Tuesday, June 01, 2010

How to Digitalize Your Textbooks: Fair Use?

I think this post  from Legalgeekery will give book publishers a heart attack (including mine), but it shows that if Google hadn't started this, they would have lost the whole market.  Dig down into the comments for the do it yourself scanners.

There is a certain logic to the student's analysis, but he admits that as a 1L his mind is completely unburdened by any study of copyright's subject matter.

You can see what immense cost and labor a student has to go through to make his book electronically relevant, and how if publishers don't start delivering relevant products, they will have the same problems the music industry had.

How to Digitalize Your Textbooks

Purchase Copyright Litigation Handbook from West here


Peter Friedman said...

As long as the copy shops will scan the books, whether it's fair use or not really is kind of a moot point.

The publishers do have e-copies. I'm a prof, and I always ask for and get a pdf of my texts.

Which brings me to my ultimate point -- I don't understand why e-books haven't had more of an impact in law schools. Casebooks are ridiculously large, e-books can be searched, and increasingly students are screen-bound and averse to the codex form. I think, therefore, that though it hasn't happened yet, the use of e-books in law schools is inevitable.

Ray Dowd said...

Dear Peter: Copy shops have gotten in trouble for copying for professors in the past - the very famous Kinko's case. Just because the technology and some kid making minimum wage will do something doesn't mean that it complies with the Copyright Act. I think it's pretty clear that in the student/prof context, a copy shop making a copy of an entire textbook for commercial gain without paying a license fee will be found by a court to have engaged in copyright infringement where publishers do have electronic versions you can purchase. Multiple copies for classroom use in the fair use clause of the Copyright Act in my estimation and I think the case law means copyrighted works that were not created for classroom purposes that you would like to comment on. For example, taking an occasional news article and distributing for a current events discussion.

But these cases are so fact-specific that I'd have to reread cases in this area and know all of the circumstances and think about the fair use factors before forming a final opinion. This isn't legal advice and just for discussion purposes. My advice is to be very careful before copying, even more careful before distributing other people's works. If you take a calculated, educated risk, like Napster or Limewire, that is one thing, but I hate to see people blindsided.