Maryland is waiving its e-book law in libraries

Maryland’s library e-book law is effectively dead. In a recent court filing, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said the state would not introduce any new evidence in a legal challenge filed by the Association of American Publishers allowing the preliminary injunction. recently issued by the court blocking the validity of the law and paving the way. that it be converted into a permanent injunction.

“The State acknowledges that there is no real dispute as to a material fact and that the Court may grant or deny additional relief in this matter without a new hearing or trial,” the filing reads. However, rather than convert Judge Deborah L. Boardman’s preliminary injunction to a permanent injunction, state prosecutors argued that a less binding declaratory judgment would suffice.

“The conduct of the state shows that the injunction is not necessary here. At no time since January 1, 2022 has Maryland attempted to enforce Maryland law. And, after the court issued the preliminary injunction, the state did not appeal that decision,” the Maryland attorneys say. “The state has taken no action to reshape the way publishers distribute their works and the functioning of the e-book and audiobook market. Nor has the state taken any action to interfere with the decisions plaintiff or its members. Since the state does not enforce Maryland law and has no intention of doing so, the threat identified by plaintiff will not materialize. Accordingly, the Court does not need to use the coercive powers of a permanent injunction to compel states to comply with its decision.

The AAP, which has until April 25 to respond, said it was reviewing the filing.

The Maryland action comes after Federal Judge Deborah L. Boardman ruled Feb. 16 that Maryland’s library e-book law was, as critics had argued, preempted by federal copyright law. author, believing that the threat of civil and criminal penalties for non-compliance amounts to “a forced transaction” that “would effectively deprive publishers of their exclusive right of distribution”.

First introduced in January 2021, Maryland law required any publisher offering to license “an electronic literary product” to consumers in the state to also offer to license the content to public libraries “on reasonable terms. ” which would allow library users to access it. The bill was passed unanimously by the Maryland General Assembly on March 10 and took effect on January 1, 2022.

The law came after a decade of tension in the digital library market, with libraries long complaining of high prices and unsustainable, unnegotiated restrictions. Specifically, however, the law emerged as a direct response to Macmillan’s (since dropped) 2019 embargo on top-list e-book titles, which prompted widespread calls for federal and state lawmakers to protect basic access to digital works in libraries.

The Association of American Publishers filed a lawsuit on Dec. 9, 2021, arguing that the Maryland law infringes the exclusive rights given to publishers and authors under copyright law. A week later, on December 16, AAP lawyers filed for a preliminary injunction blocking the law. Just days after a Feb. 7 hearing, Boardman enjoined the law.

“Libraries face unique challenges as they stand at the intersection of public service and the private marketplace in a changing society that is increasingly dependent on digital media,” the judge concluded in her 28-page opinion. . “However, balancing the essential functions of libraries with the importance of preserving the exclusive rights of copyright owners is squarely a matter for Congress and not for this Court or any state legislature.”

Similar bills are currently still pending in half a dozen other states, though bills in at least three of those states (Missouri, Tennessee and Illinois) appear to be virtually dead. In late December, New York Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed the New York Library’s e-book bill.

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