Illinois has become the latest state to introduce a library e-book bill, with state legislators last week introducing the Equitable Access to Electronic Literature Act. In addition, Rhode Island legislators have re-introduced their library e-book bill in the new legislative session after a previous effort stalled last year.

The Illinois bill provides that publishers that offer "a contract or license for electronic literary product acquisition to the public shall offer to license the electronic literary product to libraries, if purchased with public funds, on reasonable terms and under reasonable technological protection measures that will permit libraries to provide their patrons with access to the electronic literary products."

The bill in Rhode Island is similar, although it specifically expands the law to cover "elementary and secondary schools and educational institutions" in the state.

The bills are also similar to efforts passed in Maryland and New York last year (although New York governor Kathy Hochul vetoed the bill last month.) Similar bills are being considered in several more state legislatures, library leaders tell PW.

The Illinois bill, however, includes some notable differences: Among them the Illinois bill specifically refers to licenses paid for with "public funds," which would seemingly not cover private universities, schools, and libraries. In addition, the Illinois bill says "reasonable" terms "may include" library prices "no more than 100% of the list retail price offered to consumers" for metered access titles. Penalties for non-compliance are also more clearly defined, and would be a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 per offense.

Furthermore, following the lead of an amendment under consideration in Massachusetts (which is also considering a library e-book law) the Illinois bill seeks to codify rights libraries enjoy under copyright law by forbidding publishers and vendors from writing contracts that "restrict or limit a library's right or ability to loan" digital content that is protected by "reasonable technological protection measures," or terms that would restrict a library's right to make "non-public preservation copies" of digital content."

The bills come amid a legal battle in Maryland, where the Association of American Publishers is asking a federal court to nullify the Maryland law and declare it preempted by the federal Copyright Act.