For immediate release | February 7, 2022

ALA backs state Attorney General’s defense of Maryland law ensuring fair e-book access for libraries

A federal district court held a hearing today on the State of Maryland’s new law on library digital book access, which was challenged by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) in a lawsuit filed December 9, 2021. The Maryland law, which took effect on January 1, 2022, requires publishers to offer licenses for digital books and other electronic literary products to public libraries “on reasonable terms” if the materials are available to the Maryland public.

During the hearing, Judge Deborah L. Boardman of the U.S. District Court of the District of Maryland stated, “It does seem to me that there is inequity and an unfairness on how publishers have treated public libraries.”

The American Library Association issued the following statement:

“ALA commends attorneys in the Office of the Maryland Attorney General for their vigorous defense of the law and rightly arguing that the Maryland law is neither preempted by federal copyright law nor by the U.S. Constitution.

“The right for libraries to purchase access to digital books under ‘reasonable’ terms is common sense. Libraries have had reasonable access to print books for centuries; that same reasonability should extend to digital books as well. Although this right shouldn’t require such rigorous legal defense, the Attorney General has made an airtight case for it.

“ALA stands behind Maryland libraries and library workers, the Maryland Library Association, Maryland State Library, and the Maryland Attorney General: the complaint by AAP should be dismissed. We look forward to continued collaboration in any way that would be helpful to the communities that Maryland libraries exist to serve. Furthermore, we hope that this case continues to inspire more and more states to follow Maryland’s lead.”

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Shawnda Hines

Assistant Director, Communications

Public Policy and Advocacy Office