May 18, 2022

Libraries and Library Organizations Sign-On to “Controlled Digital Lending of Library Books” Position Statement

UPDATE: List of more than 20 libraries/library organizations and nearly 40 individual signatories of the position statement.

From a Blog Post by Dave Hansen (Duke University) and Kyle K. Courtney (Harvard University):

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.



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:

Lila Bailey
Policy Counsel
Internet Archive

Kyle K. Courtney
Copyright Advisor
Harvard University Library

David Hansen
Associate University Librarian for Research, Collections & Scholarly Communications
Duke University Libraries

Mary Minow
Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University

Jason Schultz
Professor of Clinical Law

Michelle Wu
Associate Dean for Library Services, Professor of Law
Georgetown Law

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.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.