Q.  How are Kindles/e-books/etc. dealt with, under copyright law, in relation to use in a lending library of any sort? Would a library be in violation of any laws by loaning out this sort of media, as if it were a book?

A.  Many libraries  have embarked on loaning Kindles with pre-loaded e-books.  As different than buying a published book, however, the use of a Kindle and the downloading of electronic books to the device is governed by a user agreement.  Contract law supersedes copyright.  At this time, Amazon has taken the position that the user agreement doesn’t permit the loaning of the Kindle with the e-books, while libraries have challenged the wording of the Kindle agreement.  The Amazon agreement also states that the wording of the agreement may be changed at any time and once changed, it becomes effective and governs all use.

The libraries that have proceeded with implementation have argued that it is no different than loaning out a copy of the book and that only one copy of a book is loaded on each Kindle.  In addition, libraries, in order to protect themselves from possible user abuse, have contacted Amazon which cooperated with libraries in providing information on how to deactivate the registration on the Kindle on loan so that the user can’t download additional content and when returned, the library can reactivate the Kindle registration.  At this point, Amazon hasn’t taken any direct action in the form of lawsuits.  It may be that Amazon is waiting to see if such use of Kindles diminishes or enhances book ordering and the possible impact on Kindle sales.

One of the problems in being on the bleeding edge of change in technology is that some bleeding sometimes does take place.  So, at this point, I cannot provide you with a definitive yes/no response to your question, other than providing you with the facts as to where the situation stands at this time.

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