Tag Archives: senate

Chile Becomes 17th Country to Ratify Marrakesh Treaty

Chile recently became the seventeenth country to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty to Faciltiate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.  Countries from nearly every region have ratified the treaty including: Argentina, AustraliaBrazilEl Salvador, India, Israel, Mali, MexicoMongolia, North Korea, Paraguay, PeruSingapore, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.  The Marrakesh Treaty requires twenty ratifications before it enters into force and only three more countries are needed.

The Marrakesh Treaty sets forth minimum standards for limitations and exceptions to facilitate access to accessible format works.  It would also permit cross-border sharing of these accessible formats, allowing countries to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts and resources in the creation of these accessible works.  Additionally, the Treaty would facilitate importation of works created in other languages.

With Chile’s ratification, eight countries in Latin America have now joined and will be able to share their accessible formats across borders.  Argentina has a relatively large collection of accessible formats available through TifloLibros which will benefit those in other Spanish speaking countries.  Should the United States ratify the Marrakesh Treaty, these ratifications in Latin American countries will be of great benefit to those who are print disabled in the United States that speak Spanish.  According to a 2015 study based on US census data, the United States has more Spanish speakers than Spain; only Mexico has a larger Spanish speaking population.

Of course, ratification would not only benefit those in the United States (such as those requiring accessible formats in Spanish), but also individuals with print disabilities in other countries who could import books from the relatively large collections of accessible formats in the United States.

While the Obama Administration sent the Marrakesh Treaty to the U.S. Senate in February of this year, it has not yet been scheduled for a hearing or vote.  Earlier this year, Canada tabled Bill C-11 to prepare for implementation and accession to the Marrakesh Treaty though it also has not yet come up for a vote.

Four More Marrakesh Treaty Ratifications Needed For Entry Into Force

At last check-in in December, thirteen countries had ratified the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.  Today, that number stands at sixteen, with the recent ratifications of Israel, North Korea and Peru.  AustraliaArgentina, BrazilEl Salvador, India, Mali, MexicoMongolia, Paraguay, Singapore, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay ratified the treaty previously.  The Marrakesh Treaty needs twenty ratifications to enter into force and will, in all likelihood, reach this threshold this year with several countries reportedly close to ratification.

The Marrakesh Treaty sets forth minimum standards for limitations and exceptions to facilitate access to accessible format works.  It would also permit cross-border sharing of these accessible formats, allowing countries to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts and resources in the creation of these accessible works.  Additionally, the Treaty would facilitate importation of works created in other languages.

Bill C-65 in Canada was introduced in June in preparation for accession to the Marrakesh Treaty, but has not been voted on.  The Obama Administration sent the Marrakesh Treaty to the U.S. Senate in February of this year, though it has not yet been scheduled for a hearing or vote.

Obama Administration Sends Marrakesh Treaty to Senate for Ratification

On Wednesday, February 10, 2016, the Obama Administration sent the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled to the U.S. Senate for ratification.  The Marrakesh Treaty, concluded in June 2013 and signed by the United States in October 2013, provides minimum standards for limitations and exceptions to create and distribute accessible formats for the print disabled and allows for the cross-border exchange of these formats.

The cross-border exchange is a critical feature of the treaty and could greatly alleviate what is known as the “book famine,” a situation in which the National Federation of the Blind estimates that no more than 5 percent of published works are created in an accessible format.  The ability to import works from other English speaking countries would aid in growing the collection of accessible formats in the United States and avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts in creation of these formats.  Additionally, the Marrakesh Treaty allows the import of works in other languages for those in the United States who do not speak English as a first language or for those learning a foreign language.  It would also provide significant benefits to those in developing countries, which generally have an even smaller number of accessible formats available, who could import works from the relatively larger collections in the United States and elsewhere.

President Obama’s Message to the Senate notes that the Treaty “advances the national interest of the United States in promoting the protection and enjoyment of creative works.  The Marrakesh Treaty lays a foundation, in a manner consistent with existing international copyright standards, for opening up a world of knowledge for persons with print disabilities by improving their access to published works.”

ARL applauds the Obama Administration’s transmission of the Marrakesh Treaty to the United States Senate and urges swift ratification of this Treaty.   The Marrakesh Treaty needs 20 ratifications to enter into force; it currently has 14 ratifications and ARL urges the United States to demonstrate its leadership in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities by becoming one of the first 20 countries to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty.

As previously noted by the Library Copyright Alliance, U.S. law complies with the Marrakesh Treaty and can be ratified without changes to current law.  The transmission of the Marrakesh Treaty to the Senate, however, included proposed changes to U.S. law.  ARL looks forward to reviewing these proposed amendments which are not yet publicly available.

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on ECPA Reform

Today, September 16, 2015, the Senate Judiciary Committee will host a hearing on “Reforming the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.”  The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was passed in 1986 and is badly in need of reform.  The law has not kept pace with evolving technologies and denies important privacy protections for electronic communications, allowing agencies to access documents or communications stored online that are older than 180 days without a warrant.  This outdated law has led to an absurdity that affords greater protection to hard copy documents than digital communication.

As libraries and universities move services into the cloud and more communications take place online, it is critical that Fourth Amendment protect information long considered to be private—including what individuals are reading or researching, and to whom they are talking—even in the digital world. The growth of the Internet has launched new forms of communications and changed the way individuals interact since ECPA’s enactment in 1986. ECPA reform would require warrant for content, extending Fourth Amendment protections to online documents.

The ECPA reform bill in the House of Representatives, known as the Email Privacy Act and introduced by Representatives Yoder (R-KS) and Polis (D-CO) currently has 292 co-sponsors, representing an overwhelming majority.   The Senate version, known as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act also has bipartisan support, was introduced by Senators Lee (R-UT) and Leahy (D-VT) and currently has 23 co-sponsors.  Today, the full Senate Judiciary Committee will consider what reforms to ECPA are necessary, with two panels.  The first panel will consist of government witnesses from the Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.  The second panel has four witnesses representing the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Google, the Center for Democracy and Technology and BSA | The Software Alliance.

Twenty-nine years after ECPA’s passage, reform is long overdue.  Congress should bring these bills to a vote and pass ECPA reform to ensure that 4th Amendment rights are preserved in today’s digital world.  Hopefully, today’s Senate hearing is a step toward moving ECPA reform forward.

 

On the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, ARL Urges Swift Ratification of Marrakesh Treaty

On Sunday, July 26, 2015, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrated its 25th anniversary.  The ADA, authored and sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and passed with strong bi-partisan support, prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability including with respect to education and employment.  The ADA covers a wide range of disabilities and ensures that the civil rights of those with disabilities are protected.  This landmark piece of legislation represented world leadership in the area of promoting the rights of those with disabilities.

ARL has long supported the ADA and efforts to improve accessibility.  Those who are visually impaired or hearing impaired, for example, may face significant obstacles in attaining access to information or culture.  Those with physical disabilities may face limitations in accessing physical spaces.  The ADA helps to promote greater accessibility and protect the rights of those with disabilities.

As the United States celebrates this landmark piece of legislation and the many successes that the ADA has produced, continued efforts are needed to promote the rights of those with disabilities. The United States has a clear and concrete way to improve the rights of the print disabled by improving access to improving access to accessible format works.

In July 2013, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) concluded a diplomatic conference resulting in the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Those Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. The Marrakesh Treaty creates minimum standards for copyright limitations and exceptions for the creation and distribution of accessible formats and allows for the cross-border exchange of these formats. The cross-border exchange is a critical feature and could greatly alleviate what is known as the “book famine,” a situation in which the National Federation for the Blind estimates that no more than 5 percent of published works are created in an accessible format. The ability to import works from other English speaking countries would aid in growing the collection of accessible format works in the United States and avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts in the creation of these formats. Perhaps of even greater benefit would be the ability to import works in other languages for those in the United States who do not speak English as a first language, such as large populations of Spanish, French, Chinese, Russian, German, Italian, Korean or Vietnamese speaking individuals. It would also benefit those who are learning foreign languages. Significantly, the treaty would allow those in developing countries, which generally have an even smaller number of accessible formats available, to import works from the relatively larger collections in the United States and elsewhere.

In order for the Marrakesh Treaty to enter into force, twenty countries must ratify or accede to the treaty. Currently, nine countries – Argentina, El Salvador, India, Mali, Mongolia, Paraguay, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay – have ratified and eleven more are needed.

The United States signed the Marrakesh Treaty in October 2013, signaling support for and an intention to ratify the treaty, but the Obama Administration has not yet sent the treaty to the US Senate for ratification. The United States should show leadership and be one of the first twenty countries to ratify the treaty. While the ADA has been a great success and 25 years of ensuring the civil rights of those with disabilities is a moment for celebration, more can still be done to improve the lives of those with disabilities.

USA FREEDOM Act Fails to Advance in Senate

Cross-posted from ARL News

ARL is disappointed that the US Senate failed to advance the USA FREEDOM Act (S. 2685), a bill that would have provided meaningful reform to current National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance practices and protect civil liberties. A November 18, 2014, evening vote on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) cloture motion to proceed with the USA FREEDOM Act fell two votes shy of the necessary 60 votes.

The USA FREEDOM Act, reintroduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in July, would have ended the current practice of bulk collection of phone records and prevented bulk collection of other records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, also known as the “library records” or “business records” provision. Additionally, S. 2685 included several reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), such as requiring unclassified summaries of FISC opinions with information necessary to understand the impact on civil liberties and creating a Special Advocate position charged with protecting privacy and civil liberties. Leahy’s bill also included enhanced transparency provisions.

The USA FREEDOM Act had broad support of advocacy groups and technology companies. The bill also gained support from key individuals, including President Obama, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act will expire in June 2015 unless the US Congress votes to reauthorize the provision, and a continued fight over this provision is expected. Last year, revelations about the NSA program, including the breadth and scope of bulk collection of data, raised serious concerns regarding curtailment of civil liberties and the compatibility of these programs with the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. Even prior to these disclosures, the library community expressed reservations regarding overly broad national security powers and has repeatedly urged for necessary reforms.

While ARL is disappointed that the US Senate failed to address the serious civil liberties concerns raised by NSA surveillance practices and bring the USA FREEDOM Act to a vote, the Association remains hopeful that meaningful reform can still be achieved as the fight over bulk collection of records continues. ARL is grateful to Chairman Leahy for his leadership on NSA reform and looks forward to continuing to work with his and other offices on these important civil liberty issues in the future.

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.