPO is still required by law to gather and catalog these electronic documents, to distribute them electronically, and to ensure their perpetual availability to the public," said Bruce James, Public Printer of the United States. "This task calls for a whole new set of skills and tools; what we call a digital information factory."

Central to GPO's plans is trading its existing building complex for new facilities, sized and equipped for its digital future. "Rather than burden taxpayers with the enormous costs of building and equipping our operations for the future, we believe that we can use the proceeds from the private redevelopment of our current obsolete plant to completely pay the costs of new facilities and still have money left over to return to the U.S. Treasury," James said.

The GPO's strategic vision also calls for the reorganization of the agency around six core lines of business ranging from Digital Media Services to Security and Intelligent Documents. Each business line is to be supervised by a general manager who will have complete responsibility for the operations and financial success of their unit.

As it has since 1861, the GPO will continue to manage the content creation of the official journals of Government, such as the Congressional Record and Federal Register, and will print these and other documents for Congress in its new facilities. But, the majority of the Federal Government's printing requirements will continue to be purchased in the private sector through a competitive bidding process. Last year, the GPO, which buys 600 to 1,000 printing jobs a day, awarded contracts to 2,568 vendors, that were located in every state in the country.

"We see the Government's printing requirements changing dramatically in the next few years. Not only will fewer titles be printed, but the quantities will drop as more Government information is accessed through the internet. Within a few years we will no longer order copies for warehouse storage and later fulfillment, instead relying on demand printing, where our vendors print one copy for each individual customer's order," said Jim Bradley, GPO's Managing Director of Customer Services.

Judy Russell, Superintendent of Documents at GPO, is responsible for the dissemination of both printed and electronic documents to the public. "To fully serve the needs of our library partners and the public for finding and using Government information on the Internet, we will need to go back in time. We are proposing to begin with the Federalist Papers and digitize all significant federal documents following a set of standards that will allow users to search the Web for authentic Federal information," said Russell.

GPO's A Strategic Vision for the 21st Century is available at

Source: GPO News Release, Dec. 13, 2004.

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(3) NRC Takes Down Information from its Online Reading Room

In yet another sign of the tricky post-9/11 information landscape, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) last month blocked public access to its online reading room, then restored some documents. According to OMB Watch, the blocking started Oct. 25 after media reports said the site might contain some documents that could be used by terrorists, including floor plans and locations of nuclear materials related to a possible application for a high- level waste repository. However, said OMB Watch, rather than selecting specific documents for removal, the agency blocked all public access to that portion of the site.

Although NRC by November 4 restored some documents, the agency would not provide a specific schedule for reviewing and reposting the rest of the documents. "The remainder of the restoration will proceed in a phased manner, based on priorities and feasibility, with large portions of the information expected to be restored in the next several weeks." (See NRC Statement.) "The Commission is committed to conducting its work in the open to protect public health, safety, and security while maintaining appropriate accessibility to its activities," said NRC Chairman Niles J. Diaz. "However, we will withhold any information that could be useful, or could reasonably be expected to be useful, to a terrorist." OMB Watch noted that, "it is unclear what standards the agency is using to determine what information could be useful to a terrorist." NRC on November 16 announced it was restoring some more documents: see NRC statement). Source: Library Journal Academic Newswire (TM), November 30, 2004.

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(4) Web Won't Let Government Hide

When government agencies withhold information unnecessarily and congressional overseers are dormant or complicit, members of the public are left at a serious disadvantage.

But they are not entirely helpless.

That is the message of two news stories that were coincidentally published today, and that both feature Secrecy News among several other public interest initiatives to promote public access to government information.

See "Web Won't Let Government Hide" by Ryan Singel, Wired News, November 29:,1848,65800,00.html and "Activists Crawl Through Web to Untangle U.S. Secrecy" by William Fisher, Inter Press Service News Agency, November 29: Source: Secrecy News from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy, Volume 2004, Issue No. 105, November 29, 2004.

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(5) GPO's Web Harvesting Project

Over the past few years, GPO has become increasingly aware that many publications being published by Federal agencies are not being included in the FDLP; these documents have come to be known as "fugitive publications". With increasing frequency, agencies are publishing information only in electronic formats and, when this occurs, they frequently fail to inform GPO of these new publications for inclusion in the FDLP and CGP. In addition, agencies sometimes procure their printing directly from private sector companies or use in-house facilities rather than coming to GPO and then fail to inform GPO of these publications, although there may be electronic counterparts on the publishing agency Web sites that could and should be included in the FDLP and CGP.

In light of the large number of publications that have become fugitive, GPO is seeking Web crawler and data mining technologies that can provide a solution for the identification and harvesting of fugitive documents and publications from agency Web sites. In order to begin, GPO plans to launch a pilot project with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to crawl the primary EPA Web site and its sub-agency Web sites."

Source: GPO Web Harvesting Project Solicitation, GOVDOC-L, Jan. 5, 2005.

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(6) National Historical Geographic Information System

I am very pleased to announce that the beta version of the National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS), produced and hosted by the Minnesota Population Center (MPC), is now available from

The NHGIS is a project to create and freely disseminate a database incorporating all available aggregate census information for the United States between 1790 and 2000.

Not only will all of the data available in depository publications be represented on the NHGIS when it is complete, but non-depository Population Census data such as pre-1940 tract-level data will also be included. Goodies coming soon include 1940-1960 tract-level data, 1980 Summary Tape Files 1 and 3, and the 1970 housing and population files.

Currently available are the 1990 Summary Tape Files 1-4 (yes, that's right, this includes 2 and 4!). The rest of the major 1990 files are in the pipeline, with the metadata for the Subject Summary Tape Files in development right now.

Source: Amy West, University of Minnesota, Government Publications Library; Phone: (612) 625-6368; Email:; via GOVDOC-L, Jan. 6, 2005.

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(7) ALA Midwinter meeting, Jan 14-17, 2005, Boston, MA

The Government Printing Office FY2005 and FY2006 budgets for printing and binding materials for distribution to depository libraries will drop to approximately $5 million from $8 million in FY2004. As it currently costs 3.5 million to print publications on the Essential Titles list for all depository library, libraries have been asked to consider new models for allocation of printing funds and for final options to be presented in April 2005.

Options mentioned at Midwinter:

GPO is creating print on demand masters for most new publications so libraries will of course be able to purchase any (further) documents they wish, regardless of the final option implemented.

While this can be considered another step toward a 100% electronic depository system, the speed of the change, the as-yet unfinished implementation of GPO's proposals for digital archiving and a print collection of last resort, plus reconsideration of the previously sacrosanct Essential Titles list, makes this a controversial announcement for some. Expect to see more discussion as April approaches.

Source: Hui Hua Chua, Federal Documents Librarian, Michigan State University Libraries.

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(8) More FDLP Information

At ALA's Midwinter Conference in Boston, Superintendent of Documents Judy Russell announced that GPO's FY2006 Salaries and Expenses Appropriations request will be a less than in years past. The most widely-discussed proposal for allocation of the appropriated funds is one that will provide funding for the distribution in print of those titles on the Essential Titles List, as well as a print-on-demand allowance of $500 for selective depositories and $1500 for regional depositories.

Taking into account the fact that GPO has not yet established a reliable system for authenticating, preserving, and maintaining permanent public access to electronic government information, and that the Essential Titles list does not include Congressional hearings, reports, and documents, as well as maps and other information that is more usable in print, ALA Council adopted a Resolution Opposing GPO's Decision to Eliminate Print Distribution of Important Government Information. This resolution calls for Congress to "hold timely oversight hearings on GPO's new initiatives and changes to the Federal Depository Library Program.' Talking points are now posted on the GODORT Legislation Committee's web site, at

More discussion on this topic will occur at the upcoming Depository Library Council meeting, to be held in Albuquerque, NM, April 17th-20th. More information is available at

An initial "talking points" document is available at: More information and advice about how to take action will soon be forthcoming.

Source: Valerie Glenn Documents Librarian & Liaison to the Department of Political Science, University of North Texas Libraries, P.O. Box 305190, Denton, TX 76203-5190, via GOVDOC-L, January 24, 2005.

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(9) The Most Frequently Asked Government Documents Questions in a Public Library

Thinking back to my public library days, some of the more frequently asked questions (and useful URLs) that had to do with government documents or the federal government were:

Source: Grace-Ellen McCrann, Chief, Government Documents & Reference Divisions, The City College of New York, Cohen Library, 2nd Floor, 138th Street & Convent Avenue, New York, NY 10031; Telephone: (212) 650 5073; via GOVDOC-L, January 13, 2005.

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(10) GPO Revises Policy for Restricting Public Access to Documents

The Government Printing Office has revised its policy governing how and when agencies can withdraw, withhold or restrict public access to information products, such as publications, studies and manuals.

The new policy requires a more detailed review of why an agency wanted to withdraw, withhold or restrict access to a document, and whether alternative options could be used. The option would depend on what the agency wanted to do. For example, if they wanted to withdraw a publication, the option might be to edit it so it can be printed anyway. If they wanted to hold a publication, the option might be to put a timeline on how long it's held.

The policy applies to all government information products, such as agency publications, studies and manuals, and services subject to the jurisdiction of the GPO superintendent of documents.

For the full article by Chris Strohm appearing in GovExec.Com Today, January 25, 2005, see

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(11) NIH Waffling on Providing Free Access to Federally Financed Research Articles?

Just weeks after its director defended a controversial draft policy for providing free access to scientific literature, the National Institutes of Health appears to be softening its stance. A newspaper report last week said that the NIH's final policy, which is not yet public, would ask scientists to post their papers online a year after they were published by a journal, instead of just six months.

The Washington Post reported that the final policy would follow the draft policy in requesting that all NIH-sponsored research be posted at its PubMed Central Web site. But the final policy, according to the Post, would give journals 12 months to charge subscription or pay-per-view fees for access to research papers, even if scientists had agreed to the agency's request to post their results online.

The Post reported last week, as did a news service called Washington Fax the week before, that the delay in the announcement was linked to confirmation hearings last week for Michael O. Leavitt. President Bush nominated Mr. Leavitt to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the NIH. Beyond a passing reference, public access to scientific literature was not discussed during the first day of Mr. Leavitt's hearing.

Pru Adler spoke briefly about the issue at the Chief Development Officers of Large Research Libraries meeting at ALA Midwinter. She confirmed that the final announcement was postponed to allow Mr. Leavitt to be confirmed and take office first. She is hopeful that scholars could still make their research articles available immediately rather than having them embargoed to provide publishers exclusive access/marketing privileges fo six or twelve months.

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education, Volume 51, Issue 21, January 28, 2005, Page A16, and Jon Harrison.

Update: Final NIH Publishing Rules Released.

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(12) Stop GPOs Abrupt Decision to Eliminate Print Distribution of Important
Government Information to Our Nations Federal Depository Libraries


Although the Government Printing Offices appropriations bill for FY 2006 has not yet been introduced in Congress, Superintendent of Documents Judith C. Russell announced during the recent ALA Midwinter Conference in Boston that GPO has requested level funding in their FY 2006 appropriations for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), plus cost of living increases. As a result of this action, Ms. Russell also announced that the following changes in the distribution of print materials to our Nations federal depository libraries will take effect October 1, 2005.

First, GPO will produce and distribute only the 50 titles listed on the Essential Titles for Public Use in Paper Format. This will have a profound negative impact on access to authentic government information in formats most usable to the American public. The Essential Titles List (, last revised in 2000, does not include important materials including maps, geological information, administrative decisions and other legal materials, as well as Senate and House reports, documents, and hearings that inform the citizenry of the workings of Congress.

Second, GPO will initiate a Print on Demand (POD) Allowance Program of $500 for selective depository libraries and $1500 for the 53 regional depository libraries to purchase titles that are not on the Essential Titles List. Since depository libraries will only receive the few Essential Titles distributed in print, GPO is in effect asking Congress to support a new fee-based Print on Demand Program that has not yet been established or tested. Further, depository libraries will have to expend significant funds from their own budget to cover administrative costs associated with this new program and purchase print titles, formerly distributed through the FDLP at no cost, when print is the appropriate and needed format for their user communities. GPO admits that POD technology is not archival and that the materials depository libraries purchase through this new service will have a shelf life of only 20 to 30 years.

Third, there will be a small amount of money to distribute a handful of important titles that occur unexpectedly in any given year, such as the 2004 9-11 Commission Report.

As FDLP partners, the depository library community has historically provided GPO with feedback on how to successfully manage the FDLP to meet the needs of all user groups. Unfortunately, the library community was not consulted about this latest move. GPO has alluded to other possible options but only announced this one. And although Superintendent of Documents Judith Russell informed us in Boston that alternative options could be discussed at the Spring Depository Library Council meeting in Albuquerque this April, we believe that will be too late to affect the FY 2006 appropriations process that Congress is beginning to undertake right now.

GPOs plan, which has not been approved by Congress, represents a major disruption to the FDLPs role of ensuring no-fee, permanent access to government information for the American public. GPO has not yet established a reliable system ensuring delivery, version control, authenticity, permanent public access and preservation of government information products they disseminate and make available online. Until such a system is fully functional and GPO can ensure permanent, no-fee and ready public access to electronic government information, GPO should not gut its print distribution program.

These changes will deprive citizens of their ability to access important authentic government information in the most usable format that will best meet their information needs. Further, many citizens are economically or technologically disadvantaged and cannot make use of necessary technological infrastructure to access electronic government information. It is important to remember that the goal of the FDLP is to provide government information to the American people in a convenient and useable format-not to make it convenient for the administrative agency responsible for that dissemination.

Public Printer Bruce James notes in his recently released strategic plan that GPO must change with the times and that the GPO of the 21st Century must use the technologies of today and tomorrow-not yesterday-to keep this vision alive. The library community has long embraced the move to digital technologies and libraries are on the front lines of developing systems that provide the public with easy, reliable and permanent access to authentic government information. During the past decade, the library community has consistently applauded GPOs move toward a more electronic FDLP. A number of libraries have established formal partnerships to assist GPO when their technological infrastructure proved unable to provide sufficient access to certain types of electronic government information. Librarians embrace technologies that enhance the ability of Americans to access government information more easily from their library, their home or their business.

But we have also cautioned Congress, most recently in the joint testimony ( on behalf of five national library associations for the April 28, 2004 hearing on GPO oversight before the House Committee on Administration, that we should not eliminate completely print distribution because at this time the difficult challenges of the digital life cycle remain unresolved: the authentication, permanent public access to and preservation of electronic government information. It is important that the government recognize the need to validate the authenticity and integrity of an electronic document, whether it is available through GPO Access or located on agency, congressional or court web sites. It is not enough to disseminate and preserve digital documents; users must be assured that the electronic government information that they locate and use is authentic.


Superintendent of Documents Judy Russell has announced a plan that effective October 1, 2005 all government documents with the exception of the Essential Titles List will be disseminated in digital format only. While the library community has been very supportive of the GPO move to digital formats, the issues of version control, authenticity and permanent public access to digital government information have not been addressed. Your help is needed to ensure that libraries and the American public continue to have access to authenticated government information.

Please contact your congressional delegation immediately, by email or fax, to tell your representatives about GPOs plan to eliminate almost all print distribution to depository libraries and its impact on access to authenticated legal and government information.

If you work in a law depository library, please alert your director to this abrupt and significant change in the FDLP distribution program because it is essential that everyone in your institution understand the serious long-term implications of this action on your users and contact their representatives.

If you are a law library user, your help is especially needed in contacting Congress because the purpose of the depository library system is to provide you with ready, local, no-fee permanent access to authenticated legal information.

Whether youre a law librarian, law library director, law professor or student, or a concerned citizen, please contact your representatives and make sure they understand the unique value of a depository library and its collections. Tell them how these changes will impact your ability to access government information and be sure to include examples of publications that you need in print for legal research.

Since this latest threat to the depository library program comes from GPO officials, its also very important that they hear your concerns firsthand. Please send a copy of your letters to Public Printer Bruce James ( / FAX: 202-512-1347) and Superintendent of Documents Judith C. Russell ( / FAX: 202-512-1434).


  • GPOs plan to limit print distribution to federal depository libraries to only the 50 titles on the Essential Titles List effectively impairs public access to key authenticated government titles, including Senate and House reports, documents and congressional hearings needed by the legal community and the public.

  • GPO is taking this abrupt action before it has established a reliable system ensuring delivery, version control, authenticity, permanent public access and preservation of electronic information products they disseminate and make available online. In fact, research and information technology standards and best practices have not yet been developed to the point of ensuring authenticity and preservation of electronic information products.

  • GPO is initiating a fee-based Print on Demand (POD) Program that has not yet been established and is asking Congress to fund it through a minimal allocation for each depository library. Libraries will have to expend significant funds to purchase print titles formerly distributed through the FDLP at no cost. Worse yet, GPO admits that POD technology is not archival and that the materials depository libraries purchase through this new service will have a shelf life of only 20 to 30 years.


    1. Urge GPO to allocate its FY 2006 appropriations to provide government information in appropriate formats, including print titles as identified by the depository library community that meet the needs of the American public.
    2. Urge members of the House and Senate appropriations committees to increase GPOs FY 2006 budget request to maintain the current production and distribution levels of print materials to depository libraries.
    3. Urge members of the Joint Committee on Printing, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and the Committee on House Administration to hold oversight hearings on GPOs new initiatives and changes to the Federal Depository Library Program.
    4. Remind your representatives that the FDLP is their program and that it has proven to be a very successful partnership among Congress, federal agencies, the courts, the Government Printing Office (GPO), depository libraries, and the American public in ensuring the publics right to know.
    If your representatives are on any of these important committees, please urge them to take a leadership role in supporting their local depository library because these changes will deprive their constituents of their ability to access important authenticated government information.

    Source: Mary Alice Baish, Associate Washington Affairs Representative, American Association of Law Libraries, via AALL ACTION ALERT, January 26, 2005.

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    (13) Demystifying Government Sources: Government Information for the Rest of Us
    2005 ALA Chicago Preconference Announcement

    The GODORT Federal Documents Task Force is presenting a preconference session on "Demystifying Government Sources: Government Information for the Rest of Us" at the Northwestern University Library, Thursday, June 23, 2005, from 9:00-5:00 p.m.

    This full-day interactive workshop is designed to teach the basics of government information resources so that any Reference Librarian can provide access to the wealth of government information freely available. Currently, over 70% of the valuable information produced by federal agencies is available electronically. Speakers will address trends in the dissemination of government information, the value of government information, and techniques to make government information available at your library. Methods for the generalist librarian to keep current and develop reference skills in the area of government information will also be covered.

    Sessions will include: Statistical Information from the Government:
    Sherry DeDecker and Eric Forte - University of California - Santa Barbara

    Business Information from the Government:
    Stephen Hayes - University of Notre Dame

    Government Information for Teachers and Parents:
    Suzanne Sears - Tulsa County Public Library

    Government Information for Consumers:
    Cass Hartnett - University of Washington and Megan Dreger - University of California - San Diego

    Registration Instructions are available on the ALA web site. Advanced Registration Fees: GODORT members, $100; ALA Members, $125; Non ALA Members, $150; Students, $90. Fees increase by $25 after Advance Registration deadline. For more information, see 2005 Godort Preconference. Source: Sally Lawler, University of Michigan, and Anne Marie Sanders, Library of Michigan.

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    (14) Lesko Gets Bad Press from New York Consumer Protection Board

    Get Your Free Money! I've always loved Matthew Lesko -- you know, the nutball in the question mark suits who runs all over D.C. in cable-TV commercials hawking his books -- like Free Money to Pay Your Bills! -- that purport to show how to uncover piles of federal dough. (I remember seeing Lesko strolling downtown a couple of years ago sipping a cup of coffee--but still wearing that goofy suit. Seriously.)

    Apparently the New York Consumer Protection Board isn't as enamored of his work as I am. As Lesko points out in his new , the board recently issued a press release lumping him in with grant-scamming telemarketers. Lesko is, not surprisingly, apoplectic. But let's face it, his logic on the whole government giveaway thing is a little strained. Just check out the statement his co-author, Mary Ann Martello, gave to the folks in New York, in which she argues that the free bill-paying money comes in the form of--are you ready for this?--food stamps: "Matthew would say that money the government gives you to pay other bills frees up money to pay your credit bills. There is no money the government will give you to directly pay down your credit bills, but the $800 in food stamps frees up that money for other bills." Sure.

    Source: Tom Shoop, GovExec.Com Fedlog, Feb. 6, 2005.

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    (15) Copyright Office Seeks Feedback on Orphan Works

    The Copyright Office seeks to examine the issues raised by “orphan works,” i.e., copyrighted works whose owners are difficult or even impossible to locate. Concerns have been raised that the uncertainty surrounding ownership of such works might needlessly discourage subsequent creators and users from incorporating such works in new creative efforts or making such works available to the public. This notice requests written comments from all interested parties. Specifically, the Office is seeking comments on whether there are compelling concerns raised by orphan works that merit a legislative, regulatory or other solution, and what type of solution could effectively address these concerns without conflicting with the legitimate interests of authors and right holders.

    So what you say? The decision made will greatly impact how many digitized books are made available for public access by the recent Google Initiative with the University of Michigan, Stanford University, Harvard University, the University of Oxford, and the New York Public Library.

    For more information, see Federal Register, Volume 70, Number 16, January 26, 2005, pages 3739-3743.

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    (16) A Culture of Secrecy

    What has happened to the principle that American democracy should be accessible and transparent? "Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." –George Orwell, Politics and the English Language. Source: Charles Lewis Commentary, The Center for Public Integrity, Feb. 7, 2005.

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    (17) Innovative Legislative Tracking Tool Now Available

    Joshua Tauberer, a grad student at U. Penn, has created an amazing legislative tracking service,, which won the top prize in the Technorati Developer's Contest. The site's automated monitoring services are free, and the data is obtained from federal sources including THOMAS and the websites of the U.S. House and Senate. Users may track bills, issues or committees, representatives, or topics. Daily or weekly email updates are available for registered users, as well as news feeds. The site also includes blog postings on legislation, by authors registered with the site to have their comments appear on the GovTrack Blog.

    If you try out this tracking tool, let me know what you think. The Red Tape Editor.

    Spotted in Sabrina Pacifici's BeSpecific, January 19, 2005.

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    (18) Commission on Civil Rights Drops Reports from Web Page

    The US Commission on Civil Rights, newly reconstituted with the addition of a new Republican chairman and another Republican appointee [JURIST report], has removed from its website a controversial staff report highly critical of the civil rights policies of the Bush administration. Redefining Rights in America: The Civil Rights Record of the George W. Bush Administration, 2001-2004 was posted online in October [JURIST report] before the November Presidential vote, although full Commission consideration of the document was put off until afterwards. At a November 12 meeting following the President's re-election the Commission split 4-4 [JURIST report; Commission vote tally] on adoption. Outgoing Commission chair Mary Frances Berry and vice-chair Cruz Reynoso nonetheless forwarded the unendorsed report to President Bush in a November 30 letter [PDF] as a final act before their end-of-term resignations. At its January 7, 2005 policy meeting the Commission, with new Republican appointees Gerald Reynolds (chair) and Ashley Taylor, adopted what the Commission website Friday called "a new policy on the public release and posting of reports and Commission documents." The website notice goes on to explain that "To comply with that new policy, the website has been updated and several draft reports that failed to receive a majority of Commissioners' votes have been removed." Although an obvious link to the report on the Commission's home page is now gone, the text of the report is still accessible on other parts of the site. The report was cited in JURIST's Gazette in October 2004 when it first came out and JURIST maintains an archive copy [PDF]. The Commission indicates that copies of the removed draft report and others like it are available from the Commission upon request.

    For a list of documents removed, visit

    Source: Bill Sleeman, Thurgood Marshall Law Library, The University of Maryland School of Law, via GOVDOC-L, Feb. 8, 2005, and Bernard Hibbitts, Jurist PaperChase Newsburst, Jan. 21, 2005, via GOVDOC-L, Feb. 8, 2005.

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