PACER Federal Court Record Fees Exceed System Costs
The federal government has collected millions from the online Public Access to Court Electronic Records system, or PACER – nearly five times what it cost to run the system. Between fiscal years 2006 and 2010, the government collected an average of $77 million a year from PACER fees, according to the most recent federal figures available.
Critics have derided PACER, saying the government has increased user fees over the years without making the system easier to use. The fees, some say, act as a deterrent to public access. "Given the lack of oversight for what the fees are being used for, the incentive for the courts is to raise fees," said Stephen Schultze, associate director of Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy.
GAO finds NTIS’ fee-based model no longer viable or appropriate. FGI has suggestions
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just published a report analyzing the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). This report is an update of a 2001 GAO report on the dissemination of technical reports. It offers quite a bit of information as to the scope of work done by the NTIS and the costs associated with that work.
GAO’s conclusion states:
…Charging for information that is freely available elsewhere is a disservice to the public and may also be wasteful insofar as some of NTIS’s customers are other federal agencies. Taken together, these considerations suggest that the fee-based model under which NTIS currently operates for disseminating technical information may no longer be viable or appropriate.
…In light of the agency’s declining revenue associated with its basic statutory function and the charging for information that is often freely available elsewhere, Congress should consider examining the appropriateness and viability of the fee-based model under which NTIS currently operates for disseminating technical information to determine whether the use of this model should be continued.
Come to CityCamp Oakland
On December 1, all roads will lead to Oakland, CA for CityCamp Oakland — an unstructured conference where municipal employees, department heads, technology folks, developers, journalists and engaged citizens will talk about technology and local government. Organized by OpenOakland, the City of Oakland and other local organizations, CityCamp Oakland will show how innovative technology and open data can improve civic engagement, increase efficiency and government transparency while connecting residents to the city of Oakland. The Camp will be at the City Hall.
Giving Digital Preservation a Backbone
Libraries used to be the main stewards of the cultural and scientific record. But in the era of digital storage "cloud computing," the institutions best-positioned to manage vast quantities of data are often companies such as Google and Elsevier. That is a big problem, said James Hilton, the chief information officer at the University of Virginia, in a talk on Thursday here at Educause. For all their current stability and rhetorical commitments to preserving their records, Google and Elsevier cannot be trusted with the task of digital preservation in the long term, said Hilton. Part of Hilton’s agenda here was to draw attention to the Digital Preservation Network, a consortium of universities that is attempting to build a framework for keeping digital artifacts viable as institutions and technologies rise and fall around them.
JSTOR provides free access to Wikipedia editors via pilot program
One of the challenges facing the volunteer editors of Wikipedia is finding reliable sources to use as reference material – in our [Wikipedia's] last editor survey, 39 percent named this as one of the largest problems hindering their contributions. To address this issue, the Wikimedia Foundation is collaborating with JSTOR, a service of the not-for-profit organization ITHAKA, to provide 100 of the most active Wikipedia editors with free access to the complete archive collections on JSTOR, including more than 1,600 academic journals, primary source documents and other works.
FBI removes files during raid of Detroit Public Library
FBI agents raided the Detroit Public Library system and the home of its chief administrative officer on Tuesday, removing financial records from the agency that’s been beset by controversy, officials confirmed. Nine agents arrived at the library’s main offices on Woodward at 8 a.m. They left shortly after 11 a.m. carrying three cardboard boxes and what appeared to be computer equipment.
Tuesday’s raid follows money problems that forced the system to close two branches and lay off 80 of 364 staffers – and persistent questions about spending. In a series last year, The Detroit News exposed allegations of misspending, mismanagement and nepotism. Among other purchases that were questioned, the library bought 20 lounge chairs for $1,100 apiece at a time it was cutting staff. Numerous contracts also have been called into question, as well as hiring practices, The News has reported.
Charge Amazon, Starbucks and Google unpaid tax to fund libraries, says Winterson
A fiery Jeanette Winterson has called for the hundreds of millions of pounds of profit which Amazon, Starbucks and Google were last week accused of diverting from the UK to be used to save Britain’s beleaguered public libraries. In an impassioned speech at the British Library this evening, the award-winning author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit said: "Libraries cost about a billion a year to run right now. Make it two billion and charge Google, Amazon and Starbucks all that back tax on their profits here. Or if they want to go on paying fancy lawyers to legally avoid their moral duties, then perhaps those companies could do an Andrew Carnegie and build us new kinds of libraries for a new kind of future in a fairer and better world?"
Winterson was referring to the meeting at parliament’s public accounts committee last Monday which saw executives from the three companies vigorously quizzed by MPs over their tax affairs, and accused of diverting UK profits to tax havens.
The Copyright Reform Report That Wasn’t
Last Friday, the House Republican Study Committee (RSC) released a policy brief titled "Three Myths About Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it," lauded by the tech community and cause for celebration among copyright reform advocates. Less than 24 hours later – and after what we can assume was severe backlash from the content industry – the brief was retracted, with RSC Executive Director Paul Teller issuing a statement that the memo had been "published without adequate review." It’s safe to assume that the RSC was flooded with calls from entertainment and content industry lobbyists.
Freedom of Information
Some Things Never Change: Governments Still Present Biggest Threat to Open Internet
Some things change, but others stay the same. While the types of threats facing Internet users worldwide have diversified over the past few years, from targeted malware to distributed denial of service attacks, one thing has remained constant: governments seeking to exert control over their populations still remain the biggest threat to the open Internet. Which countries are the worst offenders? Unsurprisingly, the United States once again tops the list (though, followed by Germany and Brazil. The three countries have almost consistently dominated the top since the creation of the Transparency Report in 2010. Other notable offenders for 2012 include Argentina, Turkey, and India. It is noteworthy that all of the countries at the top of the list are democracies.
Fastcase Announces Partnership with Hawaii State Bar Association to Provide Free Access to Legal Research Library
Today the Hawaii State Bar Association (HSBA) and legal publisher Fastcase announced a partnership to provide members of the state bar with free access to Fastcase’s nationwide legal research system. This partnership is the latest in a growing number of bar associations that are offering the Fastcase benefit – 23 state bar associations representing more than 500,000 lawyers now subscribe to Fastcase as a free benefit for their members.
The HSBA is the sixth in a growing number of state bar associations upgrading from the Casemaker legal research benefit to Fastcase, and the eighth state overall that has switched to Fastcase, including two states that switched from Versuslaw and LexisNexis. No state bar association has ever switched from a Fastcase benefit to another provider.
EU Parliament Endorses Internet Openness, Transparency Ahead of WCIT
The European Parliament today approved a Joint Resolution calling on EU Member States to promote and protect Internet openness at the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). The resolve of the Parliamentarians who drafted the resolution deserves recognition. The result is a strong statement of confidence in the civic and economic value of the open Internet, as well as the virtues of transparent, inclusive models for Internet governance. The public’s ability to submit comments in the drafting process is testimony to the work of Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake, a steadfast advocate for civil liberties in the digital age.
Journalism is Not Terrorism: Calling on Ethiopia to #FreeEskinder Nega
Eskinder Nega, an award-winning journalist who has been imprisoned for over a year, appeared briefly in court to appeal the terrorism charges levied against him. Eskinder has unwaveringly denied the charges, maintaining that blogging about human rights abuses and democracy is not a form of terrorism. In July, Eskinder was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his reporting. In court this week, his appeal was cut short: according to one report EFF received from partners working on his case, Eskinder was not allowed to read his defense statement and the appeal was rescheduled to November 22. We are continuing to seek confirmation about the status of the trial. For now, we’re asking concerned individuals to join us in calling on the Ethiopian government to live up to the promises in their own Constitution and free Eskinder Nega.
While many journalists have either fled Ethiopia or been silenced by repressive policies, Eskinder Nega has become a national symbol for press freedom. Here’s how you can get involved:
• Sign PEN American Center’s petition, which automatically an email to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Minister of Justice Berhanu Hailu.
• Send appeals by mail to Ethiopian officials and their local Ethiopian Embassy or Consulate.
• Tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Suggested Tweet:
Journalism is not terrorism. Join @PenAmerican and @EFF in fighting to #FreeEskinder Nega.
Please feel free to pass along in part or in its entirety.
The Intersect Alert is a newsletter of the Government Relations Committee, San Francisco Bay Region Chapter, Special Libraries Association.