Friday, December 10, 2021

Controlled Digital Lending as a mechanism of Inter Library Loan

        One of the most fundamental aims of libraries is providing access to information by lending books and other materials to their users. Libraries are continuously engaged to fulfill their aim by evolving new methods based on new technologies and users’ feedback. The practice of an Inter-Library Loan (ILL) has been used for many years to share the reading materials among libraries. Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) evolved in recent years. Many libraries have opted for CDL as a mechanism of digital lending in a restricted environment. The sudden switch to remote learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic surged to think more seriously about the CDL mechanism. One more point in discussion among library professionals these years is how the CDL can be applied in the context of ILL. This article is going to throw light on this.

What is an Inter-Library Loan (ILL)?

It is a system by which one library borrows the library material (both digitized or digital) from another library to fulfill the user's demand for the particular material not available in its collection. Through ILL, libraries support each other in providing required materials in both physical and digital format and satisfying the users to the best they can. All we can say is that, the ILL is a resource-sharing method among the libraries because no library can have everything in its collection.


As defined by the
Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States , "Interlibrary loan is the process by which a library requests material from, or supplies material to, another library. ... The purpose of interlibrary loan as defined by this code is to obtain, upon request of a library user, material not available in the user's local library." 1

What is Controlled Digital Lending (CDL)?

Many print books that are not available online, either out of print or difficult to find, are still in copyright. So the users are not getting the benefits of such books. CDL is the effort by librarians across the world to fix the problem. When readers need access to such print books, the library scans the digital copy of the book that it owns and provides access to digital copy in a restricted environment to prevent readers from copying and redistributing the digital copy. Controlled Digital Lending is the process through which the libraries legally lend the digital copies of books in a controlled environment to prevent users from redistributing or copying the digital versions.


According to Position Statement on Controlled Digital Lending by Libraries

“CDL enables a library to circulate a digitized title in place of a physical one in a controlled manner. Under this approach, a library may only loan simultaneously the number of copies that it has legitimately acquired, usually through purchase or donation. ”2

CDL enables the circulation of copies equal to those that had been legitimately acquired by the libraries. For example, if a library has four copies of a title then it can only lend four copies of its digital version to the users or it can also do it in another manner like if three print copies are circulated to the user then only one digital version of it can be circulated. When the digital copy is being read by a user then for that period even if the fourth copy of the title is there in a library but is restricted for the other user until the digital version lending time limit is up for the user reading the copy. When the electronic version is “checked out”, the physical copy of the book becomes unavailable and vice versa. The no. of copies to be circulated irrespective of the format of title can not exceed the no. of copies library owned legally. All this is to avoid the situation of the library paying for one copy and providing for the use of more than one. In this way, CDL is permissible under existing copyright law.

Three core principles of CDL

1. Library must own a legal copy 

2.  Equal “owned to Loaned” ratio

3. Lending books in restricted environments

How and when can CDL be applied in the ILL?

CDL & ILL share the same purpose: Both systems allow libraries to serve users' needs by lending legally acquired copies of their collection. Both come under the fair use of materials for academic purposes.

According to the first sale doctrine, codified in Section 109 of the Copyright Act,

“an individual who knowingly purchases a copy of a copyrighted work from the copyright holder receives the right to sell, display or otherwise dispose of that particular copy, notwithstanding the interests of the copyright owner. The right to distribute ends, however, once the owner has sold that particular copy."3


CDL is the mechanism of legal lending of digital copies of books in a restricted digital environment either to its users or to the users of other libraries via ILL. So, the CDL mechanism can be incorporated into the process of ILL.
In September 2021 CDL Co-Op--a group of U.S.-based library professionals working on issues in resource sharing, ILL, and CDL, examined CDL as a mechanism for supporting interlibrary lending and produced a White Paper on Controlled Digital Lending of Library Books to provide library leaders and professionals involved with a set of statements for the use of controlled digital lending in the context of interlibrary lending.
They developed a set of 10 brief statements in response to community needs, and in conjunction with broad library community conversation and feedback. This increased the awareness of Controlled Digital Lending in the context of Inter-Library Loan among libraries and library professionals. These statements are also intended to rule out the misconceptions and legal issues related to CDL in the minds of librarians and professionals to improve the services of libraries by incorporating new and safe methods of resource sharing among the libraries and increasing equitable access to information.

The CDL mechanism is not a recent one. The  Open Library: Digital Lending Library project of Internet Archive has been using a CDL-like mechanism for the past eight years.  The Internet Archive and HathiTrust have been proponents of both Controlled Digital Lending and Fair Use of copyright laws in sharing ebooks between the libraries across the world. Many other libraries are also working on the lines of Internet Archive and opting for the same CDL-like system. Ebsco and Proquest are also working on enabling the lending of books in libraries via CDL. This will allow users to borrow certain books from the library in a digital format, helping libraries serve their users within the limits of copyright. ExLibris is working to integrate Controlled Digital Lending into its resource-sharing platform Rapido.

Many Library professionals in the United Nations are proposing to use the CDL, as a mechanism of InterLibrary Loan, which is called the Consortial CDL.  In August 2021, BLC board of directors approved the recommendations of working group convened almost one year before in September 2020, to implement CDL as a mechanism for interlibrary loan (ILL). In this way, a report on Consortial CDL for ILL is published in September 2021. Project ReShare in the USA, is also working to develop a resource sharing system between the libraries that is Consortial CDL.

CDL In India

Here is much more to dig into this topic. The topic needs to be discussed in those countries where it is in a nascent stage. In India, Pandemic-led remote learning has given momentum to the discussion on the legal issues related to providing access to digital materials.  

Binit Agarawal (July, 2020) , in his article "Reforming Digital Lending Libraries and the End of the Internet Archivediscussed “the lack of certainty relating to the legality of CDL as fair use. Libraries are under the fear of costly litigation.”4 He suggested that section Section 108 of the US copyright act need to be amended to meet the needs of the digital age and provide certainty in this regard. Some countries have already moved in this direction.

 Divij Joshi  April 2020, in his article The Legality of Digital Libraries in a Lockdown also states that “The legality of book-lending efforts like Controlled Digital Lending has not been determined in India. Any defence against copyright infringement for the purpose of digital lending would primarily rely on two defences – first, that the ‘lending’ of a lawfully possessed copy of a literary work does not infringe copyright as defined under Section 14 of the Copyright Act; and second, that the use is, in any event, fair dealing, protected under Section 52 of the Copyright Act.”5




Due to the pandemic Covid-19, which led to the onset of remote learning across the world, the discussion among the libraries on the Implementation of CDL as a mechanism of InterLibrary Loan took a leap. Although the topic is under controversy over the authors’ and publishers’ rights. Many Organizations and libraries supported it to be required in pandemic-like situations and beyond that also. IFLA issued a Statement advocating CDL and urged countries to correct the legal conditions in countries realizing its potential to support learning, research, and access to culture in a digital age, and thus enabling libraries to digitize and lend eBooks on an owned-to-loaned ratio. In August 2021, the Library Futures Foundation together with the Intellectual Property and The Information Policy (iPIP) Clinic at Georgetown Law developed a policy document. According to it the CDL helps the libraries in improving their loaning system and makes it more efficient.  



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