Freedom of Information
Justices consider Va. limits on access to public records
The Supreme Court’s justices suggested Wednesday that state laws limiting access to government records to their own state residents might be pointless, but the justices seemed not to be persuaded that the laws are also unconstitutional. Lawyers for two men who had sought government records from Virginia – joined by a broad group of media organizations and professional data miners – asked the court Wednesday to invalidate those restrictions, arguing that they discriminated against out-of-state residents in ways that violated two separate constitutional limits.
Intellectual Property Issues
Free Speech Battle Over Publication of Federal Law
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked a federal judge today to protect the free speech rights of an online archive of laws and legal standards after a wrongheaded copyright claim forced the removal of a document detailing important technical standards required by the federal government and several states. Last month, the association of Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors (SMACNA) claimed an online post of a federally-mandated 1985 standard on air-duct leakage violated its copyright and demanded the post be removed. After a threat of legal action from SMACNA, the document was taken down.
Public Domain, My Dear Watson? Lawsuit Challenges Conan Doyle Copyrights
Some 125 years after his first appearance, Sherlock Holmes remains a hot literary property, inspiring thousands of pastiches, parodies and sequels in print, to saying nothing of the hit Warner Bros. film starring Robert Downey Jr. and such television series as "Elementary" and the BBC’s "Sherlock."
But according to a civil complaint filed on Thursday in federal court in Illinois by a leading Holmes scholar, many licensing fees paid to the Arthur Conan Doyle estate have been unnecessary, since the main characters and elements of their story derived from materials published before Jan. 1, 1923, are no longer covered by United States copyright law.
DRM Lawsuit Filed By Independent Bookstores Against Amazon, "Big Six" Publishers
Three independent bookstores are taking Amazon and the so-called Big Six publishers (Random House, Penguin, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan) to court in an attempt to level the playing field for book retailers. If successful, the lawsuit could completely change how ebooks are sold. The class-action complaint, filed in New York on Feb 15., claims that by entering into confidential agreements with the Big Six publishers, who control approximately 60 percent of print book revenue in the U.S., Amazon has created a monopoly in the marketplace that is designed to control prices and destroy independent booksellers. The complaint centers on digital rights management, or DRM, the technological lock that prevents consumers from transferring any ebook they buy on an Amazon Kindle onto, say, a Nook or Kobo ereader.
Oxford Blocks Google Docs in Response to Phishing Scams
The University of Oxford temporarily blocked Google Docs on Monday in an attempt to make its students and professors more aware of an increase in phishing scams that use the Web service. In a blog post, Robin Stevens, a communications programmer at Oxford, said university officials had decided to take "extreme action" after what they perceived to be Google’s inaction on the issue.
In the schemes, attackers, often pretending to be from Oxford, send out Google Doc forms that ask users to enter their personal e-mail passwords. Students and faculty members deceived by the form then freely type in that information, unwittingly lending their account to the attacker. "Almost all the recent attacks have used Google Docs URLs, and in some cases the phishing e-mails have been sent from an already-compromised university account to large numbers of other Oxford users," said Mr. Stevens.
33% of Seafood Mislabeled in Grocery Stores, Restaurants & Sushi Venues
Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, uncovered widespread seafood fraud across the United States, according to a new report (PDF) released today. In one of the largest seafood fraud investigations in the world to date, DNA testing confirmed that one-third of the 1,215 fish samples collected by Oceana from 674 retail outlets in 21 states were mislabeled. Among the report’s other key findings include:
- Only seven of the 120 red snapper samples collected nationwide were actually red snapper
- 84 percent of the white tuna samples were actually escolar, a species that can cause serious digestive issues for some individuals who eat more than a few ounces
- Fish on the FDA’s "DO NOT EAT" list for sensitive groups such as pregnant women and children because of their high mercury content were sold to customers who had ordered safer fish
Oceana is calling on the federal government to require traceability of all seafood sold in the U.S. Tracking fish from boat to plate would not only significantly reduce seafood fraud and help keep illegally caught fish out of the U.S. market, it would also give consumers more information about the fish they purchase, including the species name, where, when and how it was caught, if it was farmed or previously frozen and if any additives were using during processing.
Research – Public Reporting of Hospital Infection Rates
Health-care associated infections (HAIs) kill about 100,000 people annually; most are preventable, but many hospitals have not aggressively addressed the problem. In response, twenty-five states and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services require public reporting of hospital infection rates for at least some types of infections, and other states and private entities are implementing such reporting. We report on work in progress, in which we assess the quality and suitability of different state websites and reports for different target audiences and the extent to which they meet best practices for online communication.
White House Open Access Memo Strong, Could Be Stronger
Today [Feb. 22], the White House released a memorandum (PDF) in support of a more robust policy for public access to research, making the results of billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded research freely available online. The memorandum gives government agencies six months to detail plans to ensure the public can read and analyze both research and data, without charge. Both open access and open data are key to promoting innovation, government transparency, and scientific progress. This comes on the heels of Congress’ introduction of FASTR (Fair Access to Science & Technology Research), a bill that sets into law many of the same goals as the memorandum. There are, however, some key differences.
Mobile Device Security: Boosting Confidence and Trust in Health IT
Mobile devices like laptops, smartphones and tablets have the potential to increase the quality and efficiency of health care by, among other things, making it easier for health care providers to access patient information when and where they need it. Because health care providers are increasingly using these devices, the HHS recently released a new set of online tools to help providers comply with their obligations under HIPAA when using mobile devices. Mobile devices pose unique risks to the security of health information; the biggest cause of health information breaches is theft and loss of laptops and other portable media.
Kerala State Central Library Starts Digitizing Hundreds of Rare Books
The Kerala State Central Library, which happens to be one of the oldest in India, has made the big leap to the digital age by having digitized hundreds of books, some which dates back hundreds of years. During the initial phase, 707 rare documents which includes 644 English and 63 Malayalam books comprising 3,28,268 pages were added to the Digital Archive. 480 more English books comprising a total of 1,84,321 pages were added in the second phase in 2012.
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.