Connecticut has become the latest state to introduce a library e-book bill, introducing bill 131 in its February session.
The Connecticut bill is similar to efforts in other states now underway, in that it would require publishers who offer an e-book to consumers in the state to also offer to license the works to libraries on reasonable terms. One notable difference, however, is that the Connecticut bill offers a broad definition of what is meant by "reasonable" terms.
In Connecticut, "reasonable terms" is defined as "purchase or licensing specifications that consider publishers' business models as well as libraries' efficient use of funds in providing library services," according to the Connecticut bill's language.
The Connecticut bill comes amid a legal battle in Maryland, after the Association of American Publishers filed suit in federal court in December, 2021, claiming (among other things) that the Maryland law is preempted by the federal Copyright Act.
In a boost to the AAP's position, federal judge Deborah L. Boardman on February 16 issued a preliminary injunction barring the law from being enforced, just days after a three-hour hearing on February 7. The lawsuit continues, but in her opinion Boardman held that the Maryland law is likely preempted. Furthermore, supporters in New York are considering next steps after their bill was vetoed in late December by Governor Kathy Hochul.
The bill in Connecticut is the sixth library bill now pending in state legislatures, and the eighth bill overall. Bills are currently pending in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Illinois, Tennessee, and Missouri, and bills have already passed (unanimously) in Maryland and New York.
The bill was announced at a press event at Connecticut State Library in Hartford, attended by Deborah Schander, Connecticut State Librarian; Ellen Paul, Connecticut Library Consortium; librarians Scott Jarzombek, Fairfield Town Library and Stephanie Coakley, Pequot Library. Connecticut State Library Board Chair Maureen Sullivan was also on hand.
“Libraries are at a critical juncture," said State Librarian Deborah Schander told reporters, as reported in Fairfield's Hamlet Hub. "Two years into this pandemic, they are offering both traditional and innovative services to their communities, but not without figurative and literal costs. One particular pressure point is the cost of providing electronic materials, which are far higher than those associated with print books. With more people borrowing e-books and audiobooks than ever, this is the time to talk about ways we can support our libraries’ collections and their bottom lines.”
Ellen Paul told reporters the library e-book issue "affects every taxpayer in Connecticut who supports their local library through their hard-earned tax dollars," according to Fairfield's Hamlet Hub. "Libraries regularly pay four to five times what consumers pay for the same e-books and then are forced to re-buy the same titles every year, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars over the life of a single e-book and making a robust e-book collection out of reach for many libraries."
Correction: the press event was held at the Connecticut State Library in Hartford, not the Fairfield library as first reported.