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Controlled Digital Lending

By Casandra Laskowski

The ‘first sale’ doctrine is essential to library lending. As we moved to digital landscapes, the rules changed. Libraries no longer owned the resources they purchased. Limiting licenses and growing costs created conflict. There have been gains, but some publishers continue to restrict library lending. With over a decade of efforts to find collaborative solutions, some libraries are looking to controlled digital lending for an alternative to the current model.

Controlled digital lending (CDL) “allows libraries to loan print books to digital patrons in a ‘lend like print’ fashion.” Libraries purchase a print copy of a resource, digitize it, and use DRM to ensure the number of digital versions lent equal the number of print versions owned. CDL is still an emerging method, but advocates for the system have created a website highlighting legal support, possible issues, and suggest best practice.

More and more libraries and publishers are working to make their collections available digitally like they are in print. Georgetown and UC Berkley are both working to make their collections more accessible through CDL. received a grant to work with university presses to create CDL collections of their materials following a successful pilot with MIT Press. And the Authors Alliance is in support of CDL by libraries. CDL is at a tipping point, and hopefully, it tips towards a more open future.

Copyright 2018 by Casandra Laskowski.

About the author: Casandra Laskowski is a Reference Librarian and Lecturing Fellow at Duke Law. She received her J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law, and her M.L.I.S. from the University of Arizona. Prior to pursuing her career as a law librarian, she worked as a geospatial analyst in the United States Army and served a fifteen-month tour of duty in Iraq. Her areas of interest include privacy, censorship, and the intersection of national security and individual liberty.