For many years, IFLA has monitored the emergence of issues around copyright and digital lending, in particular the ability of libraries to purchase and lend eBooks under reasonable licensing terms, as well as to give access to their collections remotely.

While digital tools have created new practical possibilities to support education, research and cultural participation, laws and markets have not always kept up.

Too often, even where they exist, the market fails to provide access to works in digital form on a consistently fair basis. In too many cases, libraries face the non-existence of digital works, or the refusal of publishers to allow libraries to buy their works.

Clearly, these challenges are not new, but the COVID19 pandemic has exposed them in a systematic way.

In response, Controlled Digital Lending has emerged in the last few years as a specific means of enabling libraries to fulfil their missions. It involves libraries lending digital copies of physical works in their collections, using technological safeguards to ensure that no more copies are loaned than the library itself owns. This prevents any unreasonable harm to markets.

As such, Controlled Digital Lending can represent an important tool for libraries. IFLA therefore supports this, underlining its ability to offer libraries the freedom to provide access to their collections, both during the pandemic and beyond.

To achieve this, IFLA argues that all countries should recognise the possibility for libraries to lend works, that laws should be adapted to the digital environment so that libraries can continue their mission to provide access to information and knowledge in the modern age, and that the combination of exceptions – for example to digitise and lend – should not be restricted unnecessarily.

These provisions, together, would allow libraries to realise the possibility that Controlled Digital Lending creates. 

IFLA supports Controlled Digital Lending in its ability

This statement was approved by the Governing Board in May 2021. IFLA is very grateful to the drafting team – Ben White and Christina de Castell – for their work in preparing the statement.