September 24, 2021

Library Victory! Wyden and Eshoo demand answers from big publishers

In response to eBook awareness campaigns by Library Futures, as well as excellent reporting in the Nation, the Daily Beast, and the New Yorker, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) are demanding answers from Big Five Publishers surrounding their library e-book business practices.

Their letter affirms the library’s right to purchase and lend digital materials much like they would print and decries the publishers’ arrangements with libraries, writing, “Many libraries face financial and practical challenges in making e-books available to their patrons, which jeopardizes their ability to fulfill their mission…. Under these arrangements, libraries are forced to rent books through very restrictive agreements that look like leases.” They also emphasize that these leases could run afoul of copyright exceptions and limitations and significantly hinder equity in access and education.

Further, Eshoo and Wyden write that "E-books play a critical role in ensuring that libraries can fulfill their mission of providing broad and equitable access to information for all Americans, and it is imperative that libraries can continue their traditional lending functions as technology advances."

These functions include greater accessibility, fair use in schools, and an increase in digital equity.

The Congressional request asked for detailed information from the Big Five before October 7 including topics such as transparency in licensing agreements, a summary of current lending restrictions, current litigation against libraries, and their terms of engagement during the COVID pandemic.

The answers to these questions will highlight issues that many of our coalition members have been discussing for over a decade. We look forward to helping steward the information to our community.

This is a major win for libraries, their patrons, and the public. Library Futures could not have launched such a successful campaign on eBook issues without the support of our community. In the face of billions of dollars spent on lobbying by the publishing industry, we have shown that a group of dedicated people working together can create change for their library community - and convince others that these issues are critical and require investigation.

We will continue to stand up for the technology-positive future of libraries and work to level the playing field between publishers and the public.

Read the letters and press release on the Senate Finance Committee’s website.

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