Issues concerning libraries and the law - with latitude to discuss any other interesting issues Note: Not legal advice - just a dangerous mix of thoughts and information. Brought to you by Mary Minow, J.D., A.M.L.S. [California, U.S.] and Peter Hirtle, M.A., M.L.S. Follow us on twitter @librarylaw
I'm on the faculty for this one day Institute. I highly recommend it to library attorneys and board members. My topic will be on Library 2.0 and legal issues that libraries with blogs, wikis, etc. face (privacy, free speech, copyright).
The Lawyers for Libraries Institute is primarily intended to equip attorneys with tools they need to effectively defend the First Amendment in libraries. Participants will be instructed by practicing attorneys specializing in First Amendment law and will be eligible for continuing legal education (CLE) credits for their participation.
Among the topics to be covered during the institute are:
* Privacy, law enforcement requests for records and the USA PATRIOT Act; * Public forum analysis and libraries, including developing meeting room and display case policies; * Internet filtering and the ongoing repercussions of the Supreme Court’s CIPA decision; * How to respond to attempts to censor books and other library materials.
In addition, a panel of librarians will discuss their real-world experiences with creating and enforcing library policies.
Lawyers for Libraries workshops are open to licensed, practicing attorneys retained to represent or advise libraries on legal issues. Library trustees or board members who are responsible for establishing library policy may also attend. Librarians may attend if they are accompanied by a library attorney. The training is from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Westin Los Angeles Airport, 5400 West Century Blvd. Lodging is available at the hotel at just $139 per night.
The discounted rate is good for stays three days prior to and three days after the institute. Reservations must be made by Feb. 5, 2009, to receive the discounted rate.
To register for the “Lawyers for Libraries” institute, contact Jonathan Kelley, (800) 545-2433, ext. 4226, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Online registration and additional information are available at www.ala.org/lawyers. The cost to attend an institute is $395 for one and $745 for two.
Minow: Tell us about the vote by the Texas Youth Commission to ban your young adult anthology, Revolutionary Voices.
Sonnie: Revolutionary Voices is a collection of creative writing by LGBTQ youth. It deals with the challenges queer young people face and the ways young people have become empowered to stand up for their rights. The Texas Youth Commission (TYC) banned the book in 2004. I was upset by the news but not surprised. That same year,
ALA reported that 3 of the top 10 banned books nationwide were removed for “homosexual content.” During the 1990s alone, more than 500 books were challenged for having a “homosexual theme or ‘promoting homosexuality’” -- 71% of all challenges occurred in schools. Since TYC runs the state’s juvenile halls, it is ironically considered an educational institution. (In 2007 TYC was rocked by an abuse scandal including accusations that it’s been widely negligent in its educational mission. See http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/education/storie/110407dnprotycedmain.3a27333.html). Given that LGBTQ youth, especially youth of color, are more likely to get caught up in the system, finding a book like this in the library is all the more important. While it’s a dubious honor for be the author of a banned book, the disservice to these young people makes it hard to celebrate.
Minow: Did this experience politicize you? If so, how?
Sonnie: I have been politically active since my teens, but this experience did reinvigorate my activism around intellectual freedom issues. TYC’s decision to ban Revolutionary Voices, along with Radical Reference’s amazing work at the national conventions, catalyzed my decision to become a librarian. Prior to that I was working on information access for marginalized communities and for corporate media accountability through the Center for Media Justice (http://centerformediajustice.org). My work with social justice community organizations was a great primer for a career in librarianship.
Minow: You're known as the "banned librarian." What is the focus of your blog?
Sonnie: The “banned librarian” is a blog for librarians interested in social justice issues, and community activists who recognized the importance of freely accessible information.
Libraries and community-based organizations are natural allies. In my experience these partnerships are not always strong, even though the concerns are shared -- from surveillance under FISA to who’s hardest hit by the failing economy. In my blog I try to highlight the work of various organizations, special collections, and policy reform groups. Right now, I’m working on a series of posts about the upcoming PATRIOT Act sunsets. They’re written for legal novices like myself who want to get involved in advocacy efforts this year.
Hopefully blogging about censorship, public policy and social justice won’t invite the censors. But, given the current climate, I can only hope the ‘banned librarian’ won’t be making an appearance at “Banned Blog Week” anytime soon.
As I suspected, it's much easier and more flexible. So if any of you are looking for new posts based on categories, you may not find them. Use the technorati tags at the bottom of a post instead. If it works like I think it will, I'll probably stop using categories altogether.
Update: It looks as if users who click on a technorati tag below will get everyone in the world's posts with those tags. That's useful, but it would be nice to have an option to limit it to this blog, the way flickr does. Well, there's always the search button in the blog...
Last night's meet up of Bay Area Blawgers (aka legal bloggers) was really interesting. Eric Goldman convened the group, and started off with clearly pronouncing that anything said was "on the record."
Some of the more interesting comments, paraphrased, were:
... I'm not as angry as I seem. Also, I often learn from comments, even those that seem snarky. Often, when you meet the person face-to-face, they're as nice as can be. Then their snarky comments on your blog seem to fade away...
... We got three cease and desist letters in one week. One asked us to remove an article that we hadn't written, and as it turned out, the reporter had made several errors. The letter told us to take it down and pay a certain sum of money. It also told us about another blogger who had complied, paid the money, taken the material down... We did cross out the original article (still showing it as readable), and added corrections. We didn't respond to the c & d, and that's the last we heard from them.
Minow comment ex post facto: This is a great example of how libel law needs to evolve. Now that it's so easy to make corrections, and in fact if there's a dispute over what is correct, the aggrieved party can easily mount her own platform to speak her own truth.
And, an action item was given: File notice with the Copyright Office to get a safe harbor if one of your commenters posts infringing material. A show of hands was surprising - maybe one or two of us had done this. I've gently exhorted libraries to do this in the past, but it's something for bloggers to consider as well - especially those with active comments. I just checked, more expensive that I'd thought - $80. The form is dead simple though.
Perhaps the most interesting discussion was at the end - do blawgs influence the law? A patent attorney said he didn't see any influence really. He reads blogs for fun, but when he needs legal authority, he goes to the federal circuit and patent office. Kim Kralowec, however, said that she (and by extension, her blog readers) has far greater access to unpublished decisions, which affects her practice. Eric Goldman talked about emerging areas of law that have lots of unpublished opinions, and with bloggers posting unpublished opinions, minute orders etc., the judges are more accountable since they can't slip under the wire as much.
This looks like fun - a chance to meet SF Bay Area blawgers in person.
Blawgs are legal blogs, by the way.
Santa Clara University School of Law's High Tech Law Institute is sponsoring a gathering for Bay Area legal bloggers on March 28 from 6-8 pm.
Not only will this be a great chance to see if there are real people behind many of the blawgs I read, it's also good for an hour of CLE credit!
There will be a guided roundtable discussion led by Kurt Opsahl of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Cathy Kirkman of the Silicon Valley Media Law Blog (and a partner at Wilson Sonsini), and Mike Dillon of The Legal Thing (and General Counsel of Sun Microsystems). For more info, see Eric Goldman's Technology and Marketing Blog March 1 entry.
When: March 28, 6-8 pm Where: Wiegand Room, Arts & Sciences Building, Santa Clara University. Cost: Free. Parking is available for $5 CLE: This event qualifies for 1 hour of general CLE credit. Santa Clara University School of Law is a State Bar of California approved MCLE provider. How: Please RSVP to egoldman at gmail.com
Question for readers: Can I use "tags" in my Typepad blog posts? I've been using "categories" but it seems like it would be more fun and flexible if I could use "tags" like in Flickr. Is this something I can do easily? Note: I'm no techie.
I just spoke with Barbara Fullerton who is in the PhD program at the University of North Texas in Denton, TX. She is writing an article on the effect the Free Flow of Information Act (federal shield law) proposed by Rep. Mike Pence would have on bloggers. Feel free to send her your thoughts at email@example.com.
If you have a blog, do you consider yourself a journalist or a blogger? That is, if you use an anonymous source (and don't we all?), and you get a subpoena to reveal your source, are you protected as a blogger? Can you claim protection as a journalist? Can and should "journalist" be defined?
Good news for bloggers as far as campaign finance law - the Federal Election Commission just unanimously said that the Fired Up! network of blogs qualifies for the press exception to federal finance law. More at Media Law blog by Robert Ambrogi, Nov 17 post.
I mentioned to Barbara that I began my blog with the question of whether public libraries are exposed to lawsuits when they allow public comment as part of the library blog. I think libraries should think long and hard before they enable comments. A censored commentator could try to claim that the blog is like the library's bulletin board or giveaway table. If so, the library cannot remove a comment based on its content or viewpoint without triggering a First Amendment problem - quite possible at the near-impossible-to-meet legal standard of strict scrutiny.
Since I didn't have actual readers back in the ancient times when I wrote my first blog entry, (April 2004), Barbara suggested I bring it back up for debate. (Notable exception - Infozo the Moron Librarian found me back at my very first post - impressive).
One possible workaround - keep official library blogs as one-way communication. Let the Friends group sponsor a blog that allows library user comments. Private groups can generally remove comments without triggering First Amendment liability.
Update: I see that Eugene Volokh is working on an article about whether bloggers should be entitled to various protections that mainstream media writers get ... see discussion at The Volokh Conspiracy Nov 17
Grrr.... anyone know how to reduce comment spam? At least the current trend is to say they love the blog - before pitching the cialis.
I like blogs that use CAPTCHA for comments. It makes users type the letters they see in an image, cutting down the robots. TYPEPAD, my host, doesn't offer it. Anyone know of a simple third party CAPTCHA solution that I can use with TYPEPAD?
What I don't think I want:
1)to learn how to host the blog myself
2)require user registration - as a blog reader, requiring me to "register" just turns me away, even when I have something pithy to say.