Court halts state's novel ebook licensing law at publishers' request –

(Reuters) – A federal judge in Maryland has blocked the state's first-of-its-kind law that requires publishers to offer public libraries licenses to their electronic works like ebooks and digital audiobooks on reasonable terms.
U.S. District Judge Deborah Boardman in Baltimore agreed on Wednesday with the Association of American Publishers, the book publishing industry's national trade group, that the statute likely conflicts with federal copyright law.
New York's state legislature overwhelmingly passed a similar law last year, which Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed in December based on similar copyright concerns. Legislatures in states including Massachusetts, Illinois and Rhode Island have been considering similar laws.
The Maryland legislature unanimously passed the law last May. AAP filed a lawsuit to block it in December, and the law went into effect at the beginning of this year.
The Maryland Attorney General's office argued that the law was necessary to keep publishers from offering libraries unfair licensing terms for ebooks and digital audiobooks.
Boardman granted AAP's request for a preliminary ban Wednesday and said the Maryland law interferes with the publishers' right to decide how they distribute their works under federal copyright law.
A spokesperson for the Maryland Attorney General's office said Thursday it was considering next steps, and that publishers "should not be able to unfairly take advantage of Maryland public libraries."
AAP's president Maria Pallante, who formerly led the U.S. Copyright Office, said Thursday that they have seen "absolutely no evidence" of unfair competition and that states can address those concerns in other ways.
The case is Association of American Publishers v. Frosh, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, No. 1:21-cv-03133.
For AAP: Scott Zebrak of Oppenheim & Zebrak
For Maryland: Sean Fitzgerald of the state attorney general's office
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Thomson Reuters
Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at
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