Book Publishers File Lawsuit to Stop Maryland's New eBook Law From Taking Effect On New Year's Day

Nicholas Barron

Maryland’s new eBook law is facing a legal challenge.

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) filed suit on Dec. 9, claiming the law, which would require book publishers to license e-books and other digital content to libraries, violates federal copyright law and is unconstitutional.

If not overturned, the law will go into effect on Jan. 1.

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Publishers push back on Maryland’s eBook law.

The law, titled Public Libraries - Electronic Literary Product Licenses, passed both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly earlier this year.

If enacted, the legislation will “a publisher who offers to license an electronic literary product to the public also to offer to license the product to public libraries in the State on reasonable terms that would enable public libraries to provide library users with access to the electronic literary product.”

The law stems from a 2019 move by Macmillan Publishers Ltd. to limit the number of eBooks available to public libraries. In response, the American Library Association (ALA) mounted an #eBooksForAll campaign.

While initially, Macmillan proceeded with their plan despite the ALA’s campaign, the publisher later rescinded the move due to COVID-19. Still, some states are considering legislation that forces publishers to make electronic literary products it sells available to libraries.

Maryland’s General Assembly passed its legislation in May. Maryland’s bill became law without Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature, a common practice in the Free State.

In June, New York approved a similar bill requiring Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature to become law.

At the time, the Maryland Library Association heralded the General Assembly passing the eBook law, saying it would “maintain equal access for readers across Maryland.”

But now, the AAP is challenging Maryland’s law in federal court.

“Maryland does not have the constitutional authority to create a shadow copyright act or to manipulate the value of intellectual property interests,” Maria A. Pallante, AAP President and CEO, said in a statement.

The AAP’s suit seeks “to enjoin and overturn” Maryland’s eBook law.

What do you think, should publishers be required to make eBooks available to libraries, or is Maryland's law an overreach? Let me know in the comments. And follow me on NewsBreak for more updates on this developing story.

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