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EFFector - Volume 11, Issue 2 - Immediate Action Alert: Contact Key Representatives On the SCIP to Oppose Database Bill

EFFector       Vol. 11, No. 2       Mar. 11, 1998       editor@eff.org
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424


IN THIS ISSUE:

IMMEDIATE ACTION ALERT, MARCH 18 DEADLINE:
 CONTACT KEY REPRESENTATIVES ON THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON COURTS AND 
 INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY TO OPPOSE DATABASE BILL
    1. INTRO
    2. IMMEDIATE ACTION TO TAKE
    3. SAMPLE PHONE "SCRIPT" & SAMPLE FAX
    4. MORE ACTION TO TAKE
ADMINISTRIVIA

 See http://www.eff.org for more information on EFF activities & alerts!

    _________________________________________________________________ 

   
The Electronic Frontier Foundation                    March  17, 1998
      
IMMEDIATE ACTION ALERT, MARCH 18 DEADLINE:
CONTACT KEY REPRESENTATIVES ON THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON COURTS AND 
 INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY TO OPPOSE DATABASE BILL
   
           Please distribute widely to appropriate forums, 
                    no later than April 1, 1998.
      
   SUMMARY:
   
     * Latest News:
       House "Collections of Information Antipiracy" bill would 
       create a new property right in databases and make criminal
       many uses of information without express permission from the
       database supplier.

     * What You Can Do Now:
       Follow the directions below and call Rep. Howard Coble and 
       members of House Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual 
       Property. Ask them to oppose expansion of rights to database
       holders without clear proof that additional protections are 
       needed and without explicit explanation of how fair use will
       be protected.  Explain that no new legislation is needed.
       
    _________________________________________________________________
   
   
THE LATEST NEWS
  
On March 18, 1998, the House Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual
Property will mark up H.R. 2652, the "Collections of Information
Antipiracy Act."  Introduced by Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), H.R. 2652
expands the rights of database collectors and 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 data collected in a database
without the express consent of the person who maintains that database.

The Act, backed by major database maintainers such as Microsoft 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 information.

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 data 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.  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!

Unfortunately, while Congress has feeling a lot of pressure from the
database maintainers to pass this legislation, they have not been
hearing from those of us opposed to the bill.  YOUR immediate action
is needed to stop it from passing out of the Subcommittee.

    _________________________________________________________________

      
IMMEDIATE ACTION TO TAKE
   
Free speech supporters, *especially supporters from states represented
on the House Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property*, are
asked to IMMEDIATELY contact these key Representatives and ask them to
"kill" the database bill, H.R. 2652, at the House Subcommittee on
Courts and Intellectual Property markup meeting this Wednesday, March
18, 1998 at 2:00 p.m. (ET).  
 
We ask you to take JUST TWO MINUTES or so per call to contact the
offices of Rep. Coble (Chair of the Subcommittee on Courts and
Intellectual Property) and the rest of the Subcommittee and express
your opposition to this legislation!  Urge the Representatives to
refrain from giving protections to database producers who already see
hefty profits and need no additional sheltering of their wares.
    
Feel free to make use of the sample fax and phone "script" below.
   
   
                  HOUSE JUDICITARY COMMITTEE'S 
         SUBCOMMITTEE ON COURTS AND INTELLECTUAL PROPRETY


    ST    PTY   REPRESENTATIVE                PHONE          FAX
      DIST
    ---------------------------------------- (Use 202 area code)---

    NC  6   R  Coble, Howard (chair)         225-3065      225-8611
    CA  26  D  Berman, Howard                225-4695      225-5279
    VA  9   D  Boucher, Rick                 225-3861      225-0442
    FL  12  R  Canady, Charles               225-1252      225-2279
    UT  3   D  Cannon, Chris                 225-7751      225-5629
    MI  14  D  Conyers, John                 225-5126      225-0072
    MA  10  D  Delahunt, William             225-3111      226-0771
    MA  4   D  Frank, Barney                 225-5931      225-0182
    CA  23  R  Gallegly, Elton               225-5811      225-1100
    VA  6   R  Goodlatte, Robert             225-5431      225-9681
    CA  6   D  Lofgren, Zoe                  225-3072      225-3336
    FL  8   R  McCollum, William             225-2176      225-0999
    IN  7   R  Pease, Edward                 225-5805  765-423-2808
    CA  27  R  Rogan, James                  225-4176      225-5828
    WI  9   R  Sensenbrenner, F.J.           225-5101      225-3190
    _________________________________________________________________

   
  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 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.

   
   PHONE "SCRIPT"
   
     
     You: [ring ring]
     
     Legislative staffer: Hello, Representative Lastname's office.
     
     You: I'm calling to urge Representative Lastname to REJECT the 
     Collections of Information Antipiracy Act, H.R. 2652.  This bill
     is missing key definitions and creates new property rights in 
     databases and the raw information contained in them.  These new 
     rights threaten the free flow of information, freedom of speech
     and press, and fair use rights.  The database industry has not 
     proven any need for this legislation.  The bill is not 
     responsive to WIPO treaty language, provides for excessive and
     injust penalties, and does not provide clear guidance on how 
     fair use would be protected.  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.
   

   SAMPLE FAX
   
Relevant Congressional fax numbers are in the contact list above.
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 action!)

     
     Dear Rep. Lastname:
     
     I'm writing to urge you to reject additional 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 been in the public domain.
     This assault on the public's fair use rights and the free flow
     of information will have dire consequences for free speech and
     press, and scientific 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 in as 
     broad and vague a way as that attempted in H.R. 2652.
     
     Sincerely,
     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.
   
    _________________________________________________________________

   
MORE ACTION TO TAKE
   
After calling/faxing members of the House Subcommittee on Courts and
Intellectual Property, please contact your own Representatives and
urge them to oppose H.R. 2652, the Collections of Information
Antipiracy Act.  Do this even after the March 18 deadline for the main
action.  If you have time, please also contact House leaders and ask
them to oppose any such legislation. (See contact list below)

You may also wish to follow up your calls and faxes with e-mail.

If you are unsure who your legislators are or how to contact them, see
the EFF Congress Contact Factsheet at:    
http://www.eff.org/congress.html
   
For more information about the Collection of Information Antipiracy
Act and why it should be opposed, see the Digital Future Coaltion web
page at:
http://www.dfc.org/

                          HOUSE LEADERSHIP


    ST    PTY   REPRESENTATIVE                PHONE          FAX
      DIST
    ---------------------------------------- (Use 202 area code)---
    GA  6   R  Gingrich, Newt                225-4501      225-4656
    TX  26  R  Armey, Richard                225-7772      226-8100
    MO  3   D  Gephardt, Richard             225-2671      225-7452
    TX  22  R  DeLay, Tom                    225-5951      225-5241
    MI  10  D  Bonior, David                 225-2106      226-1169
    OH  8   R  Boehner, John                 225-6205      225-0704
    CA  47  R  Cox, Christopher              225-5611      225-9177
    CA  3   D  Fazio, Vic                    225-5716      225-5141
    MD  5   D  Hoyer, Steny                  225-4131      225-4300
    _________________________________________________________________
    
    
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

   
[end of alert]

_____________________________________________________________________


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