18 August 2022

Controlled Digital Lending Feasibility Report

1. Executive Summary

Lending of digitised copies of library collections is controversial, with proponents and opponents disagreeing over whether digital lending is just an extension of a core library activity or whether it is different because it involves copying, with the potential for loss of control of use and income for rights holders. Controlled digital lending (CDL) is designed to address these rights holder concerns in the following ways.

  1. The library must lawfully own a copy of the physical work that is digitised for lending purposes. It can destroy the physical copy as long as it keeps proof of ownership, but it must not re-sell or give away physical copies.
  2. The library must not simultaneously lend more copies than it lawfully owns (it must maintain an “owned to loaned” ratio so the physical item must be made unavailable for loan).
  3. The library must use technical protection measures (TPMs) to prevent unauthorised copying, sharing or manipulation of the digital copy. The loan must expire before it can be lent again and TPMs must be in place to prevent unauthorised use and use beyond the loan period.

Lending of copyright works is a restricted act under UK copyright law and in other legal jurisdictions. The legal bases for CDL in the UK are uncertain and current licensing schemes do not fully meet CDL needs. Although EU court case judgments indicate support for digital lending, further clarity is required. In the USA an ongoing court case against the Internet Archive may have a chilling effect on the rolling out of CDL. Therefore librarians need to make risk-based assessments considering factors such as copyright status or works and conditions of licence schemes and copyright exceptions. CDL software systems should facilitate legal and risk assessments and record decisions. They should store relevant documentation such as loan requester declarations and implement and enforce loan procedures that comply with CDL rules. There is growing demand internationally for the lending of digital copies of works to be treated in the same way as traditional library lending, but there is recognition that this will require further updating of current legal provisions to reflect current library user needs.

Read the full report here.

This work was funded by Knowledge Integration and first published on www.naomikorn.com in April 2022.

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