Fee-Based Library Research Services Threaten Private Information Brokers

Article excerpt

Fee-Based Library Research Services Threaten Private Information Brokers

In June 1988 the first known challenge to state-sponsored competition with private enterprise in the fledgling information brokerage service industry was filed in Arizona. Utilizing a state statute which prohibits state government competition with private busines, except under certain circumstances, the complaint by ONLINE NEWS LINK sought an end to competition by Arizona State University's Fee-Based Information and Research Service Team (ASU FIRST). The Arizona statute is one of two in the nation and only one other state, Colorado, has a similar statute (modeled after Arizona's law).

In January 1989, Arizona's Private Enterprise Review Board concluded that the operations of ASU FIRST fell within the public service exemptions provided in the statute. The review board recommended, however, that ASU FIRST cease advertising in the Yellow Pages directories. The University has advised the review board that although the recommendation is not enforceable, it will refrain from such advertising. Previously, at the direction of the board of regents for the state universities, rates charged by ASU FIRST were studied and increased to more fully reflect market costs.

Contrary to ASU's version of events the January 1989 hearing before the state's private enterprise review board did not result in "a precedent-setting case." Indeed, it was as "precedent-setting" as a decision on TV's "The People's Court." (No offense, Judge Wapner.) Legal precedents are not "matters which merely lurk in the record," but are the adjudicated cases or decisions of courts of justice, considered as furnishing an example or authority for an identical or similar case. In the ASU FIRST case, the matter was heard before a non-judicial review board which has no enforcement authority. Moreover, the option remains to pursue the issue through the judicial system, and perhaps the establishment of legal precedent, one way or the other.

The underlying issue in the ASU FIRST matter was (and is) the threat of state-funded information brokerage and its potential for inhibiting or thwarting the development of independent, privately-owned information and research firms. …


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