strider1551 wrote:If these books are still copyrighted, has there been any discussion on the forum (or elsewhere) about the legal issues involved? Firstly of scanning a copyrighted work that you own, secondly of doing so on someone else's behalf, and thirdly of being paid for doing so?
From what I've read, here in the US it's a complete grey issue. There is certainly no positive law on the matter. A lot of people will reference fair use, but that in and of itself is horrifically vague, and I've heard some strong arguments that book scanning would not be covered by fair use (namely, that the amount of the work being copied is a factor of whether the copy is fair use). Then there is the whole issue of DRM, and whether making your own scan could be considered breaking/circumventing the DRM a publisher has on their own electronic version (federal offence, by the way). Our entire system of copyright and patents really need to be trashed and completely rewritten in light of how computers have changed things...
I think that if we'll avoid a muddle, we're going to have to carefully define terms and reduce our questions to the essentials. We must understand the law which grants rights to copyright holders and correlative duties upon us. Copyrights appear in the US Constitution, and have been extended by subsequent legislation. And the Supreme Court has established case law which has contextualized copyright law within the rest of the Constitution.
DRM restricts the use of electronic media to only those things desired by the seller. For instance, to protect prevent electronic media from being copied and resold (pirated). DRM is not copyright law, but circumvention of DRM is prohibited by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. http://www.copyright.gov/1201/
Happily, books are not electronic media. They are made of paper and ink.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1984 in Sony vs Universal http://w2.eff.org/legal/cases/betamax/
that "a company -- in this instance, a VCR manufacturer -- was not liable for creating a technology that some customers may use for copyright infringing purposes, so long as the technology is capable of substantial non-infringing uses." I think this gives me the right to lawfully make a DIY book scanner.
Fair use was a part of common law until the US Congress incorporated it into the Copyright Act of 1976. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use
strider1551 wrote:I go with common sense. I can't imagine a publisher would be upset if I copied a book that I already purchased from them and still have in my possession, and I've certainly put a considerable amount of effort and skill into making my scan. Being paid to copy a book, though... I think that gets into too risky of an area. Even if the publisher has not produced an electronic version of the work, they could still argue that they are suffering financial harm by the loss of potential profits.
I think imaging a book for hire pushes the limits of fair use. It probably hasn't been litigated before and if you're hauled into court, it'll cost some money to defend yourself, even if you win. (That said, there are folks like the EFF would love to see you win and who'd contribute to a legal defense fund.)
I think the risk of being hauled into court depends upon which books were imaged. Quite frankly, the books I'd pay someone to image are not available from Amazon or anyplace. You can buy Dorothy Sayers' book "Strong Poison" because it's off copyright, but "Busman's Honeymoon" written just a couple years later is not available because it's still on copyright (and they changed the law so it won't be for at least a decade). You can't buy an ebook edition, because there's no money in it. If the copyright holder hasn't bothered to make an ebook edition of something, it's hard for him to argue that your actions have reduced his readership or negatively impacted his business.
Moreover, I'm envisioning a transaction that is much less than creating an ebook. It's creating a couple hundred high-quality images of a book's pages. It's up to the original owner of the book upon receiving those pages to do the labor-intensive work of turning those images into an ebook. Producing just these images and not the ebook edition seems more like an enabling situation like the Betamax decision allows. Of course, none of this is certain until a Federal judge agrees with this line of reasoning.