In a court case closely watched by libraries and the publishing industry, a federal judge in Maryland struck down a state law requiring publishers to make e-books available to libraries on “reasonable terms” s they were also offered to the general public.
The Association of American Publishers, the industry’s trade organization, had argued that the bill violated US copyright law by allowing states to regulate publishing transactions. The Maryland law was passed with overwhelming support a year ago and provided for fines of up to $10,000 and more.
U.S. District Judge for Maryland Deborah L. Boardman issued her ruling on Monday, four months after she banned the Maryland law, writing at the time that the law’s “practical impact” would require publishers “to offer their products to libraries – whether they like it or not”. not – lest they be subject to civil action or criminal prosecution.”
The state effectively conceded in April, with attorneys writing that “there is no real dispute as to a material fact.” But the Association of American Publishers was still seeking a permanent injunction. Boardman ruled on Monday that the injunction was unnecessary because the law was “unconstitutional and unenforceable.”
AAP President and CEO Maria A. Pallante welcomed Monday’s announcement, saying in a statement that Boardman had issued a “clear ruling that protects the exclusive rights that underlie the law.” on copyright and the means by which authors and publishers make so many intellectual and economic contributions to society and to the long-term public interest.
Publishers and libraries have struggled for years to provide e-books to library patrons. Publishers fear that unlimited or near-unlimited access to free e-books from libraries would hurt sales and have responded by limiting their use and increasing fees charged to libraries. Libraries said it was part of their mission to make books as available as possible and that encouraging reading, free or otherwise, benefits everyone.
In New York last year, Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill similar to the Maryland law that had passed the state legislature overwhelmingly. She wrote that “While the goal of this bill is laudable, unfortunately, copyright protection gives the author of the work the exclusive right to their works.”