ARL Policy Notes
In Georgia State University E-Reserves Case, Eleventh Circuit Endorses Flexible Approach to Fair Use

On Friday, October 17, 2014, the Eleventh Circuit released its long-awaited decision in the Georgia State University (GSU) e-reserves case. Some key takeaways from the decision include:

  • Affirms that fair use is applied on a case-by-case basis;
  • Rejects bright-line rules, such as using a ten-percent-or-one-chapter rule to allow fair use (a rule that the district court adopted);
  • Affirms that even if a use is non-transformative, a nonprofit educational purpose can still favor fair use;
  • Rejects the coursepack copying cases as applicable;
  • Finds that a publisher’s failure to offer a license will tend to weigh in favor of fair use in terms of the fourth fair use factor; and
  • Gives weight to a publisher’s incentive to publish, rather than focusing on the author’s incentive to create.

Another positive aspect of the case is the Eleventh Circuit’s discussion of the purpose of copyright, affirming the fact (as has long been held by the Supreme Court) that copyright is not a natural right of the author, but rather, is designed to stimulate creativity and progress for the public good. Nancy Sims has an excellent analysis of the court’s ruling covering what she liked and didn’t like from the opinion.

It is important to note that while the case has been reversed and remanded, the Eleventh Circuit did not rule against GSU. Instead, the Eleventh Circuit directed the district court to revisit its fair use analysis and not to take an arithmetic approach to the four fair use factors (rejecting the notion that if three of the factors favor fair use, but one disfavors fair use, then fair use will always apply).

In fact, most of the publishers’ arguments were actually rejected by the Eleventh Circuit. Kevin Smith has a great summary of five arguments advanced by the publishers that were ultimately rejected by the Eleventh Circuit.

Thus, e-reserves remain alive and well, though the exact policies on fair use for e-reserves at some institutions may need to be revisited in light of this case, particularly those that rely on a checklist. Although the Eleventh Circuit’s methodology is binding only on Alabama, Florida and Georgia, this case is persuasive authority in other jurisdictions.

Here’s what the court had to say on each of the four use factors:

Factor One (the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes): While GSU’s use was non-transformative, the nonprofit educational purpose of the e-reserves favors fair use.

The Eleventh Circuit upheld the district court’s finding on the first factor, determining that while the use of the Plaintiffs’ works was not transformative, the first factor favored GSU nonetheless. The court noted that the excerpts posted in the e-reserve system were verbatim copies converted into a digital form and were used for the same intrinsic purpose as the works. However, because GSU’s use was for a nonprofit educational purpose rather than a commercial purpose, the first factor favored GSU.

In finding that GSU’s use was for a nonprofit educational purpose, the court noted that the Supreme Court and Congress have favored fair use for educational purposes. The Eleventh Circuit noted that the user was a nonprofit educational institution and that the use of the works was clearly for educational purposes. It discussed the ways that GSU could have profited from the use or “commercially exploited” the work, but concluded that while Defendants could have profited from the use of the works (for example through collection of student tuition and fees) such reasoning is circular because any unlicensed use of a copyrighted work results in profit to the user and thus no use would qualify as nonprofit under the first factor. The Eleventh Circuit noted that GSU’s use of the works “provides a broader public benefit—furthering the education of students at a public university.” In sum, “despite the recent focus on transformativeness under the first factor, use for teaching purposes by a nonprofit, educational institution such as Defendants’ favors a finding of fair use under the first factor, despite the nontransformative nature of the use.”

Factor Two (nature of the copyrighted work): Factual works may include original expressive contents and relay more than bare facts, but this factor is of relatively little importance.

Here, the Eleventh Circuit states that highly creative works are entitled to greater protection, while the use of factual or informational work is more likely to favor fair use. The Eleventh Circuit rejected the district court’s holding that the second factor favored fair use in every instance because of the factual nature of the works-at-issue and found that the works still included expressive content. The court stated that where the works “surpass[] the bare facts necessary to communicate information, or derives from the author’s experiences or opinions, the District Court should have held that the second factor was neutral, or even weighed against fair use in cases of excerpts that were dominated by such material.” However, the court acknowledges that “the second fair use factor is of relatively little importance in this case,” noting that the works were neither fictional nor unpublished.

Factor Three (amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole): Blanket ten-percent-or-one-chapter rule is not appropriate; bright line rules must be avoided.

The Eleventh Circuit rejected the district court’s formulation favoring fair use under the third factor where GSU copied no more than ten-percent of a work or one chapter in the case of a book with then or more chapters. The court notes, “We must avoid ‘hard evidentiary presumption[s] … and ‘eschew[] a rigid bright-line approach to fair use.’” The Eleventh Circuit rejects this formulation even as a starting point in the analysis, finding that “application of the same non-statutory starting point to each instance of infringement is not a feature of a proper work-by-work analysis.”

In its discussion of the third factor, the Eleventh Circuit also rejected the Classroom Guidelines as indicative of what is permitted under fair use. The Eleventh Circuit noted that the Classroom Guidelines “do not carry force of law,” and furthermore, these guidelines “were intended to suggest a minimum, not maximum, amount of allowable educational copying that might be fair use, and were not intended to limit fair use in any way.” Here, the Eleventh Circuit references the coursepack cases, but finds that while they may provide guidance, they are not binding authority (both in terms of jurisdiction and the context).

Factor Four (effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work): Market substitution is the primary concern; failure to offer a license should generally weigh in favor of fair use.

On the fourth factor, the Eleventh Circuit noted that the adverse impact of primary concern is market substitution and “[t]he central question … is not whether Defendants’ use of Plaintiffs’ works caused Plaintiffs to lose some potential revenue. Rather it is whether Defendants’ use—taking into account the damage that might occur if ‘everybody did it’—would cause substantial economic harm such that allowing it would frustrate the purposes of copyright by materially impairing Defendants’ incentive to publish the work.” The Eleventh Circuit’s apparent focus on the incentive to publish is a bit unusual, given that courts are generally focused on an author’s incentive to create rather than a publisher’s incentive to publish. Given the weight the Eleventh Circuit has given to a publisher’s incentive, academics should strongly consider open access publication options.

On the licensing point, the Eleventh Circuit found that “it is not determinative that programs exist through which universities may license excerpts of Plaintiffs’ works. In other words, the fact that Plaintiffs have made paying easier does not automatically dictate a right to payment … the ability to license does not demand a finding against fair use.” Furthermore, the court pointed to the lack of an available license as an “inference that the author or publisher did not think that there would be enough such use to bother making a license available” and in such cases, “the fourth factor should generally weigh in favor of fair use.

Finally, the Eleventh Circuit stated that the district court should have afforded the fourth factor greater weight due to the nontransformative nature of GSU’s use (as opposed to finding that each factor weighed equally in the district court’s arithmetic approach).

Ultimately, the district court will need to re-do its fair use analysis for each of the works-at-issue, consistent with the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion. In doing so, however, GSU could still prevail on its fair use claims.

New WikiLeaks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Intellectual Property Chapter — Analysis of Copyright Provisions

The United States is currently negotiating a large, regional free trade agreement with eleven other countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. On October 16, 2014, WikiLeaks published a new leak of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement’s (TPP) negotiating text for the intellectual property chapter. This text, dated May 16, 2014, contains some substantial changes from last year’s November leak of the text (which revealed the state of negotiations as of August 2013).

The chapter is now shorter and numerous brackets (brackets denote areas of the text which have not yet been agreed to) have been removed. The text also includes some new provisions. Some differences between the copyright provisions from last year’s leak to today’s leak are highlighted below. However, given that the leaked text is from May, further changes may have been made in the last five months and bracketed issues may have been resolved. TPP negotiations will continue in Australia next week where issues may reach further resolution.

Copyright Term

In the prior leak, New Zealand, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Canada and Japan supported a proposal allowing the copyright term of protection to be determined by “each Party’s domestic law and the international agreements to which each Party is a party.” The current leak reveals that this proposal has been eliminated.

The new text suggests that the copyright term will be specified in the TPP, though the exact number of years has not yet been agreed to. Bracketed language around the period of years reveals that the three options being discussed are life of the author plus fifty, seventy or one-hundred years. The United States, along with the countries with which the United States already has bilateral trade agreements with—Australia, Chile, Peru and Singapore—currently have a period of protection of life plus seventy years. Mexico is the only country that provides for life of the author plus one hundred years. The other countries in the agreement use the international standard of life plus fifty years.

For corporate works that have been published, the bracketed text includes periods of protection of fifty, seventy, seventy-five or ninety-five years.

In addition to these specified periods of years, a new proposal similar to the Berne rule of shorter term appears in the leaked text. This rule would essentially allow parties to limit the term of protection provided to authors of another party to the term provided under that party’s legislation. For example, if the final TPP text required a period of copyright protection of life plus fifty years, the United States would not be required to provide its period of life plus seventy years to authors in New Zealand if New Zealand continued to provide a term of life plus fifty years. The United States currently does not implement the Berne rule of shorter term.

Formalities

Another new provision in the text is a rule against formalities. Article QQ.G.X is unbracketed and therefore appears to be agreed to by the TPP negotiating parties. It reads, “No Party may subject the enjoyment and exercise of the rights of authors, performers and producers of phonograms provided for in this Chapter to any formality.”

This language could be problematic if the United States, or other TPP parties, wanted to re-introduce formalities for copyright protections granted that go beyond minimum international standards. Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante, for example, proposed the re-introduction of formalities for the last twenty years of copyright protection in the United States. If adopted, such a proposal would violate the TPP and subject the United States to investor-state dispute settlement, under which a corporation could sue the Unites States government for failure to comply with the TPP.

Limitations and Exceptions

Parties to the TPP have agreed to include language on limitations and exceptions, including a provision that has not been included in prior U.S. free trade agreements. This language reads:

Each Party shall endeavor to achieve an appropriate balance in its copyright and related rights system, inter alia by means of limitations or exceptions that are consistent with Article QQ.G.16.1, including those for the digital environment, giving due consideration to legitimate purposes such as, but not limited to: criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, research, and other similar purposes; and facilitating access to [AU oppose: published] works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print [AU propose: or perceptually] disabled.116 117

116 {In particular,} As recognized by the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (June 27, 2013). 117 For purposes of greater clarity, a use that has commercial aspects may in appropriate circumstances be considered to have a legitimate purpose under Article QQ.G.16.3.

Most of this language had already been agreed to in the November 2013 leak. However, the new leak reveals that parties have now agreed to include facilitating access for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. Additionally, footnote 116 specifically referencing the Marrakesh Treaty is a new addition. While the Marrakesh Treaty has not yet been ratified by any of the TPP countries and has not yet entered into force (the treaty requires twenty ratifications; India and El Salvador are currently the two countries that have ratified it), several of the TPP negotiating parties have signed the treaty including the United States, Australia, Chile, Mexico, and Peru.

Technological Protection Measures

The language on technological protection measures (TPMs) in last year’s leak was heavily bracketed, highlighting the lack of agreement in this area. The United States initially proposed a closed set of limitations and exceptions to allow circumvention of TPMs, with additional limitations and exceptions possible through a three-year rulemaking process modeled off of Section 1201 of the United States Copyright Law.

The new TPP text eliminates the specific limitations and exceptions and three-year rulemaking process. It now allows limitations and exceptions through legislative, regulatory or administrative processes. Additionally, the United States’ proposed “substantial evidence” burden (proposed in conjunction with allowing new limitations and exceptions through the rulemaking process)—a standard not found in the United States Copyright Law—has been eliminated. This new text, with the exception of a few clauses, has been agreed to by the TPP parties.

The text now provides that:

Each Party may provide [MY/MX/PE oppose: certain] exceptions and limitations to the measures implementing subparagraphs (a)(i) and (ii) in order to enable non-infringing uses where there is an actual or likely adverse impact of those measures on those non-infringing uses, as determined through a legislative, regulatory, or administrative process in accordance with the Party’s law, giving due consideration to evidence when presented in that process, including with respect to whether appropriate and effective measures have been taken by rights holders to enable the beneficiaries to enjoy the limitations and exceptions under that Party’s law [in accordance with Article QQ.G.16] [CL propose:, as well as the evidence presented by the beneficiaries with respect to the necessity of the creation of such exception and limitation]

This language is an improvement over the United States’ previous proposal because it would allow for new permanent limitations and exceptions that would allow for circumvention of TPMs—for example, for cell-phone unlocking. However, the language seems to assume that parties need to provide for limitations and exceptions even for non-infringing uses. As noted in a recent Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) statement, one of the flaws of Section 1201 in the United States Copyright Law is that this section could be interpreted to prohibit circumvention of a TPM even for the purpose of engaging in a lawful use of the work.

Additionally, it may be difficult to create a general permanent limitation and exception allowing for circumvention for any non-infringing use, such as was proposed in the Unlocking Technology Act due to the language requiring consideration of an “actual or likely adverse impact” of TPMs and evidence presented, including “whether … measures have been taken by rights holders to enable the beneficiaries to enjoy the limitations and exceptions under that Party’s law.” Requiring such considerations could be interpreted as allowing new permanent or temporary limitations and exceptions, but only on a case-by-case basis rather than by a general rule.

Internet Service Provider Liability

The latest leak of the TPP text also includes several new non-papers attached as addenda. The non-paper on Internet service provider liability is included as Addendum III and heavily bracketed.

Infographic on Libraries, Academic Freedom and Balanced Copyright

Download the infographic, Libraries are Champions for Academic Freedom and Balanced Copyright, illustrating the benefits of a balanced copyright system and the roles research libraries play in maintaining the balance of copyright and intellectual property.

El Salvador Ratifies the Marrakesh Treaty

On October 1, 2014, El Salvador became the second country to ratify the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled, adopted at Marrakesh on June 27, 2013. India was the first country to ratify the treaty on June 24, 2014.

The treaty sets forth minimum standards for limitations and exceptions designed to facilitate access to accessible format works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. It would also permit cross-border sharing of these accessible format works, allowing countries to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts in the creation of accessible format works and also facilitate the importation of works in other languages.

Eighteen more ratifications are needed for the treaty to enter into force. The United States, which has robust limitations and exceptions allowing for the creation and distribution of accessible format works, signed the treaty in October 2013, but the treaty has not yet been sent to the Senate for ratification.

Watch Jonathan Band Speak on Implications of HathiTrust for Libraries

Watch Jonathan Band speak on what the decision in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust means for libraries.

LCA Submits Testimony to House Judiciary Subcommittee for Copyright Review Hearing on Technological Protection Measures

On September 17, 2014, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet continued its copyright review with a hearing on Chapter 12 of the Copyright Act, which governs technological protection measures (TPM). The hearing included four witnesses: Mr. Mark Richert, Director of Public Policy, American Foundation for the Blind; Mr. Jonathan Zuck, President, ACT | The App Association; Mr. Christian Genetski, Senior Vice-President and General Counsel, Entertainment Software Association; and Ms. Corynne McSherry; Intellectual Property Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) submitted a statement to the Subcommittee in advance of the hearing.

The LCA testimony points out that overly-broad anti-circumvention language was initially proposed in 1994 and 1995 over objections that these prohibitions could prevent circumvention for lawful purposes. After the 1996 adoption of the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), PTO Commissioner Lehman proposed new anti-circumvention language to implement the treaties. Again, the proposals were overly broad, regulating both tools and conduct, regulating circumvention apart from underlying infringement and governing circumvention for both access-control technologies and copy-control technologies rather than only prohibiting copying. Significantly, the WIPO treaties did not require these overly-broad features, as Commissioner Lehman himself conceded when testifying before the House Judiciary Subcommittee.

Despite the fact that alternative proposals were made to address these overly-broad proposals, “Congress instead created a set of complex exceptions and limitations to the administration’s sweeping language, resulting in the convoluted, inconsistent section 1201 we have today. Some of these limitations are of limited effectiveness.” Additionally, Congress, in recognition that additional exceptions other than those explicitly included in Section 1201 may be desirable, directed the Librarian of Congress to conduct a rulemaking process every three years to determine additional classes of works that should be granted an exemption for the subsequent three-year period. However, as the LCA testimony points out, “A narrower section 1201 limited to circumvention that led to infringement would have obviated the need for the rulemaking procedure altogether.”

Over the years, there have been several efforts to amend section 1201 to address the potential problems resulting from an interpretation of this section as prohibiting circumvention of access controls or the manufacture and distribution of circumvention tools, even if they are for non-infringing purposes. These bills have varied from creating additional specific exceptions to requiring a nexus between circumvention and infringement. Most recently, controversy over the Librarian of Congress’ 2012 decision not to renew an exemption for cell phone unlocking that had been granted in previous rulemakings, resulted in renewed efforts to address flaws in Section 1201. Although Representatives Lofgren (D-CA), Massie (R-KY), Eshoo (D-CA) and Polis (D-CO) introduced a broad bill, the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013, that would have permitted circumvention for non-infringing uses, ultimately Congress took a narrower approach and adopted a temporary fix specific to the problem of cell phone unlocking.

The LCA testimony also includes a summary of litigation over Section 1201, explaining that currently a circuit split exists as to whether the language of 1201 requires a nexus between infringement and circumvention for liability to attach.

Additionally, the LCA testimony covers the three-year rulemaking process, which LCA members have participated in during each cycle. The testimony points out some of the absurdities of the process as well as the high costs and burdens of participating in the rulemaking cycle. The testimony points out that “From start to finish, the process can take more than a year” and that the inefficient system places burdens on not only the proponents of exemptions, but the Copyright Office, as well.

The testimony concludes with several proposed amendments to Section 1201 including:

  • Attaching liability to circumvention only if it enables infringement
  • Placing the burden of proof on those opposing renewal of exemptions to demonstrate why it should not be renewed or should be modified
  • Making exemptions permanent if a second renewal is granted
  • Shifting final rulemaking authority from the Librarian of Congress to the Assistant Secretary for Communication and Information of the Department of Commerce
ARL and Eleven Other Library and Higher Education Organizations File Reply Comments on Net Neutrality

On Monday, September 15, 2014, twelve library and higher education organizations, including ARL, filed reply comments with the FCC on net neutrality in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to protect and promote the open Internet. The FCC issued the NPRM following the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s January 2014 decision striking down the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order’s rules on no-blocking and anti-discrimination . Eleven of these organizations previously filed comments as well as net neutrality principles in July; the reply comments recommend that the FCC adopt the principles and strategies contained in these prior filings. In the reply comments, these groups continue emphasizing the importance of net neutrality in protecting free speech, educational achievement and economic growth. While the initial comments pointed out that the FCC could use its legal authority to reclassify broadband Internet services as a Title II “common carrier” or exercise its Section 706 authority, the reply comments focus on options under Section 706.

The comments point out the importance of the open Internet, also known as net neutrality, so that these institutions can carry out their missions and promote education, research and learning. The twelve organizations ask the FCC to “take special heed” of the importance of net neutrality for library and higher education institutions pointing out:

We are not aware of any commenters who disagreed with the importance of an open Internet for education, research, and learning. In fact, the New America Foundation specifically recognized the importance of an open Internet for schools, libraries and other public institutions.

At the same time, few commenters called attention to these needs, and the NPRM does not focus on these issues as much as it could. As an example, we note that the opening paragraph of the PRM released on May 15, 2014, does not use any of the words “education,” research” or learning.” … Recognizing the important public interest in education, research and learning throughout the FCC’s final order will help the commission orient its net neutrality policy in a way that recognizes these cherished public interest values.

The comments also note the concerns that without net neutrality, paid prioritization may occur as broadband providers would have the incentive and opportunity to divide the Internet into fast lanes and slow lanes based on the ability or willingness to pay for enhanced access. The coalition of library and higher education institutions emphasize that, “If public broadband providers are allowed to prioritize or degrade certain Internet traffic, or discriminate in favor of or against certain content or applications, the future of the Internet as a platform for education, research learning, innovation and free speech will be put in jeopardy.”

Specifically, libraries and higher education institutions depend on the open Internet as they increasingly rely on access to and storage of information remotely, including subscriptions to online-only resources; serve as centers where people complete online education courses; act as partners with the Internet Archive to digitize and make accessible various materials; use the portal developed by the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to allow patrons to search and scan resources; and transition to cloud-based productivity application services to support faculty and student access to email, word processing and related applications as well as for administrative and learning management systems.

The comments also suggest that in addressing a no-blocking rule, the FCC could require that when a broadband provider chooses to offer Internet service, that provider must then fulfill the consumer’s decision to interact with his or her chosen edge provider and cannot block such access. This rule focuses on consumer choice, but does not obligate the broadband provider to serve every consumer as the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order’s no-blocking rule did. This suggestion provides an alternative path for the FCC than a rule that would require providing a minimum level of service.

Building on the July filing, the reply comments again encourage the FCC to adopt an “Internet reasonable” standard to govern the relationship between broadband providers and edge providers rather than the FCC’s proposed “commercially reasonable” standard. Numerous groups and organizations, such as the Center for Democracy & Technology, Free Press, Public Knowledge, the New America Foundation, the Internet Association, the Communications and Computer Industry Association (CCIA), among others, have opposed the “commercially reasonable” standard because such a standard would likely be ineffective in preserving net neutrality. The reply comments suggest that an “Internet reasonable” standard would provide a more tailored approach that would evaluate impact on the Internet ecosystem. Additionally, the reply comments again propose that the FCC establish clear presumptions, such as against paid prioritization, on conduct that would violate the “Internet reasonable” standard.

76 Companies and Organizations Urge Congress to Ensure Privacy of Online Communications

On September 8, 2014, the Association of Research Libraries joined a broad coalition of seventy-six technology companies as well as privacy and public interest organizations in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) urging reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Both the Senate and House have considered bills to update ECPA and ensure that Fourth Amendment privacy protections extend to the online communications. The House version of ECPA reform, H.R. 1852 reached a milestone of 218 co-sponsors on June 17, 2014 representing a majority of the House and the bill enjoys broad bipartisan support. Since that date, additional co-sponsors have been added to H.R. 1852 and more than 260 Members have joined in their support of this bill. The Senate bill, S. 607, also enjoys bipartisan support and was introduced by Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Lee (R-UT) and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2013.

ECPA reform is necessary to ensure that the Fourth Amendment guarantees of privacy apply equally to digital information as it does to physical property. ECPA, enacted in 1986, has not kept pace with evolving technologies and allows government agencies to access online communications that are older than 180 days without obtaining a warrant, thereby affording digital information, such as that which is stored in the cloud, less protections than data stored locally in a home or office. The bills considered by Congress would require warrant-for-content, a standard that the U.S. Department of Justice already follows. Civil regulatory agencies want an exception, however, allowing the collection of content directly from third-party service providers. The letter states clear opposition to a “carve-out of regulatory agencies or other rules that would treat private data differently depending on the type of technology used to store it.”

As libraries and universities increasingly used cloud-based services and more communications take place online, ensuring that the Fourth Amendment extends to information in the digital world becomes critical. ECPA reform would avoid the current absurdity that currently affords online communications and information less protection than physical documents.

Coalition Calls for Swift Passage of USA FREEDOM Act; Express Concerns Over Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act

On September 4, 2014, the Association of Research Libraries joined a coalition of 43 civil liberties, human rights and public interest organizations sent a letter to Senate leadership supporting swift passage of the USA FREEDOM Act (S. 2685) and expressing concerns regarding the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014 (CISA, S. 2588).

The letter urges the Senate to pass the S. 2685 in its current form, noting that this version of the USA FREEDOM Act would end bulk collection of records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, a provision known as the “library records” or “business records” provision,” as well as under National Security Letter authorities. As the letter explains, S. 2685 also provides for other significant reforms including enhanced transparency, appointing of a special panel of civil liberties and privacy advocates to the FISA court, and limiting the purpose for which call detail records collected under Section 215 may be used.

Given these improvements, the signatories to the letter are “eager for Congress to pass this legislation swiftly and without weakening the bill.” As these groups previously expressed, Congress should not weaken the USA FREEDOM Act through consideration of new mandatory data retention requirements. The letter urges the Senate to make passage of the USA FREEDOM Act (S.2685) a legislative priority for September.

The letter then notes its opposition to and concerns regarding the CISA, pointing out that “Ironically, just as Congress is struggling to pass meaningful surveillance reform to rein in the NSA, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has approved a problematic bill that would give the NSA even more access to American’s data.” Advocacy groups have previously written to Congress and the President opposing CISA because the bill would pose serious threats to privacy by allowing information to automatically be disseminated to the NSA and other government agencies.

The letter concludes:

We therefore urge the Senate to swiftly pass the USA FREEDOM Act (S. 2685) without any amendments that would weaken its protections or create any new data retention mandates, and without taking up the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (S. 2588 in its current form. The Senate cannot seriously consider controversial information-sharing legislation such as CISA without first completing the pressing unfinished business of passing meaningful surveillance reform.

Senator Leahy Introduces New Version of USA FREEDOM Act, Includes Significant Improvements Over House Version

On July 29, 2014, Senator Leahy (D-VT) re-introduced a new version of the USA FREEDOM Act, co-sponsored by Senators Lee (R-UT), Durbin (D-IL), Heller (R-NV), Franken (D-MN), Cruz (R-TX), Blumenthal (D-CT), Udall (D-NM), Coons (D-DE), Heinrich (D-NM), Markey (D-MA), Hirono (D-HI), Klobuchar (D-MN), and Whitehouse (D-RI). ARL supports this version, which includes major improvements over the version passed in the House (H.R. 3361) on May 22, 2014, including more effective language to end bulk collection and protect civil liberties and strengthened transparency provisions. ARL has signed on to two letters supporting the new version of the USA FREEDOM Act, including one that focuses on the enhanced transparency provision and one that addresses the bill more comprehensively. Both letters urge Congressional leadership to act swiftly and pass the new version, without any dilution or amendment.

The version that passed the U.S. House of Representatives represented a significantly watered down version after changes were made by the House Rules Committee on the eve of the floor vote on the bill. Although the House passed the bill, half of the original House co-sponsors to the USA FREEDOM Act withdrew their support and opposed the weakened version because it did not go far enough in curtailing the Government’s ability to conduct bulk collection and failed to protect privacy and civil liberties in the same manner as prior versions. Organizations that originally supported the USA FREEDOM Act withdrew support for the House version and urged the Senate to ensure meaningful reform.

Leahy’s version narrowly defines a “specific selection term” in an effort to effectively curb bulk collection. It clearly prohibits the collection of broad swaths of information under Section 215—the provision known as the “business records” or “library records” provision—such as all information related to a broad geographic region (such as a city, state, zip code or area code). It also enhances minimization procedures, requiring the government to delete data it has collected on individuals that are not targets of the investigation or contacts of such individuals and limits the purpose for which call detail records may be generated.

The new version of the bill would also make several reforms to the FISA Court, such as requiring that unclassified summaries of FISC opinions include information necessary to understand the impact on civil liberties. It would also require disclosure of FISC opinions of “new construction or interpretation of the term ‘specific selection term.’” It provides further protections by providing for a Special Advocate position charged with protecting privacy and civil liberties and requires that the Office of the Special Advocate has access to relevant legal precedent and materials necessary to participate in FISC proceedings.

Finally, Leahy’s new version improves on the House version through enhanced transparency provisions. It requires the government to report on the number of U.S. persons whose information was collected and number of searched conducted under Section 215. It reduces the time a company must wait after receiving a FISA order before reporting on it from two years to one year.

A detailed comparison between the House-passed version and Senator Leahy’s new version is available through the Center for Democracy and Technology.