Protect the public right to government information: help preserve and expand Title 44
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The public's right to information by and about its government is critical to the workings of a democracy. Title 44 of the US Code, which codifies the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) into law, is the *only* legal guarantee that the US government will provide its information for free to the General Public, the citizens of the USA. It also directly affects thousands of non-Federal Depository Library Program libraries by defining free public access to the essential information and records of our democracy.
A push to revise Title 44 is in the works led by the Government Publishing Office and the Committee on House Administration. Government Publishing Office Director Davita Vance-Cooks has asked the Depository Library Council (DLC) to gather recommendations from the depository community for changes to Chapter 19 of Title 44 of the U.S. Code.
We the undersigned write today to assure that any changes to the law strengthen the FDLP and free public access to and preservation of government information regardless of physical or digital format.
We wholeheartedly endorse Stanford University Library Director Michael Keller's recent letter to the Committee on House Administration (CHA) and Joint Committee on Printing (JCP) in support of the FDLP’s historically important work to inform the public.
We affirm the importance of four principles and call for them to be espoused in any change in Title 44:
- Free Access and Free Use
- Modernized scope of information covered by Chapter 19 to include digital information.
Further, we fully support six specific changes to Title 44 outlined by Librarian Keller that reflect those principles:
1) Modernize the definition of “publications” to include all “public information.”
2) Retain and enhance FREE use by the General Public. Modernize §1911 to retain free access and to reflect the broader scope of Public Information.
3) Prohibit fees for govinfo.gov. Change wording of §4102 to remove “fee” and replace with the same “free” language as Chapter 19.
4) Require Preservation. Make changes to §1904 and §1905 to explicitly include “digital public information” that GPO will deposit by sending digital public information to FDLP libraries. Define “digital depositories” as FDLP libraries that receive, store, preserve, and provide access to digital government information they acquire through the Depository Program.
5) Add a privacy provision for govinfo.gov with a change to §4101 that prohibits the use of technologies that track user individual-level activity.
6) Make all digital government information free.
FDLP libraries and the federal government have long worked in concert to offer access to and preservation of the public's information and this should continue in the digital age. By modernizing Title 44 for the digital age, it will expand the scope of what FDLP libraries, GPO and the federal government can do to assure preservation of and access to the people's information for many years to come. Thank you for your support by signing this petition. Please also contact your representatives and ask them for their support in this matter.
- Stanford Library Director sends letter to Committee on House Admin in support of Title 44 and the FDLP
- Strengthening Title 44 part 1: Modernize definition of “publications.”
- Strengthening Title 44 part 2: free access
- Strengthening Title 44 part 3: privacy
- Strengthening Title 44, part 4: Preservation
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