We are dismayed, but ultimately unsurprised, by the Association of American Publishers’s decision to file suit against the State of Maryland for their ebooks law, passed unanimously by the General Assembly on March 10th, 2021. This law is set to go into effect on January 1, 2022. It represents the Maryland Library Association’s efforts to simply request equal access and pricing in digital content. Nevertheless, the AAP’s complaint calls Maryland’s law “radical.”
What is “radical” is the lawsuit’s multiple spurious claims regarding the intention of the law, attempting to deflect the blame for the price gouging and rent-seeking behavior for library digital content on technology companies rather than its own members’ behaviors in the market. Public libraries are spending upwards of three times consumer pricing for econtent from the big publishing companies. Further, libraries must continually re-buy their collections over and over or risk having their titles disappear from their collections after the licenses expire or stop being offered.
The AAP’s suit does not represent the view of authors, creatives, or even most publishing companies other than a minority of the biggest media corporations in the world. This famously litigious trade organization has tried to stop libraries before, and they have lost every time. Ultimately, the lawsuit represents a pattern of behavior that demonstrates the commercial publishing industry’s continued disdain for the librarians, educators, and the public who simply want resources to provide access to materials, combat misinformation, and provide quality education in the State of Maryland and beyond.
As the fight for better digital content legislation continues in other states and our patrons struggle for equitable access to digital libraries, Library Futures will do all we can to support the State of Maryland, the Maryland Attorney General’s office, and the Maryland Library Association, and ensure that this shameful lawsuit is dismissed. We believe in the power of libraries, and we believe that ultimately we will prevail – the future of continued public access to culture certainly depends upon it.