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New York Legislature Passes Library E-book Bill
By Andrew Albanese | Jun 11, 2021
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Matt H. Wade via wikimedia
The New York State Capitol in Albany.
New York is now the second state to pass a bill that would ensure public libraries the right to license and lend e-books that are available to consumers in the state.
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After votes on successive days this week in the Assembly and the Senate, the bill crossed the finish line just before the June 10 close of the legislative session and is now headed to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk. If signed, the law would be the second such piece of digital library legislation to pass, following Maryland's.
Like the Maryland legislation, which passed into law on June 1, the New York bills (S2890B in the Senate and A5837B in the Assembly) require “publishers who offer to license e-books to the public” to also offer those e-books to libraries on “reasonable” terms. The bill’s summary states that the law is designed to ensure that “widely accepted and effective industry practices remain in place while prohibiting harmful practices that discriminate against libraries and harm library patrons.” And, also like the Maryland legislation, New York’s bill passed unanimously in the Assembly.
Notably, New York’s version of the library e-book law could take effect before Maryland’s. Maryland’s law doesn’t take effect until January, 2022, while New York’s legislation would go into effect just 19 days after it is signed into law. The governor has 10 days to sign or veto a bill if that bill was passed during the legislative session—which this bill was. And if the governor doesn’t sign or veto the bill within the allotted time frame, the bill automatically becomes law.
The wild card, observers told PW, is exactly when the bill will be delivered to the governor. While the law must be presented for signing by the end of the calendar year, legislators have some discretion as to when to send the bill to the governor’s desk, and it is not uncommon in New York to hold bills and send them along in packages for the governor’s signature.
Jeremy Johannesen, executive director of the New York Library Association, said he was "absolutely cautiously optimistic" that Cuomo will sign the bill, citing the overwhelming strength of the vote count. “But until it is signed, it’s not signed, and we will continue to advocate.”
Passage of both bills came despite opposition from the Association of American Publishers, which filed testimony in Maryland in March claiming its library-e-book law runs afoul of federal copyright law, and is unconstitutional.
At the AAP's annual meeting June 2, AAP CEO Maria Pallante reiterated those claims, accusing library lobbyists and “tech-funded” special interest groups of working to “divert copyright protection away from Congress to state assemblies,” and of spinning a “false narrative.”
While the New York bills passed overwhelmingly, it wasn’t without some late drama. Earlier this week, the New York Library Association asked library supporters on social media to contact their legislators after discovering that “a well-known lobbying firm” was advocating against the law. But Johannsen said his “grassroots base of library advocates” generated more than 5,000 emails in the last three days of the session.
“We’re just so grateful to our partners on both sides of the aisle, in both houses of the legislature,” Johannesen said.
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