December 10, 2023

Douglas County Libraries Erects Legal Framework for Ebook Purchases, With Assist From Mary Minow

The Douglas County Libraries has taken another interesting step in its program to secure outright ownership of ebooks, keeping intact the same rights that public libraries have always had with print works.

Jamie LaRue, the library’s director, has posted for comment on his blog two working documents that he has written in collaboration with Mary Minow of that the library is using as the legal framework for its ebook program.

“The idea is to avoid a lot of costly and time-consuming contracts with each publisher,” LaRue said.

The first document is a “Statement for Common Understanding for Purchasing Econtent,” which spells out traditional library rights but within a digital context.

For example, the understanding explicitly asserts the library’s rights under the first sale doctrine of the Copyright Act:

The Library may lend a copy to a library user under First Sale 17 U.S.C. Sect. 109. The Library may make incidental copies as necessary to perform the lending function. The lending copy is an ‘evanescent’ copy that disappears after a set period such as two weeks. During that time, the copy is not available to any other party. Incidental exercises of other lawful rights constitute non-infringing ‘fair use.’

But it also carefully spells out the library’s obligation to safeguard the intellectual content of a copyright owner:

The Library may not make multiple unauthorized copies to sell or lend. The Library may lend one copy to one user at a time. For example, if the Library buys four copies of a work, it may lend four copies simultaneously. It may not make derivative works, such as translations or movies. These are exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner 17 U.S.C. Sect. 106.

The sister document is addressed to potential publishing partners that may be willing to sell their econtent to the library. The letter delineates the terms of engagement, including describing the library’s need to own (not lease) files as well as the library’s digital rights management system. The letter also includes a plea for traditional library discounts:

Libraries are volume buyers. For print, we typically get a discount of 45 percent. Our goal is to buy as much content as possible, and to demonstrate to our community the value of the cooperative purchasing agreement that is the public library. We also understand that the pricing for e-content is in flux. This discount can be negotiated annually.

LaRue is seeking feedback.

Douglas County added the BookBrewer in December, which follows similar partnerships with the Colorado Independent Publishers Association, Gale/Cengage Learning, Lerner Digital, Marshall Cavendish, Independent Publishers Group and ABDO Publishing Group.



Michael Kelley About Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley is the former Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal.