Suit Asks Court to Enjoin Maryland from Mandating Ebook Licenses to Libraries

New York (December 9, 2021): The Authors Guild, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit advocacy group for published authors and journalists, commends the Association of American Publishers (AAP) for filing suit against the state of Maryland to block a state law that requires publishers and authors to license ebooks and other digital texts to state libraries on mandated terms. The law was passed last summer over the strenuous objections of the AAP and the Authors Guild and goes into effect in January 2022. The suit, filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, asks the court to enjoin Maryland from enforcing the law on constitutional grounds, alleging that the law “supplants the fundamental authority of publishers and authors to determine whether, on what terms, and in which markets and channels they will distribute their literary works.”

“The law is not only an unconstitutional overreach into an area of federal authority, it is also an encroachment upon the exclusive rights guaranteed under copyright, a federal law that by its terms preempts all state and local laws,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “Alarmingly, several similar laws are currently pending in other state legislatures, suggesting that this is a concerted effort to roll back copyright protections that are integral to how publishing generates a return on investment and how authors earn income.”

The Authors Guild has opposed these state laws through letters of objections and written testimonies addressed to state legislatures. In Maryland, we submitted a written testimony for the record that underscored the ways in which the law prejudices authors, including by sweeping in small publishers, self-published authors, and authors of online works who simply don’t have the resources to manage licensing at the scale required for them to be in compliance.

The AAP’s lawsuit, if successful, will have consequences beyond the state of Maryland by alerting other states of the unconstitutionality. Meanwhile, the Authors Guild will continue to voice its objections to these extraordinary laws, and we will mobilize our members to oppose them in their states.