EFFector Online Newsletter
Vol. 11, No. 6 May 11, 1998 email@example.com
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ISSN 1062-9424
IN THIS ISSUE
* IMMEDIATE ACTION ALERT, MAY 12 DEADLINE: CONTACT REPRESENTATIVES
AGAIN TO OPPOSE DATABASE BILL
2. IMMEDIATE ACTION TO TAKE
3. SAMPLE PHONE "SCRIPT" & SAMPLE FAX
See http://www.eff.org for more information on EFF activities &
IMMEDIATE ACTION ALERT, MAY 12 DEADLINE
CONTACT REPRESENTATIVES AGAIN TO OPPOSE DATABASE BILL
The Electronic Frontier Foundation May 4, 1998
Please distribute widely to appropriate forums, no later than May 20,
* Latest News:
Please call your Representative on Tue. May 12 to oppose
anti-science, anti-journalism bill H.R. 2652. House "Collections
of Information Antipiracy" bill, which would create a new property
right in databases and make criminal many uses of uncopyrightable
public-domain information without express permission from a
database supplier, was scheduled to be voted on by the House last
week. That vote was postponed, and is to take place Tue., May 12.
Bill is on the fast track in the House and dangerously likely to
* What You Can Do Now:
Follow the directions below and call/fax your own Representatives.
Ask them to oppose creation of copyright-like protections for
public-domain information that cannot be copyrighted. Explain that
no new legislation is needed - the database industry is more
lucrative now than ever - and that this bill harms all citizens'
fair use rights and undermines scientific and other inquiry,
simply to give database companies a new "right" to own and control
2. IMMEDIATE ACTION TO TAKE
Free speech and fair use supporters are asked to IMMEDIATELY contact
their own Representatives, as well as House leaders, and ask them to
to vote against the database bill, H.R. 2652, expected to pass or fail
on the House floor on May 12, 1998. This contact shouldn't take more
than TWO MINUTES per office.
Urge your Representatives to refrain from voting away your right to
know and use plain facts because some companies demand special
privileges to control and charge for the use of public-domain
Feel free to make use of the sample fax and phone "script" below.
(We regret that some readers, due to Net-related delays or for other
reasons, may not receive this alert in time to act. Sometimes Congress
moves quickly, leaving us with insufficient warning to issue an alert
early enough for all readers to receive it in time.)
LOOKING UP YOUR REPRESENTATIVE'S CONTACT INFO
See EFF's Contacting Congress factsheet at http://www.eff.org/congress
which provides links to places to look up who your legislator is if
necessary, and to obtain their phone and fax numbers. Please PHONE
first, FAX second. Time is short enough that some of the faxes may
simply not make it in time.
If you can spare a few extra minutes, try working your way down this
list of House leadership, as well as contacting your own Rep:
Party Last Name, First Name Voice Phone Fax
R GA/06 Gingrich, Newt 1-202-225-4501 1-202-225-4656+
R TX/26 Armey, Richard 1-202-225-7772 1-202-226-8100+
D MO/03 Gephardt, Richard 1-202-225-2671 1-202-225-7452+
R TX/22 DeLay, Tom 1-202-225-5951 1-202-225-5241
D MI/10 Bonior, David 1-202-225-2106 1-202-226-1169
R OH/08 Boehner, John 1-202-225-6205 1-202-225-0704
R CA/47 Cox, Christopher 1-202-225-5611 1-202-225-9177
D CA/03 Fazio, Vic 1-202-225-5716 1-202-225-5141
D MD/05 Hoyer, Steny 1-202-225-4131 1-202-225-4300
(+ These are the most important to contact - call/fax them first.)
House leaders are, respectively: Speaker, Majority Leader, Minority
Leader, Maj. Whip, Min. Whip, Republican Conference Chair, Rep. Policy
Committee Chair, Democratic Caucus Chair, Dem. Steering Cmte. Chair
3. SAMPLE PHONE "SCRIPT" & SAMPLE FAX
If you would like to both call, and send a fax, this extra action
would certainly help.
For best results, try to put this in your own (short!) words, and be
calmly emotive without being hostile.
IF YOU ARE A CONSTITUENT (i.e., you live in the same district as the
Rep. you are contacting) make sure to say so. For example "I am a
constituent, and I'm calling/writing because...."
IF YOU REPRESENT A COMPANY OR ORGANIZATION, say so: "I'm Jane Person
from Personal Technologies Inc. of Austin. I'm calling on behalf of
Personal Technologies to ask the Representative to...." Business
interests carry a lot of weight with many legislators, especially if
they are in the legislator's home district. Legislators also generally
heed organizational voices over individiual ones. On this issue
especially, legislators needs to hear a commercial viewpoint OPPOSING
You: [ring ring]
Legislative staffer: Hello, Representative Lastname's office.
You: I'm calling to urge Representative Lastname to REJECT the
so-called "Collections of Information Antipiracy Act", H.R. 2652.
This bill is missing key definitions and creates new property
rights in databases and the raw data contained in them, at the
expense of ALL citizens' rights to know and use plain facts and
information. This bill threatens fair use and freedom of speech and
press. The database industry has not proven any need for this
legislation, and it is simply yet another attempt to extend
copyright-like protection to public-domain material that can't be
copyrighted. The bill is not responsive to WIPO treaty language and
it provides for excessive and injust penalties. There is no need
for this legislation, and I urge Representative Lastname to REJECT
H.R. 2652. Thank you.
Staffer: OK, thanks. [click]
It's that easy.
You can optionally ask to speak to the legislator's technology &
intellectual property staffer. You probably won't get to, but the
message may have more weight if you succeed. The staffer who first
answers the phone probably won't be the tech/i.p. staffer.
See above for how to get relevant Congressional fax numbers. Please,
if you have the time, write your own 1-3 paragraph letter in your own
words, rather than send a copy of this sample letter. (However,
sending a copy of the sample letter is far better than taking no
Dear Rep. Lastname:
I'm writing to urge you to reject the excessive intellectual
property protections for database maintainers as contained in H.R.
2652, the "Collections of Information Antipiracy Act." This bill,
while being touted as as a piece of antipiracy legislation,
actually makes most uses of pure information contained in a
database illegal without prior permission from the database
maintainer. The Act does not create useful exceptions for the fair
use of information, and key definitions of crucial terms, such as
"collection" and "substantial part" are missing. Furthermore the
penalties called for - up to $500,000 and 10 years in prison - are
excessive and injust.
The database industry is booming and is quite lucrative for
companies collecting and disseminating information. At present, the
law requires database collectors to add some originality to the
information collected before the collectors receive a legally
recognized property right in the database. H.R. 2652 would change
this, giving collectors property rights in raw information that has
traditionally and properly been in the public domain. This assault
on the public's fair use rights and freedom of speech and press
will have dire consequences for science, medicine, journalism,
political campaigning, and legal research. Additionally, the bill
is simply not responsive in any way to the requirements of recent
WIPO treaties. WIPO rejected such a "database giveaway".
The database industry has not demonstrated a clear need for this
legislation, and the public interest is harmed by giving these
companies additional rights to control plain facts and information.
H.R. 2652 represents an attempt by some information collection
owners to fortify their markets through manipulating the legal
system (instead of through fair competition and the addition of
value) by raising fears of electronic piracy of information over
the Internet and through new information technologies. Congress
should wait until specific and definable market failures become
apparent before acting to correct them, and even then not in a way
as broad and vague as that attempted in H.R. 2652.
My Name Here
My Address Here
(Address is especially important if you want your letter to be taken
as a letter from an actual constituent.)
For brief tips on writing letters to Congress, see:
http://www.vote-smart.org/contact/contact.html The most important tip
is to BE POLITE AND BRIEF. Swearing will NOT help.
Note for non-US activists: You may wish to contact the House
leadership listed above, but focus on the argument that WIPO rejected
the approach taken by this bill because it was highly controversial.
Perhaps suggests that passage of this bill will simply undo WIPO
efforts to synchronize intellectual property law around the world, and
further harm trade between the US and the EU (and other areas.) Avoid
the argument that non-US interests, especially commercial interests,
need access to information in American-owned databases (unless you are
writing to describe a situation in which US interests are thwarted
because your company or organization will be harmed by the bill, and
you are working with US companies in some kind of joint effort). US
legislators see the US as an intellectual property leader, in
competition with the globe, and would probably like the idea that US
monetary interests are boosted at the expense of foreigners.
THE LATEST NEWS
H.R. 2652, the "Collections of Information Antipiracy Act", introduced
by Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), expands the rights of database creators
and maintainers, at the expense of YOUR rights to know and use plain
and available facts and information. The bill has been put on the fast
track, and is up for a "suspension rules" vote, by the entire House in
which it cannot be amendmed to fix its flaws (but can only pass with a
2/3 majority vote.) An exception is that the principal sponsor can
amend it at will (probably not for the better). A lot of big money is
behind this legislation, so the danger of its passage is high.
Concerns that it would undermine science were enough to get the vote
postponed last week, but this argument seems to have been insufficient
to kill the bill. Congress needs to hear from YOU, and especially
needs to hear from US companies that would be harmed by this
The bill, the latest in a long series of efforts by certain commercial
interests to extend copyright-like protections to that which belongs
to the public and cannot be copyrighted, authorizes enormous civil and
criminal penalties (up to $250,000 and/or 5 years in prison for a
first offense; $500,000 and/or 10 years in prison for subsequent
convictions!) against anyone who uses uncopyrightable, public domain
data collected in a database without the express consent of the
company that controls that database.
The Act, backed by major database maintainers such as Microsoft, Reed
Elsevier, and West Publishing, is designed to create a new crime
against those who extract or commercially use a "substantial part" of
a collection of information gathered, organized or maintained by
another person "through a substantial investment of money or other
resources" so as to harm the data collector's "actual or potential"
market for a product or service that incorporates that collection of
The main problem with the bill is that key terms are either not
defined or are poorly defined, leaving huge loopholes that render
literally all information, data, and facts vulnerable under the Act.
For example, even though the bill is titled the "Collections of
Information Antipiracy Act," the term "collection" is not defined.
"Substantial part" is not defined. The terminology is vague enough
that just about anything could be considered a "substantial part" (cf.
court decisions regarding digital sampling of one song for sound
effects in another; generally if the sound bite is recognizable at all
it is considered "substantial" and still owned by the original
creator. It is unlikely that we can rely on the courts to narrowly
interpret this legislation should it pass.)
And "information" is defined as "facts, data, works of authorship, or
any other intangible material capable of being collected and organized
in a systematic way," an extremely broad definition that could include
just about anything! The legislation amounts to a roundabout form of
censorship that could severely harm journalism, medicine, scientific
inquiry, academia, consumer watchdogging, the Freedom of Information
Act, the democratic political process itself, and many other areas and
avenues of inquiry about, and/or use of, raw information and facts.
Unfortunately, while Congress has been feeling intensifying pressure
from the database maintainers to pass this legislation, they have not
been hearing from those opposed to the bill. YOUR immediate action is
needed to stop it from passing the House.
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