Today, I called Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture public employee, Erin Bubb. She has recently sat on the "board of directors" of AAFCO, helping operate the private corporation. Next year, Erin Bubb of PA will be the "president" of AAFCO. AAFCO is the shield public employees have long been using to perform their regulatory duties...in private. AAFCO meetings are not "public" meetings. Yet, all the work done at the meeting by public employees to develop, write, and pass ingredients for use in pet food are then adopted by almost all states by "reference." Citizens who have longed attempted to access these "regulations" have been told by their public regulatory agencies that the information is "copyrighted" by AAFCO.
In October 2020, I put in a request to Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture for all the material they adopt from AAFCO via "reference" into their state law. The request was as follows: "Pursuant to the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act, I hereby request the following records: In accordance with CHAPTER 72. PET FOOD, Per § 72.5. Ingredients statement., I request the records of "ingredients for which the Association of American Feed Control Officials has established a name and definition shall be identified by by the name so established." PA Department Of Agriculture holds copies of these records referenced in state feed law and which is now part of state feed law by reference, and I request digital copies of these records to be provided to me."
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture denied my request for copies of what are now binding regulations in the state, stating: "the owner of the copyright has the exclusive right to do and authorize the reproduction of the copyrighted work in copies; distribution of copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending; or the display of the copyrighted work publicly. 17 U.S.C.S. § 106. The Department has confirmed that AAFCO will not authorize it to reproduce the copyrighted material you requested and provide you with a digital copy." The department said that the regulations could only be viewed in person. In the time of COVID-19, it is even more bizarre that regulations are so difficult to access.
This begs the question, why in the world are public employees knowingly adopting material into their laws, which they know can not be provided publicly on their website? Erin Bub and other Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture employees use public funds to be AAFCO members. They use public funds to attend AAFCO meetings. They then do quite an extensive amount of work "for AAFCO" on their publicly paid time. As if that wasn't already enough, the work is then compiled into books known as "AAFCO OP" books which Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture then uses even more public funds to purchase copies of. Tons of public funds are used to operate this private operation by public employees.
Public employees have long attempted to maintain that via AAFCO, they're simply "members" of a "professional association" of their peers. This isn't fully truthful. AAFCO meetings is where official work is being done, in a private setting, that is then adopted as "regulation" at both state and federal levels.
Public employees tasked with "regulating" pet food in their individual state are in charge of promulgating regulations in their individual states. Or with the FDA for products in interstate commerce, they're required to promulgate official regulations and adhere to the federal administrative procedures act. AAFCO has long been a back door scheme for these public employees to develop ingredient definitions in private, with one state employee stating "it's just easier to do it this way." Yet, this way charges citizens an average of $550 to attend in person meetings, which normally happen two times per year. AAFCO "reserves" the right to refuse access to their "regulatory/not regulatory" meetings to anyone they desire to restrict. The rights afforded to citizens under the federal administrative procedures act law is ignored at AAFCO meetings, even though it appears the sole purpose of developing these feed definitions is for "uniformity" for products in interstate commerce, which falls into federal (FDA) regulatory jurisdiction. Even with the sole intention that these "feed ingredients" will be adopted by "reference" in almost every state, and even recognized at the federal level, AAFCO meetings are not recorded and made publicly available for all citizens to freely access.
Instead, public employees tend to cite a generic "AAFCO" owns the copyright, and prohibits them from distributing what are now official "regulations." But who? AAFCO is a collection of public employees. The board of directors tend to be all public employees. Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture has stated that AAFCO "is the professional organization for her peers nationwide," aka, other departments of agriculture, state chemists, and federal agencies all in charge with "regulating" pet food and animal feed.
So, the professional organization of Erin Bubb and her peers, other public employees, are the copyright holders of this information?
The plot eventually gets exhausting.
I attempted to call Sue Hayes, who operates as an executive for AAFCO, to clear up the matter. December 29, 2020, I reach Ms. Hayes via phone. "Hi, I'm trying to understand who owns the copyright for the AAFCO O.P.?" Ms. Hayes appears to have resorted to a tactic of claiming she couldn't hear me. "Hello? I can't hear you. Hello?" When I spoke to Ms. Hayes months ago over the phone, her main response to me for various questions I asked her was "I can not answer that." This time, Sue Hayes appears to not have wanted to speak to me at all. She eventually stated, "I am hanging up now." I attempted to call Ms. Hayes back a few more times. She repeatedly sent my call to her voicemail.
Since Ms. Bubb of Pennsylvania is a board of directors member and incoming "president" of AAFCO, I decided to give her a call right after Ms. Hayes to discuss the matter of copyright ownership. Interestingly when Ms. Bubb answered the telephone, she had zero issue hearing me. "I'm trying to understand who owns the copyright for the AAFCO O.P. book?" The below is a recollection of that conversation, for official record.
"Oh hi there!" she says. "Is this Kohl?"
"You recognize my voice and question. Could you help me with that information?" I ask. "Why don't you go through our process and speak to the media department?" She says.
"Actually," I say, "since you help operate AAFCO as part of the board of directors, and since you're going to be the president of the private corporation next year, and since you have the information, you're more than welcome to provide it to me right now."
Erin Bubb (Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture): "I'm going to request you go through the media department."
Kohl: "I'm a citizen who has attended a meeting, where you all are charging us citizens $550 for. So, who owns that copyright? Do you know?"
Erin Bubb (Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture): "AAFCO owns the copyright."
Kohl: "Who? AAFCO is not a person. And you are AAFCO. So, do you own the copyright?"
Erin Bubb (Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture): "I am not AAFCO.
Kohl: "You're on the board of directors. You're next year's president. So you're helping operate it."
Erin Bubb (Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture): "I'm a member by virtue of being an employee of Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture. It's the department of agriculture who is the actual paying member."
Kohl: "And public funds are being used. You're next year's president. The work you're doing as a member is being copyrighted and you're allowing for that."
Erin Bubb (Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture): "The association is the owner of the copyright."
Kohl: "And you're a member of that association. So, you're a copyright holder?"
Erin Bubb (Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture): "I'm a member. I am not a copyright holder."
Kohl: "You're a member. And you're on the board correct?"
Erin Bubb: (Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture): "I am on the board of directors. I'm a member by a state agency. But we do not hold the copyright."
Kohl: "I'm not asking if the state owns the copyright. I'm asking, who is the person who owns the copyright? You're telling me, AAFCO owns the copyright. AAFCO is you, the states.
Erin Bubb: (Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture): "I've answered your question. I do not own the copyright."
Kohl: "You said that AAFCO does. AAFCO is a collection of public state members, such as yourself. So, you are AAFCO. You guys are doing your regulatory work privately via the guise of a nonprofit corporation. You say AAFCO owns the copyright, then I've been told by PDA that AAFCO is a collection of peers, so you're a member that makes up AAFCO. The AAFCO association is a professional association of public employees such as yourself. You then say AAFCO owns the copyright, and that's technically you or you're a part of that, which is the confusion I'm trying to understand."
Erin Bubb: (Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture): "We can keep going around and around."
Kohl: "The confusion here Ms. Bubb is that you're knowingly doing this work. You're a public employee. You're then saying it's copyrighted. You can't tell me by who, specifically. It's a generic "AAFCO," and then I'm told AAFCO is a professional association of you and your peers. So the concern becomes how you're doing all of this work in adopting feed definitions on your publicly paid time, using public funds, and you can't tell me who you're doing that work for specifically who that/then copyrights it. Do you understand the confusion here?"
Erin Bubb: (Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture): "I'm just not going to allow you to paint me into a corner."
Kohl: "I'm not painting you into a corner. I'm asking a question.
Erin Bubb: (Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture): "It's gymnastics."
Kohl: "Not from my side. You're saying an organization you help run owns the copyright. It's confusing. You all have made the gymnastics here by this odd scheme that's going on. Why aren't the meetings public, instead of private?"
Ms. Bubb hangs up phone.