ALA upholds Maryland e-books law and state's defense as federal district court issues preliminary injunction

For Immediate Release
Thu, 02/17/2022


Shawnda Hines

Assistant Director, Communications

Public Policy & Advocacy

American Library Association

WASHINGTON -- On February 16, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland granted a preliminary injunction of Maryland’s library digital book law in the case of Association of American Publishers v. Brian Frosh. The legislation, which went into effect on January 1, 2022, requires publishers who sell e-book licenses to Maryland consumers to also sell licenses to Maryland public libraries “on reasonable terms.” Court proceedings continue towards final adjudication of the complaint by the Association of American Publishers.  

The American Library Association (ALA) issued the following statement from ALA President Patty Wong: 

“The American Library Association is disappointed that the court issued the preliminary injunction. Regardless of the legal technicalities, the proceedings thus far have established that there is a definite injustice in library access to digital books.* 

“The Maryland legislature, which voted unanimously in favor of the legislation, rightly sees the unfairness in the marketplace and used its legal authority to correct it. ALA sees the unfairness to our public libraries, which have paid for e-book licenses on unreasonable terms for far too long. Most importantly, libraries see the unfairness for Maryland residents, who rely on them for access to e-books.  

“ALA unequivocally supports the Maryland law and stands by the Attorney General’s defense of Maryland libraries’ right to buy licenses for digital content on reasonable terms. We look forward to the next steps in this court proceeding toward the goal of equitable library access to digital books and fairness for all stakeholders in the publishing ecosystem.  

“As always, libraries and library associations are willing and ready for discussions with rights holders—the publishers—and hope discussions may advance, irrespective of the legal directions or policy context.” 

* During the hearing on the case, Judge Deborah L. Boardman stated, “It does seem to me that there is inequity and an unfairness on how publishers have treated public libraries.” In pleadings submitted prior to the hearing, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh stated, “Publishers capitalize on the digital revolution at libraries’ expense.”