Publication Date

December 1, 1998

1999 Funding for Federal Cultural Agencies

Following the passage of four brief stopgap funding measures, Congress finally passed an omnibus appropriations bill. The bill included increases for the National Archives and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The National Archives' fiscal 1999 operating budget will be $224.6 million, a significant increase over the current level of $205 million; however, $7.8 million of this increase falls under the category of "delay in obligation," which means that funding may not be available until September 1999. Funding for the grants program of the NHPRC will increase from $5.5 million to $10 million (of which $4 million falls in the category of "delay in obligation") with $6 million earmarked for competitive grants and $4 million for the Center for Jewish History to assist in compiling records of Judaic history and digitizing them for worldwide use on the Internet.

Funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities remains at the 1998 level of $110.7 million. The budget for the National Endowment for the Arts is $98.8 million, also the same as last year. The Wilson Center's funding will remain at the 1998 level of $5.8 million. The museum component of the Institute of Library and Museum Services will have a slight increase of $200,000, bringing its annual budget to $23.4 million. There were some increases for historic preservation. With funding for the State Historic Preservation Program going up $2 million to bring it to a total of $31.4 million. The omnibus bill included $30 million for the president's new Millennium Program that will assist in the preservation of endangered historic places and cultural artifacts. The Legislative Branch Appropriations bill included permanent reauthorization for the American Folklife Center and an increase from $282.3 million to $296.5 million for the Library of Congress.

Congress Passes Digital Copyright Bill

On October 8 the Senate passed the Conference Report on H.R. 2281, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Treaties Implementation Act, and four days later the House approved it. The president signed this legislation into law on October 28 and it is Public Law 105-304.

The WIPO treaties were agreed to in late 1996 to protect literary and artistic works on the Internet and also the rights of performers and producers of phonograms. There is also a major section in this bill that provides limits on the copyright infringement liability of Internet service providers and includes a special provision to limit liability on libraries and educational institutions.

Additionally this legislation provides for copying for preservation purposes, and affirms the current law's commitment to "fair use," which allows the use of copyrighted material for teaching, criticism, and research purposes without the permission of the copyright owner. An important provision made to the bill in July by the House Commerce Committee and included in the Conference Report establishes a review process for evaluating the possible negative impact that this legislation could have on "fair use." The bill also directs the Copyright Office to prepare a report on how to promote "distance learning" through digital technologies and specifies that the report is to include recommendations for future legislation. The distance learning report is to be completed within six months of the date of enactment.

It is a victory for the library, archival, and scholarly communities that the Conference Report included specific provisions on "fair use" and omitted the database protection amendment that many feared would have a negative impact on scholarly research.

Assassination Records Review Board Recommends Increasing Openness

On September 29 the Assassination Records Review Board released its final report on its work of collecting and releasing over four million pages of previously classified documents about the assassination of President Kennedy. Because the board decided early in its work to interpret an "assassination record" in a very broad way, the documents reveal significant new insights into Cold War foreign policy and how some agencies operated in times of crisis. But for historians, the value of this federal undertaking is seen not only in the released documents but also in the broad implications of the project for declassification policy.

The project was a unique experiment that gave the five citizens on the board the authority to open federal agency records. While the board carefully weighed the concerns of the public's right to know with the need to protect sensitive national security information, the law mandated a "presumption of disclosure." The only recourse that agency heads had for keeping records closed that the board decided should be opened was an appeal to the president.

An important part of the final report are 10 recommendations for building on the foundation of openness created by the board. These recommendations stress the importance of declassification boards being genuinely independent (both in the structure of the organization and in the qualifications of the appointments), and the need to streamline the current cumbersome system for dealing with classified information of one agency that appears in a document of another agency.

Copies of the report are available from the National Archives and the Government Printing Office bookstore. You may also see the report at http:/ /www.indiana.edu/-oah.

President's Commission on Women in American History

In Executive Order 13090, issued on July 2, 1998, the president established a commission mandated to make recommendations by March 1, 1999, on ways to best acknowledge and celebrate the roles and accomplishments of women in American history. The order states that "Recommendations may include, among other things, the feasibility of a focal point for women's history located in Washington, D.C., and the use of the latest technology to connect existing and planned women's history sites, museums, and libraries."

Ann Lewis, White House director of communications, and Beth Newburger, associate administrator of communication at the General Services Administration, are the co-chairs of the commission. The nine other members of the commission include two CEOs, two leaders of nonprofit organizations, a former college president, a journalist, a scholar, and an astronaut, as well as Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the granddaughter of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. The commission held its first meeting on July 16, 1998, at the Canandaigua County courthouse where Susan B. Anthony was tried and convicted for voting. This was followed by public meetings in Chicago and Washington to hear from interested individuals about their ideas and suggestions for commemorating American women's past. More information on the Women's History Commission can be found at https://www.gsa.gov/staff/pa/whc.htm.

Breakthrough for Foreign Relations Series

On October 8 the State Department's Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation met and considered, among other things, the status of the Foreign Relations of the United States documentary volumes that have been held up for many months because of lack of agreement with the CIA concerning the inclusion of information on particular covert actions. The State Department, the CIA, and the National Security Council established in early 1998 a high-level panel of top officials to address this issue. Instead of considering specific documents for declassification, the panel focused on whether the Foreign Relations volumes can acknowledge specific covert actions. Of the 17 separate covert actions considered, the panel voted to acknowledge 15. This decision clears the way for the next step, which will involve the selection and declassification of particular records that document these covert actions. The committee applauded the new process for making significant progress toward resolving these long-term problems and unlocking a logjam of volumes for which publication had been postponed. The committee had recommended against publishing approximately 12 volumes that they considered inaccurate and incomplete.

Congress Adds 20 Years to Copyright Protection

On October 7 both the House and Senate passed by unanimous consent the Copyright Term Extension Act, also known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. Bono, who died in January, had been a strong champion of term extension. This legislation extends copyright protection from the current law of the life of the creator plus 50 years to the life of the creator plus 70 years. Protection for corporate "creators" is increased from 75 years to 95 years. The library community worked successfully to secure a provision that permits libraries, archives, and nonprofit educational institutions to reproduce, distribute, or display a published copyrighted work in its last 20 years of protection for the purposes of preservation, scholarship, or research, if there has been a good faith investigation to determine that such use would not involve commercial exploitation, that the work in question cannot be obtained at a reasonable price, and that the copyright owner or its agents have not given a notice of objection to such use.

In his floor statement Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), one of the key supporters of this legislation, noted that on July 1, 1995, the European Union issued a directive to its member countries mandating a copyright term of life of the creator plus 70 years. The desire to have uniformity with the European countries was one of the driving forces in passage of this legislation. On October 27 the president signed the Copyright Term Extension Act and it is Public Law 105-278.

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