Maryland Bill Supporting Library Access to Digital Content Becomes Law

by Patrick Herron

Maryland Bill Supporting Library Access to Digital Content Becomes Law

Per Montgomery County:

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, June 8, 2021

A Maryland state bill (HB0518) ensuring public libraries can license e-books and other digital published content that is available to consumers is now law, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2022. This bill introduced in January, and unanimously passed by the Maryland Legislature in March, requires “a publisher who offers to license an electronic literary product to the public to also offer to license the product to public libraries in the State on reasonable terms that would enable public libraries to provide library users with access to the electronic literary product.”

Publishers have different pricing rates and guidelines for public libraries. Historically, public libraries have had to pay three to five times the consumer price for e-books and e-audiobooks, even while receiving comparable discounts on print materials as the general public. Publishers’ policies determine how long a library can “own” a copy. Some publishers restrict public libraries to one copy of all new titles for the first eight weeks after publication.

This bill addresses these issues by demanding public libraries be charged reasonable terms for e-books and e-audiobooks. It also addresses unfair licensing practices that penalize public libraries, as well as the industry practice of prohibiting public libraries from purchasing certain platform specific content.

“Our libraries are critical to bridging the digital divide and addressing education equity throughout our county and state,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “I appreciate the efforts of the Maryland General Assembly to pass this bill that is greatly needed to provide more residents increased access to e-books and digital content. Additionally, I am grateful for the advocacy of Montgomery County Library Director Anita Vassallo and our state delegation for their hard work ensuring passage of this important legislation.”

“The policies levied on public libraries by publishers impede us from purchasing adequate electronic copies to meet the demand and minimize wait time for residents,” said Montgomery County Public Libraries Director Anita Vassallo. “This bill is a great win not only for Montgomery County Public Libraries, but for libraries here in Maryland. It sets a wonderful precedent for others across the country.”


Release ID: 21-429
Media Contact: Monika Hammer 240-463-2442


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