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Libraries, Publishers Battle Over Terms for E-Books’ Use

Bloomberg Law: “States that want to give libraries a better deal on e-books are watching a publishers’ suit against Maryland, the first state to set terms for how digital books are distributed for public borrowing. Library associations, including the American Library Association and several state groups, have been pushing for state laws to require publishers to distribute digital works to libraries on “reasonable” terms that the states would set. The groups say libraries pay too much for electronic books and should be able to get them at lower prices. The bills and the law enacted in Maryland have set off alarm bells for authors and publishers who fear the legislation encroaches on copyrights. Similar suits to the one in Maryland by the Association of American Publishers might follow if bills in other states move forward, copyright attorneys, publishing industry lobbyists and others said. They say the bills propose a radical rewriting of the copyright system that only Congress is able to change. A hearing on a preliminary injunction on the law’s implementation will be held in early February. Maryland on Friday filed a response saying the suit should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which the court can grant relief. “The Maryland case is very, very significant because we’re hoping and believe the court will say, ‘You can’t do this. This is unconstitutional,’” said Keith Kupferschmid, the president of the Copyright Alliance, a nonprofit that represents a broad group of creators. “And, presumably, other states would at least be a little more cautious. Hopefully they wouldn’t introduce the bills at all.” Library associations are watching what happens in Maryland to decide how to proceed in other states. Bills are pending in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and legislation is likely to be reintroduced with some changes in New York after Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) vetoed an earlier version, citing preemption by the Copyright Act…”

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