Court suspends new state e-book licensing law at publishers’ request

  • New law required publishers to offer e-books to libraries on reasonable terms
  • Federal Judge Says State Law Conflicts With Copyright Law

(Reuters) – A federal judge in Maryland has blocked the state’s first law of its kind that requires publishers to offer public library licenses to their electronic works like ebooks and digital audiobooks on reasonable terms.

US District Judge Deborah Boardman in Baltimore Agreed Wednesday with the Association of American Publishers, the national book publishing industry trade group, that the law likely conflicts with federal copyright law.

The New York State Legislature overwhelmingly passed a similar law last year, which Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed in December over similar copyright concerns. State legislatures like Massachusetts, Illinois, and Rhode Island have considered similar laws.

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The Maryland Legislature unanimously passed the law last May. AAP filed a trial to block it in December, and the law went into effect earlier this year.

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office argued that the law was needed to prevent publishers from offering libraries unfair licensing terms for e-books and digital audiobooks.

Boardman on Wednesday granted AAP’s preliminary ban request and said Maryland law interferes with publishers’ right to decide how they distribute their works under federal copyright law. .

A spokesperson for the Maryland Attorney General’s Office said Thursday that it is considering next steps and that publishers “should not be able to unfairly take advantage of Maryland’s public libraries.”

AAP President Maria Pallante, who previously headed the US Copyright Office, said Thursday they had seen “absolutely no evidence” of unfair competition and that states could address those concerns through other means. .

The case is Association of American Publishers v. Frosh, US District Court for the District of Maryland, No. 1:21-cv-03133.

For the AAP: Scott Zebrak of Oppenheim & Zebrak

For Maryland: Sean Fitzgerald of the State Attorney General’s Office

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