A Maryland state bill that would ensure public libraries the right to license and lend e-books that are available to consumers is headed to Governor Larry Hogan's desk.

After passing the Maryland General Assembly unanimously on March 10, the bill sailed through the final steps of reconciliation this week, and is now ready to be signed into law. Hogan is known in Maryland to be a strong supporter of libraries, and library advocates say they are hopeful he will sign the bill.

The bill appears to have taken on just two substantive changes during reconciliation: one expanding the bill's initial language to cover "electronic literary products" rather than just e-books (presumably to sweep in digital audiobooks) and another change that pushed the law's effective date to January, 2022, from July of this year (presumably to give publishers not yet working with libraries more time to work out their terms).

First introduced in January, the bill (HB518 in the House of Delegates and SB432 in the Senate) specifically requires that “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.”

The bill's swift passage comes despite opposition from the Association of American Publishers, which issued testimony last week arguing that the law runs afoul of federal copyright law and may be unconstitutional.

Two more states (New York and Rhode Island) introduced similar legislation last year but it is unclear when or if those measures will be reintroduced.