Controlled Digital Lending Panel Recap

Guest post by Amanda Watson, Director of the O’Quinn Law Library and Assistant Professor of Law.

On June 3 and June 5, CS-SIS organized two talks on Controlled Digital Lending (CDL). The first focused on technology and the second on copyright. I hosted both panels and want to thank the panelists and all the librarians who participated and asked great questions.

The technology panel was: Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries, Internet Archive, and Leah Prescott, Associate Director for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections, Georgetown Law Library.

The nuts and bolts of CDL were described as having a way to properly scan and process materials as well as safely store and lend electronic materials. For both processes, it was clear that there are multiple levels of monetary and labor obligations. On the ends of the spectrum, a library could use something like Open Libraries ( and pay for a solution like the Gold Package which takes much of the labor process off of individual libraries but requires a payment premium. Or, a library could use existing technologies (like Google Drive or OneDrive) to put together a low-cost alternative. However, the panelists noted that the amount of labor and planning for a low-cost alternative is high.

Libraries can join Open Libraries without paying any funds, and use the system without digitizing their shared collections. However, they will have to pledge their physical copies to the system, meaning discontinuing their print use and understanding that their copy will be used as part of the larger system, perhaps meaning it will not be usable by their patrons if patrons from other institutions are already using the copy.

It was widely agreed that the largest problem with CDL is the amount of time for lending. Law books often need very discreet checkout periods, and most systems don’t allow something very brief. Someone noted that Google Drive will limit use to one day while most limit use to two weeks. Many expressed hopes that major library ILS systems will develop these systems within the frameworks we’ve all already invest in.

The copyright panel was: Kyle K. Courtney, Program Manager and Copyright Advisor, Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication; David Hansen, Associate University Librarian for Research, Collections & Scholarly Communication, Lead Copyright & Information Policy Officer, Duke University Libraries; and Michelle M. Wu, Associate Dean for Library Services & Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Library.

The panel described the basic elements of CDL for copyright purposes: 1) the item must be owned 2) there must be an equal own to loan ratio and 3) the system must be controlled by some DRM/comply with Fair Use.

One topic of discussion was the physical holding of the book. The panelists reported that you can physically hold, but remove materials from circulation or destroy materials if there is not space to store them. Panelists agreed anyone destroying materials should ideally keep some record of ownership and destruction. There was a brief discussion of keeping physical materials in circulation, but it was noted as difficult to enforce and not an ideal system.

An equal own to loan ratio means you must attempt to use the digital copy the way you would’ve used the physical copy. You can only loan as many copies as you physically own. It was also discussed that you should keep the digital copy in the same state as the physical — meaning you shouldn’t loan chapters or portions of a volume but should divide the contents the way they are physically divided.

Finally, controlling the loan with DRM and honoring Fair Use means you must put a system in place to honor the Fair Use of the material. Some questions were posed about how perfect this system has to be. The panelists agreed that the library burden is to set up a system, but that we all understand some violations may happen and that not all violations can be avoided.

The panelists agreed that working with University Counsel is a good idea to make sure your institution is on board with your system and plans.

Because of the great interest in these conversations, CS-SIS is planning two follow-up discussions in early August, one on the low-cost alternative CDL and one on DRM. These will be announced more fully in AALL’s My Communities in July.

Recordings of both panels are available on our AALL Community page!

Assistant Director, Research and Instruction, at Boley Law Library, Lewis and Clark Law School, in Portland, Oregon.