Template:Dablink Reports by the Congressional Research Service, usually referred to as CRS Reports, are the encyclopedic, public domain research reports written to clearly define issues in a legislative context.[1]. Over 700 new CRS reports are produced each year;[1] almost 4,000 are currently in existence.[1]


Other than a passing generic reference to “reports” in its statutory charter, CRS has no mandate for these products.[2] They are created in the context of the overall mission of CRS to provide research support to Congress.[3]

The Library of Congress, the home of CRS, had experimented during the 1940s with unrestricted publication Public Affairs Bulletins, which were produced by staff of the Legislative Reference Service, and devoted to various public policy issues. They were promoted by Archibald MacLeish, the Librarian of Congress, and, among other topics, addressed timely policy issues, such as American national defense. About 100 Public Affairs Bulletins were generated [3] before congressional appropriators ended their production in 1951.[4]

When the Congressional Research Service Review was launched in 1980, it continued for a little more than a decade before congressional appropriators, once again, invoked fiscal closure with the last issue published v. 13 #9 (Sept. 1992). The Review, which was published ten times a year and available to the public by subscription, offered original analytical articles, summaries highlighting CRS research products, and other kinds of assistance to the congressional community.[3]

Copyright statusEdit

CRS reports may contain excerpts of material from copyrighted sources. However, this content will be "appropriately credited". Thus, persons seeking public domain content in CRS reports can avoid infringing copyright by paying attention to the internal citations.Template:Citation needed

The New York Times has written,

"There is no classified information in the reports, nor any copyrighted information."[5]

However, in a passage analyzing its own liability under United States copyright law, the CRS has written that its works may contain copyrighted information, but that these excerpts are always "appropriately credited":

"CRS may incorporate preexisting material in its written responses to congressional requests. Although such material is often from public domain sources, in certain instances the material, appropriately credited, may be from copyrighted sources. To the extent that the material is copyrighted, CRS either: obtains permission for the use; considers its information-gathering function protected by the speech or debate clause; or believes that the use falls under the "fair use" doctrine of the Copyright Act as applied in the context of the legislative process."[6]

CRS adds that:

"Although CRS obtains permission to reproduce certain copyrighted works, the permissions are generally based on legislative use and the expectation that dissemination is limited to Members of Congress."[6]


CRS written work product includes "CRS Reports," issue briefs, appropriations Reports (usually released as a Long Report), Electronic Briefing Books, Info Packs and Congressional distribution memoranda.[1] The Issue Briefs (IB), no longer than 16 pages, include issue definitions, background and policy analyses, legislation passed and pending, a bibliography of hearings, reports and documents and other congressional actions, a chronology of events, and reference sources. Approximately 150 issue briefs are currently in existence.[1]

Formats of "CRS Reports" include policy analysis, economic studies, statistical reviews, and legal analyses.[1] "Short Reports (RS), typically under 7 pages, or Long Reports (RL), which can include major studies on a particular topic.[1]

How to access CRS ReportsEdit

Many but not all CRS reports can be obtained through specialized publishers such as Penny Hill Press, or from web archives such as OpenCRS, which relies on individual submissions to maintain its collection. OpenCRS has also published instructions for US citizens on how to request reports from their member of congress, but neither the Congress nor the CRS are obligated to satisfy such requests. However, as there is no accurate public list or catalog of CRS publications, all unreleased reports are effectively secret.

On February 8, 2009 Wikileaks released 6,780 Congressional Research Service reports, totaling more than 127,000 pages of text.[7]

Over the years, and at the request of CRS, the Joint Committee on the Library has authorized a very limited number of CRS publications for broader distribution through depository libraries, the sales program of the Superintendent of Documents, and to the public through individual purchases. In addition, several CRS products are published as the result of specific statutory authorization: the Digest of General Public Bills and Resolutions (Bill Digest)[8] [which ceased publication in 1990 with the edition covering the 2nd session of the 101st Congress] and three publications for which CRS has been given responsibility by the Librarian of Congress: the Constitution of the United States of America, Analysis and Interpretation (Constitution Annotated);[9] and the national high school and college debate topic manuals.[10]

Confidentiality of CRS ReportsEdit

Main article: Confidentiality status of CRS Reports

While some CRS research and reports may reach the American public, the policy of CRS is to not make them directly available to members of the public; instead, they are "leaked" to the public at the discretion of congressional clients.[11] There have been several attempts to pass legislation requiring all reports to be made available online, most recently in 2003, but none have passed.

Instead, the public must request individual reports from their Senators and Representatives in Congress, purchase them from private vendors, or search for them in various web archives of previously-released documents. CRS reports topped the list of the "10 Most-Wanted Government Documents" survey by the Center for Democracy and Technology, 1996.[12]

References Edit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Guide to CRS Reports on the Web
  2. See 2 U.S.C. § 166(d)(4).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Government Information Quarterly Volume 26, Issue 3, July 2009, Pages 437-440
  4. See 65 Stat. 398.
  5. Template:Cite news
  6. 6.0 6.1 Template:Cite web
  7. Change you can download: a billion in secret Congressional reports
  8. 2 U.S.C. 166(d)(6).
  9. 2 U.S.C. 168.
  10. 44 U.S.C. 1333.
  11. Template:Cite web
  12. 10 Most Wanted Government Documents

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External linksEdit

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