Controlled Digital Lending of Library Books

This post is co-authored by Dave Hansen and Kyle K. Courtney

We’re very pleased to announce the release of two documents that we believe have the potential to help greatly expand digital access to print library collections by helping libraries do online what we have always done in print: lend books.

Both documents are aimed at addressing the legal and policy rationales for what we term “controlled digital lending” — a method by which libraries loan digitized print books to digital patrons in a “lend like print” fashion similar to how non-digital patrons check out books in-person. Through CDL, libraries use technical controls to ensure a consistent “owned-to-loaned” ratio, meaning the library circulates the exact number of copies of a specific title it owns, regardless of format, putting controls in place to prevent users from redistributing or copying the digitized version.

CDL isn’t itself a silver bullet for mass digital access to books. It’s not meant to be a competitor to Overdrive, nor a replacement for licensing e-books of best-sellers or other currently licensable e-book content. But we think CDL does deserve significant attention as a legal strategy, particularly to help address access to the large number of books published in the “20th Century black hole” that have little hope of otherwise bring made available to readers online.

The first document is a Position Statement on Controlled Digital Lending, which is meant to help people understand the concept at a glance, give an opportunity for libraries and legal experts to communicate their support for CDL, and provide a centralizing statement around which libraries can build a community of practice. The Statement is signed by a number of leading libraries (some of which are currently employing CDL or actively exploring how to do so) and copyright experts.

 The second document is A White Paper on Controlled Digital Lending of Library Books, which we co-authored. The White Paper delves much deeper into the legal and policy rationales for controlled digital lending, reviewing relevant law, the fair use rationale for CDL, and practical risk and policy considerations for libraries that might consider implementing CDL for some parts of their collections. Our aim with the White Paper is to help libraries and their lawyers become more comfortable with the concept by more fully explaining the legal rationale as well as the situations in which the rationale is the strongest.

We, along with several colleagues, have posted more information at www.controlleddigitallending.org, which includes the statement text.

The white paper can be found at:

David R. Hansen & Kyle K. Courtney, A White Paper on Controlled Digital Lending of Library Books (2018), https://doi.org/10.31228/osf.io/7fdyr.

One thought on “Controlled Digital Lending of Library Books”

  1. This is ridiculous, though, isn’t it? I understand that the politics around this are complex, but at bottom such limitations amount to having sofware developers do extra work in order to destroy value rather than creating it. That can’t be a rational way for the human race to behave.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *