On February 16, a federal judge granted the Association of American Publishers’ request for a preliminary injunction in the case concerning Maryland’s recently enacted electronic book licensing law. The law, adopted in May 2021, requires publishers of “electronic literary products” to offer licenses to public libraries on “reasonable terms.” The term “electronic literary products” encompasses most digital text documents, while “publisher” is defined broadly to include newspapers. AAP’s lawsuit argues, among other claims, that the law is preempted by the federal Copyright Act, which establishes the copyright owners’ exclusive rights to control their works. In her opinion, judge Deborah L. Boardman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland granted the preliminary injunction, stating that the law “likely stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the purposes and objectives of the Copyright Act.” Judge Boardman noted that the law would require publishers to either refrain completely from offering e-books and audiobooks to the public or to offer licenses to public libraries, both of which would interfere with their exclusive right to distribute. While recognizing the importance of libraries to the public, the opinion notes that “striking the balance between the critical functions of libraries and the importance of preserving the exclusive rights of copyright holders, however, is squarely in the province of Congress and not this Court or a state legislature.” Following the order, the state is enjoined from enforcing the law for the time being. Read the AAP’s statement on the decision here and the court opinion here.
Members of the News/Media Alliance staff have contributed to this post.