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Director’s Desk: Understanding IBPA’s Position on Controlled Digital Lending (CDL)

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PUBLISHED MARCH/APRIL 2019

by Angela Bole, CEO, Independent Book Publishers Association —


Angela Bole

Why we signed an appeal against the new software system that takes advantage of authors.

On Feb. 13, 2019, IBPA joined 37 other book industry associations on an open appeal to readers and librarians from the victims of Controlled Digital Lending (CDL). View it here. I’d like to expand on IBPA’s position related to CDL for members interested our advocacy in this area.

Controlled Digital Lending is a label coined by the Internet Archive and some lawyers and librarians to describe a methodology for copying and digitally distributing books. In 2017, the Internet Archive described it as a process to “digitize and re-publish” books. In September 2018, the Internet Archive and some of its allies released a white paper describing and defending the practice.

After reviewing the Internet Archives’ September 2018 white paper, it became clear to all of us at IBPA that CDL infringes upon publishers’ and authors’ copyrights and deprives them of revenues they would earn if readers were to obtain their works though other, legitimate channels. It’s important to note that CDL is not authorized by publishers or authors. Perhaps more significant, however, is the fact that publishers and authors are paid nothing for the digital copies made and distributed based on CDL theory. On the flip side, legal e-lending through the longstanding practice of purchasing licenses ensures that content creators receive a share of revenue. In these cases, a library can only lend a digital copy out to one person at a time, and a reader cannot access their digital copy after the loan period expires.

Based on the above, the Association of American Publishers noted in their “Statement on Flawed Theory of ‘Controlled Digital Lending'”:

“Whatever public benefit libraries may claim results from CDL, it would not be sufficient to justify the harm to publishers’ actual and potential markets.”

IBPA agrees. It is detrimental to a publisher’s ability to continually produce professional quality content when, under CDL, copyrighted books are scanned and distributed online to readers worldwide without proper compensation to the content creator(s). We believe well-meaning librarians, archivists, and readers aren’t aware of this detriment because they are being misled by false claims from proponents of CDL.

By joining the open appeal to readers and librarians from the victims of CDL, IBPA aims to affirm the association’s strongly held belief that the unauthorized scanning and distribution of in-copyright books, in their entirety, under CDL should be stopped immediately as greater dialogue takes place related to creating digital libraries that fully respect the rights of content creators. We pledge to continue monitoring and working on the issue with the other associations on our side.


Just before Angela Bole became IBPA’s Chief Executive Officer, she was Deputy Executive Director of the Book Industry Study Group, Inc. (BISG), which fosters conversation and consensus across all sectors of the book business. Before that, Angela served for two years as BISG’s Associate Director and two years as its Marketing and Communications Manager.

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