Public records should be public.

Update: The California State Legislature has amended AB2880, removing all copyright-related provisions from its text. We will keep you updated if anything changes.

Thank you all for your efforts in making this happen!


Every summer, my parents would pack up the car and we would take the long drive from Orange County to Yosemite. We spent a full week climbing rocks, wading in the Merced River, and making sure our food was locked tightly at night after that one unfortunate incident when a bear made off with the marshmallows and Doritos and left the peaches and bread. (We felt so guilty!)

It was surely this kind of nostalgia that shocked California lawmakers into action last month, when the California Assembly passed AB 2880 unanimously, marking a significant change in the direction of California copyright law. AB 2880 is a direct response to DNC Parks & Resorts’ claim that it owns trademark over the names “Curry Village” and “Ahwahnee Hotel” and even “Yosemite National Park.” Essentially, DNC held these names hostage in exchange for cash. The National Park Service refused to pay, and changed some of the signs in the park earlier this year.

The response at the state level is an over-correction of copyright law in California that threatens transparency, scholarship, and free speech. This is no exaggeration, dozens of free speech advocates and organizations have rallied to say: Public records should remain public.

USF’s Gleeson Library | Geschke Center joins the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) in opposing AB 2880. You can see our letter to the California Senate in the embedded PDF and text below.

Senate Judiciary Committee
State Capitol, Room 2187
Sacramento, CA  95814

Re: Opposition to CA 2880

Dear Chair Jackson:

The University of San Francisco is a private urban university located near Golden Gate Park in the city of San Francisco. It is the city’s first university, established by the Jesuits in October 1855. An intentionally diverse, socially responsible learning community, our mission statement specifies that the university “will draw from the cultural, intellectual, and economic resources of the San Francisco Bay Area and its location on the Pacific Rim to enrich and strengthen its educational programs.”

We are writing to strongly oppose AB 2880, as the legislation will significantly change California government’s ability to create, hold, and exert intellectual property rights and are counter to the goals of federal copyright law to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” and make available work “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.”

The proposed state intellectual property system (1) limits access to and use of state-produced works, particularly for research and education, (2) imposes significant new burdens on libraries, archives, and educational institutions, and (3) would have an adverse effect on the historical and cultural record keeping bodies of California, with a negative impact on future scholarship.

USF students and faculty regularly utilize a wide variety of California government documents for their research. Examples include student research projects on

  • The California job and housing balance
  • Cost/benefit analysis of wind energy in California
  • Public school finance and the impact of charter schools on education funding
  • Education and treatment of California’s juvenile offenders

In order to teach, learn, and research with full engagement, professors and students both use government documents such as

  • California Legislative Information
  • Ed-Data
  • CEQA Environmental Impact Reports
  • California Statistical Abstract
  • Data and publications from a wide range of California state agencies such as the CA Energy Commission, CA Department of Education, CA Department of Finance, and CA Department of Justice.

Access to these resources is critical to the ongoing research of USF’s students and faculty. Granting a blanket authorization to state entities to assert copyright over taxpayer-funded works would hinder access, critical analysis, research, and teaching and learning with what has traditionally been public record.

Additionally, AB 2880 would also have a chilling effect on projects involved with the historical record keeping and digital archiving of California government publications. For example, the Gleeson Library | Geschke Center is embarking on a project to archive and provide public access to select government documents relating to California and the Bay Area. AB 2880 has already created uncertainty around permissions needed and rights granted for using and sharing California’s publications. This uncertainty around who owns public records creates barriers for libraries, archives, historical foundations, and educational institutions that hold a community role in preserving access to a wide range of government information and publicly funded research.

As a member of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and as an educational institution with a long history of service and scholarship, we urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject AB 2880 to ensure that public records remain available for scholarship and engagement.

Tyrone H. Cannon
Dean, University Libraries
University of San Francisco

If you’d like to contact your representative on this issue, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has set up a form:

One thought on “Public records should be public.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s