February 9, 2023

Library Futures Ebook Bills are on the Move

As a response to the unavailability of equitable terms and fair pricing for library ebooks, Library Futures is working with library associations, state librarians, library stakeholders, and legislators in various states to introduce state legislation that attempts to equitize the ebook marketplace during this year’s legislative session. The Library Futures model ebook bill, detailed in our policy paper, frames the discussion in terms of how publisher contracts restrict libraries’ abilities to perform their fundamental duties. The purpose of these bills is to empower libraries to fulfill their mission of providing broad and equitable access to information for all by ensuring that contractual agreements between libraries and publishers contain equitable licensing terms for the acquisition of electronic literary materials. These bills ensure that literary materials have at least the same utility in digital form as they have in analog form.

On January 20, 2023, and February 6, 2023, respectively, Massachusetts and Hawaii were two of the first states to file the new ebook bill for this legislative session. Library Futures is working closely with several other states, and we anticipate upcoming state-by-state laws that empower libraries to negotiate fairer contracts. 

The Library Futures model bill language is designed strictly to make fair and equitable licensing terms in eBook contracts for libraries. It avoids many of the problems raised by the publishers and the courts in previous eBook bills that touched copyright law. By focusing on fair licensing terms and state law, this bill can nullify the threat of copyright and federal preemption lawsuits against the library community and the public. Addressing publisher challenges to the overwhelmingly popular Maryland state bill, put forward by Reader’s First and the Maryland Library Association, the Library Futures language harnesses the power of the state to protect the libraries, and their patrons, against harmful eBook contracts. The language of these draft bills are based on state contract law, state consumer protection, state procurement law, and contract preemption. The goal of the bill is focused on providing a pathway for libraries to obtain licensing terms more suited to library needs.

Although these state bills are intended to mitigate the inequities in the ebook marketplace and do not directly address more core digital ownership issues that would ultimately begin to provide more choice to libraries, the aim is to establish state-level law that will, in the shorter term, provide protections for public institutions. 

The advocacy and demonstrated support behind these bills represents a powerful collective effort on the part of the library community to advocate for communities’, taxpayers’, and readers’ rights. 

We encourage community members to connect with us to learn more about how your state can become part of this legislative effort! Please email info@libraryfutures.net if you're interested in bringing our model legislation to your state.

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