“Controlled Digital Lending” or “CDL” is a recently invented legal theory that allows libraries to justify the scanning (or obtaining of scans) of print books and e-lending those digital copies to users without obtaining authorization from the copyright owners. A position statement on CDL, along with an accompanying white paper, was issued this past October by legal scholars, the culmination of several academic meetings on the subject. The statement and paper argue that it is fair use for libraries to scan or obtain scans of physical books that they own and loan those books through e-lending technologies, provided they apply certain restrictions akin to physical library loans, such as lending only one copy (either the digital copy or the physical copy) at a time and only for a defined loan period.
CDL Would Decimate Author Earnings from Ebook Licensing
CDL’s threat to author incomes and the ebook market comes from two directions: 1) unauthorized scanning and e-lending of books that were previously published only in physical formats would usurp the market for creating new ebook versions; and 2) instead of purchasing library ebook licenses (which are more expensive than consumer editions for good reason), libraries would simply digitize the print book from their collection, depriving authors and publishers of important licensing income. Needless to say, if Internet Archive’s plans to expand Open Library broadly to all libraries are realized, it would eventually decimate the market for library ebooks, put a massive dent in the ebook market in general, and usurp authors’ rights to bring their older works back into the market.