The answer may not be as simple as you'd think. If Michael Hyatt is right about the death of traditional book publishing, then it stands to reason that many people, armed with an array of PDAs, Tablet PCs and ePaper devices (like this one) will want to put digital copies of books they already own on these devices. In fact, I believe that they will expect that they should be able to do so.

My recent blog articles about my paperless challenge, specifically scanning my textbooks to read and markup on my Tablet PC, prompted a question about the legality of doing so. University Lecturer, Pascal Venier asked,
Is it legal to scan a textbook?
Creating such PDF+text versions of the book would make be a very useful tool. However would scanning "Law for Business" to produce an electronic version be lawful or are there copyright law issues?
Pascal poses a particularly relevant question. I am not an attorney, but given the specific subject and my interest in the law, I feel obligated to look into this further. Furthermore, I promised to look into it and share my discoveries on this blog.

As I began to research this topic, I found considerable information and opinions, but few answers. I've already created a large mind map with the information and references I've collected on this topic. [My business law professor encouraged me to change my final project to deal with this topic, so I have increased motivation (and a grade) riding on what I learn along the way.]

The answer to this question could greatly affect how people use emerging technologies such as the Tablet PC, PDAs or other ePaper Devices.
Below, I've mapped out my response (or defense) to this question. I hope you'll read along, comment on my thoughts, and join in the discussion. This is a topic that will affect all of us.

My initial thoughts:

In my preliminary research, I found lots of gray area surrounding the topic of "Fair Use" that would probably apply to my example above. It seems to me that scanning or using digital scans of the textbook, which I have paid for, so that I can read it on my Tablet PC, does not harm the publisher's ability to sell his textbook to other students that wish to carry their books in the traditional method. I am not sharing the scanned PDF copies with people who do not have a legal right to use the media. (I have, however, given some of my marked up chapters to fellow students who missed class, but each of them have purchased the same textbook as I have, so I consider this for their personal use.)

The bottom line is that I have taken material I own in one form and have converted it into another form, still for personal use.
From a digital perspective, the issue of scanning a book into digital form for personal use is no different than taking a cassette or CD from my collection and digitally copying it to my MP3 player so that I can listen to it in my car. In fact, it is very different, not because of the technology but because of the energy put into the copyright issues by their owners. (Think Sony)

As a student, I may be OK scanning my textbook, according to the rule of "Fair Use" but Fair Use does not clearly address the matter for other books I already own.

In short, I believe my scanning of the my Law for Business textbook for my personal use probably falls within "Fair Use" because:

1) I have purchased the textbook; I have paid the copyright holder for the information in the book.
2) I still hold the book that I purchased. I'm not scanning and then giving away or selling either the original book or the scanned copy.
3) I am retaining the digital copy of the scanned text book for my personal use for research and education. (Seems like fair use to me.)
4) I am not sharing the scanned copy of the book with others, for fee or for free, who have not purchased the same textbook. (There's no intent to deprive or harm copyright holder.
5) I am not seeking to profit (other than personal knowledge enrichment) from scanning this textbook into digital form or by marking it up with my personal notes, nor am I seeking to deprive the publisher of their right to profit from their copyrighted work [Updated 12/28/05]

If I'm right, and I might not be, does that make it legal to digitize any book that you own and read it on your Tablet PC or PDA?

Probably not.

At least not as I understand the terms of "Fair Use" clause of the copyright law. There may be other clauses that apply for other purposes. I've found several of these in Nimmer on Copyright  and other sources. It's not light reading. I'll try report on these once I make some sense of what I'm reading.

Meanwhile, I welcome, and even solicit, your comments and discussion.


PS. If you haven't done so already,  I hope you'll sign up for the RSS feed so that you don't miss the discussion.

Discussion/Comments (46):

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

I'm not an attorney, but your reasoning makes sense to me. For a copyright holder to prevail in a civil action against you, I would think he would have to prove that he suffered some sort of financial damage. As a publisher, I would have a very difficult time justifying the expense of litigation unless I thought I was suffering significant damage. If you posted it on a Web site and tried to give it away, that would be another thing altogether.

Posted at 12/27/2005 14:34:22 by Michael Hyatt

Book scanning: financial harm vs. legality

Mike, I agree about the need for a copyright holder to show that he suffered financial harm to prevail in a civil action. That (and the cost of litigation) is probably what deters publishers/copyright holders from going after individuals like me who are digitizing their own books for their own personal use on their Tablet PCs.

At the same time, Fair Use, which is easier for me to claim when I'm wearing my "student" hat, does not really cover digitization of whole works no matter the purpose. (Except for an ADA exemption for textbooks)

Suppose I wanted to scan in one of my John Maxwell books on leadership so that I could read it and mark it up on my Tablet PC, and suppose that it was not associated with course work. Without my student hat on, there aren't many provisions and even fewer examples of case law that would appear to apply to this activity.

It seems like it's more of an issue of if no one comes after you, it's OK. Of course, you and I know that's not how the law works. Still, I think that in order for consumers to adapt to new technologies in the information age, copyright law must be adapted to protect the financial interests of the copyright holder while still allowing the consumers to use this information in any form they want. The music industry has been battling this front for many years; I'm not aware of significant effort or progress in the publishing industry.

BTW: I'm delighted to see that Thomas Nelson makes many of MacArthur's works, among others, available in digital form and at reasonable prices. This not only makes it easier for my to obtain new information in digital form, it removes most incentives for me to want to digitize new books I will purchase. Of course, it does nothing for the thousands of books in my library or the non-mainstream books for which no digital versions are available.

Posted at 12/27/2005 15:08:42 by Eric Mack

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

IMHO, it is very well established that fair use includes the right to make a copy for convenience and for preservation purposes, even if the copy is on a different media than the original. I believe there were decisions about this in the 70's, having to do with consumers making tapes of LPs or libraries making microfilm copies of books, though I can't find references.

Here's what the EFF says:

Q. How do I know if my use of copyrighted material would be considered a fair use?

A. There is no "bright line" test that can tell if a particular use would be considered "fair," but the Copyright Act lists particular activities generally considered fair (this list is not to be construed as exclusive or limiting in any way). Some examples of uses listed in the statute that would generally be considered a fair use to copy copyrighted material include: Criticism, comment, parody, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, research, or personal use such as time or format shifting.

Q. Do I have the right to make a copy of my CD for my own personal use?

As new media present new ways for people to enjoy music, the public's fair use rights accompany them into the electronic frontier. Now, music fans have the right and ability to copy their own music collection onto their own computer storage device and create customized play lists for their own personal use and enjoyment of their music.

Above is from { Link }

Posted at 12/27/2005 19:58:55 by Richard Schwartz

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

Eric, please clarify your last post: are you saying that it is illegal to make and use a digital copy of a book that you own and are using as a non-student (professional), or rather, are you saying there are no cases that clearly denote that this is legal?

I am not a lawyer, but I am very interested in digitizing ALL of my books/files/notes, for the obvious reasons--easier searching for key passages and annotations, not having to carry and, worse, move boxes of books, etc. As someone who moves nearly every year, this last problem is probably more of a hurdle to me than to most people.

From a bigger picture, I thought that when I buy a book, I am buying access to the information contained in the book, not simply access to the material that the book consists of. If this is only naive wishful thinking on my part, then I need to be clued in. Consequently, if, as your post may imply, it is illegal to make and use a digital copy of a book that you own in material form and do not allow nonlegitimate owners to have access to, then I will be very interested in reading what your research project turns up for reasons why this is the case--From my current perspective on the issue, without this information, I feel disappointed in any legal system that considers this fair, but am willing to be swayed if I hear a legitimate explanation why.

Posted at 12/27/2005 21:31:01 by Nick Cizek

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

I think that digitizing my books should go in the same category as making backup copy of them or any other copyrighted media, which IIRC was shown being legal in Adobe vs Elcomsoft case (Elcomsoft has won the case even despite the fact that in process of making backup copy it removed the DRM protection).

It should go in same category in the law as making a virtual copy of DVD for viewing at a Tablet without an optical drive, or making a copy of a software distribution disk and using it in order not to damage the original and so on.

For each of these activities there exist commercial products in the market, so it seems that the legal teams of the companies who make those products agree with legality of such activities.

Posted at 12/28/2005 2:22:17 by Jack Shainsky

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

I don't understand why you do an about face at the end - you say it's okay with textbooks but not with other books that you own. What, pray tell, is the difference?

I'm not one who enjoys reading on a screen, so I have no desire to digitize any of my books. Just the same, if someone else wants to go to all that trouble, I see nothing wrong with it. It's like copying songs from CDs you own to your MP3 player. You don't have to have the original media in order to access the information you purchased.

My husband is taking distance courses that he receives on a CD or can download online. And you know what he does? He prints it all out? It's the same thing - just going the opposite direction. Some people prefer reading a screen, others prefer paper. Regardless of the format you purchased something in, you ought to be able to change it for yourself.

Posted at 12/28/2005 4:59:45 by Tana

Eric Mack asks "is it legal to scan books to PDF?"

Eric Mack has been on his paperless challenge for weeks now and he has posed an interesting question on his blog- Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?. This seems a simple question on the surface but he points out that when you research the copyright law and the definition of "fair use" it is in fact not a question with a straightforward answer.

Posted at 12/28/2005 11:07:44 by OnTheRun: Using Mobile Devices Since They Weighed 30 lbs

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

I agree that in principle you *should* be able to do it, but without being a lawyer of any kind, it sounds optimistic to me.

Most of my books say in the inside front cover:

"All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior consent of the publisher."

Unfortunately, that sounds pretty unambiguous to me.

Posted at 12/28/2005 13:05:55 by Chris Maddocks

My view: It’s all about what a jury would decide

Well, here's my view - it's all about what a jury would decide if it went to court. scanning the books you own, for yourself and only putting them on your computer, you own, for you would be hard to convict/sue someone. companies don't want to set a precedent either, sony won the vcr case in the 70's and we all have had recording of media since then. dvds and books are sorts a new thing to this mix, but something has to change.



Posted at 12/28/2005 13:34:49 by Phillip Torrone

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

As part of my research today, I've contacted and the publisher of my textbook. I don't know if I'll receive a response in time to include in my paper, but I wanted to be thorough nonetheless. I've also received some interesting feedback from several people vis this blog, email, and other blogs. There's definately no easy answer. I'll blog more on this tomorrow.

Posted at 12/28/2005 18:51:47 by Eric Mack

Easy answer, you can’t re-publish someone else’s work.

To copy some pages or maybe a chapter or two for your own use could be seen as fair Use, but as soon as you trade or sell your digital copy, you've riped the auther off!

Posted at 12/28/2005 19:04:15 by paul

The definition of fair use is the bugaboo in this issue

The definition of fair use is the bugaboo in this issue. It means different things to different people, making it a mine field in situations like this. Anyone with children has heard this exchange many times:

Billy: Mommy, Bobby broke the last cookie in half and gave me the little piece! That's not fair!

Bobby: It's fair to me.

It seems to me that neither publishers nor authors would object to the usage that Eric is discussing. I view scanning the book into a digital form for easier access to be firmly in the "fair use" camp. It is no different than copying or handwriting a single chapter of the book to take to today's lecture to avoid carrying the 8 pound textbook. I don't think an argument can be made that this exceeds fair use. Even the evil RIAA doesn't go after legitimate consumers who make digital copies of music files they own, they go after people who distribute and download copyrighted material they do not own.

This quandary of Eric's would go away if publishers of textbooks would release their material in ebook format, as long as it is a standard format like PDF and didn't prohibit the inking that Eric so desires. Many publishers do in fact offer their books in PDF format which eliminates this question entirely, but until they all do Eric will likely continue to scan his books and feel slightly guilty about it. This is usually the end result of all attempts to limit fair use of copyrighted material. The legitimate consumer does what is needed to make legal copies but often feels bad about it. The copyright thieves do whatever they want to break DRM and profit illegally anyway.

Posted at 12/28/2005 19:51:42 by James Kendrick

Excellent source of info for determining Fair Use...

Excellent source of information for determining Fair Use:

{ Link }

Posted at 12/28/2005 19:59:03 by James Kendrick

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

Hey Eric, good question. I have two related ones:

(1) if you and I are in the same class, or we both have paid for the same book, can you gift me a copy of your scanned image of the book?

(2) rather than gifting me the image, can you sell me the image ... you have put in time and effort to scan the pages, assemble the work, etc, etc, ... and so it could be fair for you to seek some revenue contribution from those that you share the book image with.

Again, both of these are based on the assumption that you and I have both paid for a physical copy of the book.

Posted at 12/29/2005 8:11:58 by Michael Sampson

The absurdity of "Fair Use"

And,, thus, the ultimate absurdity of "fair use" -- no one knows what it is.

I would argue that any individual has a "fair use" right to make additional copies, even complete copies, of any legally owned work for their own personal use. The four fair use factors should even support this claim in any objective analysis.

But judging "fair use" is anything *but* objective. "Fair use" is originally judge-made law. And, as such, it is a law only a judge could love. It allows them to do the "right thing" and back it up with a decision where the judge can write just about anything they want to justify their conclusion.

In reality, no one is ever going to take an individual to court for digitizing their own personal library.

Posted at 12/29/2005 9:36:15 by ruidh

Here’s what I think about this issue...

Here is what I think about it:

The question of whether one may make a complete copy of a copyrighted work for his own personal use seems settled: he may. He may then mark up the book - either the original or his copy - again, for his own use. Whether he does this "as a student" or "as a management consultant" or even as a "crass commercial operator" appears to be irrelevant: the making of a copy for one's own private use seems clearly to be a "fair use" under the copyright law.

I draw this conclusion from a re-reading of the Michigan Data Services case (1996). That very long majority opinion, as well as the vigorous dissents, all seem to conclude that the STUDENTS might have made copies for themselves, but that the COPY SERVICE's use was not comparable. (One of the dissents disagreed vigorously with this idea and thought that since the student could clearly have made the copies, and all the copy service did was relieve them of the tedious work of copying, the decision should have gone the other way.)

There are a couple of interesting subterranean issues here. One of them is privacy: It would be outrageous for a copyright holder to think that he, or the courts at his instance, might invade my home and snoop around to see what use I am making of a purchased copy of his material. But in the MDS case, the objectionable use involved people going to a commercial copy service - and so there were no privacy interests to consider. -- The other subterranean issue is community - what Larry Lessig talks about as "the commons". The desire of the copyright owner to control every single possible use of his material interferes with the healthy discussion on the commons, and so a balancing of these interests has to be done carefully.

The analysis in the world of books is very different from a similar analysis we've been trained to make in the software world. In the early days of computing, we used to "buy" our software, but lately we have had to become mere "licensees" of the software. During the 1990s Microsoft, realizing that "fair use" would allow purchasers of software to make copies for their own use, moved to "licensing" plus "activation" - the result being that you cannot make a useable copy of a software product without "hacking" deliberately. Now virtually all major software vendors (e.g. Adobe, Alias Wavefront) have followed suit. This trend would not be possible in the publishing world because there is no computer required to read a printed page and once a buyer has possession of the page his use of it cannot be monitored. (Of course, if the scanned page were to become an interactive tool in its own right - as for instance, if it were enhanced with fill-in fields and active buttons - it might itself become a "program" which could then be "licensed" rather than sold. But then, the programmer would own the copyright in the program under the theory that the original was "transformed". I wonder then whether he would require permission from the copyright holder to incorporate the original page into his program or whether his use would be excused as a fair use.)

The privacy issue may not be completely resolved yet -- even in the computer software field. The extent to which a computer user's privacy is compromised in today's world is offensive (at least, to me): one solution to the problem would be to invalidate all shrink-wrap licenses as attempts to circumvent the copyright law -- an idea which many courts have struggled with but which has so far not carried the day. [See ProCD v Zeidenberg, also 1996]. And the balancing of the social interests in the "commons" versus protecting private property was done well until the 1960s when reproduction technologies started to shift the scales and make new kinds of distribution possible.

But notwithstanding all the subterranean issues, Eric's questions seems to me to have a clear answer today.

Posted at 12/29/2005 12:04:29 by Rafael Chodos

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

"The bottom line is that I have taken material I own in one form and have converted it into another form"

You haven't converted it, because the original persists. You've copied it. Destroy the original and you can call it conversion.

Posted at 12/29/2005 18:31:43 by MT

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

Re the previous comment: there have been several court decisions that indicate that you do not have to destroy the original. You have a right to make a personal copy for convenience and preservation.

Re Chris Maddocks: the statement on the inside cover page of your book is unambiguous, but it is an unambiguous statement of the publisher's claims, which is not the same thing as a statement of your rights. The publisher has no obligation to tell you of your actual rights, but they can't assume that you've waived the rights that copyright law gives to you unless you've knowingly entered into an explicit contract with them. Merely purchasing the book at a retail store is unlikely to ever be considered an explicit contract with the publisher.

Re Michael Sampson's two questions: The answer to #1 is probably yes. The answer to #2 is almost certainly no. The reason being that the publisher owns the rights to sell you an electronic copy of the book. The fact that they may not be excercising that right does not mean that they are cedeing that right to someone else. Your fair use rights definitely do not include profiting from selling copies -- even to people who have the right to make their own copies. Which is too bad, because I had the idea of setting up a service that would record legally-owned LPs to MP3s. People would have to bring their LPs in to prove ownership. Due to the amount of manual labor involved, however, the only way that such a service would be feasible is if it built up a library of MP3 versions of all the LPs that were brought in over time, and simply pulled files from the library whenever a patron brought in an LP that was already on file.

Now here's my question: two students can legally agree to share the expense of a book, buying just one copy. Some publishers might like to make this illegal, but it will never happen. If those two students then scan the book onto a single computer, which they also share, is that legal? I'm thinking it probably is not, because they now have the ability for one to be reading the electronic copy while the other reads the hard copy simultaneously.

Posted at 12/29/2005 21:33:02 by Richard Schwartz

Cover disclaimers and concurrent use of a book

Richard, I'm actually looking into the inside cover disclaimer, too. As far as I can tell, it's not a contract and the owner is not obligated to do anything about it any more than the publisher can say that the reader must be wearing a shirt and tie when reading the book. I've seen and read about conversion services. Those that I had found require that you send in the book (or tape, etc) before they will convert it.

As far as your point about two students legally sharing the expense of a book buy buying one copy. In your illustration, I don't think that would be a legal use if the objective was to effectively provide two concurrent "uses" of the book (one scanned and one in print)., My purpose in scanning my own books or even in blogging about this is not to deprive the publishers from profiting from the book nor is it to encourage anyone to avoid paying for a book. I simply want to control how I use the book. I compare this to the forward thinking - and much appreciated - software companies that allow me to install and use one copy of their product on my desktop and my laptop, provided that they are not in use concurrently. Seems reasonable to me and I'm happy to do so. So far, I can only be in one place at a time anyway. My textbook costs $150. It's a great book. I would have paid $170 for a textbook that included an electronic copy so that I had the choice of which to use. I know what I'd do. I;d use the electronic copy for my course and then, after the course, I'd probably toss the electronic copy and keep the hard copy in my library. As much as I'm a high-tech guy, I do enjoy the feel of a book. As for my "dead-tree" library, as Marc Orchant likes to call it, I enjoy looking across the covers and titles. I find it refreshing and inspiring.

Posted at 12/29/2005 22:16:29 by Eric Mack

As long as the author is compensated...

Here's my take on this:

A person who is blind or otherwise unable to read printed text can have materials put into another form (tape, braille, etc), and be able to access the text in that form.

What about someone with a physical disability who can't lug 50 pounds of books around on campus? Why can't that person have a textbook scanned and then available on a computer? They can.

Both of these situations occur every single day of the year, legally.

Personally, as long as the author is compensated for the print book, I feel that the method used to access that book is irrelevant. The content is being read in some form. As long as I delete the version on my laptop when I sell or give away the text, I should be able to have it on my computer.

Posted at 12/31/2005 13:35:25 by Renee Roberts

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

Here's a classic example of a publisher attempting to create a binding contract out of thin air:

{ Link }

One of these days there's going to be a class action suit on this.

Posted at 01/01/2006 8:43:21 by Richard Schwartz

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

Re: what it takes for a copyright owner to prevail: To clarify this point, from what I understand a copyright owner does not have to prove any harm to win an infringement case. They only need to prove that a copy was made that was not subject to one of the exceptions (e.g., fair use). Whether the copyright owner was harmed or if money was made or not, as I understand it, only comes into play when damages are calculated. The actual copying of the book is the potentially infringing act.

Now, to throw my $0.02 in the pot, it seems like fair use to me, especially in the education context. As others have said, it is akin to making an archival backup. However, re: the students sharing the cost of the book and then one having the physical book and the other having the electronic book, that to me is outside fair use. It's like ripping a CD and then letting your friend "borrow" the physical CD indefinitely. As long as ownership rests exclusively with the purchaser, it seems that the owner having an electronic version of the copyrighted work is fine. Once you sell, give away, etc the physical version and retain the electronic version, that's where you cross the line.


Posted at 01/05/2006 0:06:47 by Patrick

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

Have any of you put any thought into the best way to legally convert books, in the sense of MT's post, in which you actually destroy the physical version after scanning it? In particular, I'm interested in finding a reliable way to prove that you actually bought, but did not sell, the physical copy before you converted and destroyed it.

Though in a sense this is a silly thought question, because publishing companies can't economically justify going after users who complete this conversion, it is not purely theoretical. For example, one major reason for me to convert my books is that I will no longer have to pack and transport those books when I switch apartments and/or offices. If I have to keep the hardcopies to prove I didn't sell them, this benefit is completely lost.

Some ideas I have considered are cutting out and saving only the ISBN barcode, or maybe keeping the entire front and/or back covers, along with the purchase receipt. Though admittedly silly, slightly more concrete proof would be to film the actual book destruction process as well. Or should I realize that I'm jousting with windmills, and resign myself to lugging all these (heavy) boxes of atoms everywhere I go.

...It would be so much more-elegant to buy the books in electronic form...

Posted at 01/05/2006 17:57:22 by Nick Cizek

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

"If I am right...does that make it legal...? Probably not."

That statement is a fair summation of the problems with Copyright in today's connected world.

The only possible flaw in your logic, that I see, is that once copied, it's then _possible_ for multiple people to use the work (i.e. book).

The 'fair use' rights are even worse in Australia: you can claim fair use for the purposes of education or critique, and even then only of a 'reasonable portion'. Your handouts to others in your class probably counts. Your own copying probably doesn't -- go figure.

My opinion: copyright should allow any copying for personal use, provided the individual has a legal copy.

Posted at 01/08/2006 23:56:49 by Calrion

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

I agree with the previous posts.. no way are publishers and authors going to want unprotected and unauthorized digital copies of their books floating around. If they wanted you to have a copy to read on your tablet, they would SELL you a copy to read on your tablet, with the appropriate DRM in place. Audio books, ebooks and paper books all have different pricing and, I would assume, fair use expectations.

Posted at 01/10/2006 8:18:57 by James

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

Hello, I am an author (among other things about the Tablet PC) and have thought personally about this. My feeling is if someone takes the time to scan my book so they can read it on a TPC, they are showing strong dedication to the topic of the book and I will support them. Even if they loan the original to someone else. I think what scares authors is this: unless an author has a blockbuster best-seller, authors make very little on their books. Compared to the efforts put into writing, the returns are usually very low, so every sale counts. The vision of a book being distributed electronically without permission is just scary in this regard. So many authors have mixed feelings about distributing non-protected electronic copies, and so will hide behind legal language that seems unrelated to that sentiment. It is a difficult subject for many authors, who are usally teachers at heart, and want to spread their teachings widely, vs. the prospect of having such a poor sales experience that they never write again.

Posted at 01/11/2006 6:18:55 by Michael Linenberger

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

If this wasn't an issue in Star Trek, it probably is no issue. Might take a few more years to get to that. Did they have DRM in Trek? I mean that can't be the future if they didn't?

Posted at 01/19/2006 19:28:57 by ac

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

I ask a new question... What about a company that offers you scanning your books for your own use, by paying a little money because of the work it involves? The book would only be used by the person who provides them...

Posted at 01/24/2006 15:42:03 by Carlos

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

The issue boils down to the Fair Use exemption and whether or not the proposed use meets the criteria of this exemption.

This has been an interesting journey. In the end, I concluded that having the needed chapters of my text available in PDF format during the class was a great help. The time to manually scan, while practical, was still costly. I did it for this class and then deleted the scanned files from my computer when I was done.

Hopefully, the publishers will start selling the textbooks as PDF versions so that I won't have to scan in my books. I'd gladly pay for this convenience.

As far as your question of using a 3rd party scanning service, the issue, as I understand it, is not who does the scanning, but what you are doing with the scanned copies. I recommend that you consult the fair use exemption of the copyright act to see if your application meets the criteria.

Here's a great checklist to use when evaluating Fair Use.

{ Link }

Posted at 01/27/2006 17:45:49 by Eric Mack

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

I have a separate situation which I might like to discuss here(basically an added twist):

We have readers at my school that are produced legally under copyright and sold to students to use with their classes. The readers are a combination of outside materials(from other published works) and the professor's own work, and are effectively just photocopies sold in large, shrinkwrapped bundles.

My professor in this case, however, has expressly denied his approval of my efforts to scan/digitize the reader for my own use.(twist!) In this case it is as though one were to go to the author and ask for permission - only to be denied.

Does this affect the copyright situation or my rights to make personal reproductions/conversions for educational use? I realize that it's likely illegal for me to scan and distribute the reader to my classmates(who have also bought it), but I would assume that my rights to use it personally remain unimpeded. I bought it, right?

Posted at 03/29/2007 13:14:15 by Ben

re: Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

Ben, this remains a gray area, but in general, what you do personally with materials you have purchased is up to you. We had many discussions of this in my business law courses. So, if you want to take your readers and scan them or make wallpaper or toiletpaper for your personal use, it would seem that this is within your domain. of course, there are others that would hold that this is a violation. I would encourage you to review my past posts on this subject and follow some of the comments by attorneys that have posted in response. I hope this helps.

Posted at 04/03/2007 11:34:15 by Eric Mack

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

Ok I'm not very good at prooving stuff or telling you whats good and whats bad but I had read a few comments and about the financial harm thing.This sorta hard to prove to some kids because I have a friend who's a year younger than me and she says that she's making manga books (not sure if it's true or not but anyway) and she says she found her book scaned online and she didn't care. But when she went online again she found her book scaned but the publisher and artist didn't have her name, it was someone elses and she was furious. It's one thing to scan and give credit to the artist but to steal the book and call it your own is another. sorry if this doesn't answer you'r question but it's a point that was pointed out and I think it's legal to scan as long as you don't take credit and give fair warning to the publisher.

Posted at 07/28/2007 1:56:22 by Lynn

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

Just out of curiosity, but the means of digitizing a collection of books is not available to everyone. I happen to know of a business that converts music collections to mp3 files and loads them onto iPods- in effect, automating the process for the original owner fo r a nominal fee. The proprietor does not distribute the converted music to anyone but the original owner.

In the case of books, the format change is more difficult. If it were legal to change a book into a digital format for personal use, would it be legal to charge money to convert people's books to .pdf's or whatever on their behalf? All consumption of copyrighted works would be limited to the owner of the physical copy of the book, and the individual would be warned that the original material could not be sold without destruction or transfer of the digital copy as well.

Posted at 05/21/2008 16:05:47 by Childs

re: Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

I do not know of any public conversion services but I am sure they exist; you might want to do a Google search to see what you can find.

Posted at 05/25/2008 17:16:54 by Eric Mack

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

So i have a question, I plan on scanning some of my text books as I have about 15 sitting on my coffee table. I am going with the cut the binding off version and ADF scanning them.

now say in 2-3 years when i have finished my program and wish to resell my text books, sans binding. could i include the pdf version of the book. I would not be keeping the book on my computer? would be the same as if they scanned it or had someone else convert it?

Posted at 07/15/2008 20:37:44 by Selena

re: Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

I recommend that you seek legal advice. You may do as you wish with your book, including scanning, etc.., To my knowledge, however, you may not transfer that to anyone else. Do search the comments on this blog.

Posted at 07/15/2008 21:25:49 by Eric Mack

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

It is easy. No it is not legal, but you would only be prosecuted if you commercially affected the owner. The owner woudl only prosecute you if the commercial loss was high enough (but that's for them to decide). It's civil law which means they sue you, rather than the police.

That means if you copy and sell, or copy and republish as say a presentation which others read - then you are reducing the chance for the owner to have sold a copy of their work.

If you copy something for your own use and never show anyone else, how would any one else know? If this was the case, no other person could gain and therefore the owner would no lose.

Posted at 08/17/2009 7:51:47 by John

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

I know this response is beyond the scope of coping published works (Hard Cover Books) However, how does Half Price Books do it. When they resale a used book, CD, Video Game, Movie do they send revenue over to the publishers, authors, music artist, or is this considered a final sale which would mean Half Price Books stays with the revenue. just curious.

Posted at 09/04/2009 10:06:44 by Tony

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

A government run public library has copy machines. For $.xx per page you can copy a complete book. No signs of copyright laws in any library I've been to.

Posted at 10/29/2009 11:59:53 by Val

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

I believe Google have actually been using neat book scanners which read the distance of the pages using infra red 3D scanners, including the curve of the pages. So that when scanned they appear as flat images with little or no black depth marks on that often comes with book scanning.

We usually carry out scanning using both ways. But the fastest way is always to slice the book and feed scan the pages if you are able to.

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Posted at 01/11/2010 8:18:44 by Craig Cartwright

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

Once a book is scanned in you can actually sell on the copies privately provided its not part of a business plan. We scan a lot of books for customers and some of them sell them as a DVD to other interested readers.

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Posted at 06/17/2010 8:52:38 by Pearl

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

@Val: There should be. I'm a librarian and copiers or copy clusters are required to have a disclaimer sign. And copying an entire book is illegal, assuming the book isn't in public domain.

Posted at 07/15/2010 11:02:16 by Andrew

General book sharing question?

Let's say that you were to scan your book and then share it digitally with your classmates. Wouldn't that be the same concept of what a library does, except you are sharing digitally? If so, how are libraries able to share books and it be legal?

Also, how are companies that resale or rent books, ie.(,, able to operate legally?

I am wondering because I currently have a site that shares textbooks with my classmates for free and I am trying to figure out if it is legal or not since my site is nothing more than a library.

Any comments or answers are appreciated.

Posted at 08/04/2010 11:14:39 by Elizabeth

re: General book sharing question?

I think you need to contact an attorney and seek professional legal advice. What you are doing is VERY different than a library loaning its books. The Library is not making copies of the book - only sharing the single purchased copy. I am not an attorney, but recommend that you seek legal advice on this issue. I hope this helps.

Posted at 08/04/2010 11:16:42 by Eric Mack

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

This subject seems to go on forever; nevertheless, I would like to pose a hypothetical.

An individual who we will call Jack purchases a book (later several books). Jack is a disabled person who cannot hold the book for reading. Jack decides he will cut the book apart and scan in into a PDF format for easy reading on a computer.

#1 Jack is also in charge of a short study program comprised of 10 or less students.

#2 Ordinarily Jack could loan his book to each of the students is they need to borrow them to do their reading. Jack decides to make a copy of the PDF version to loan to the students. Further along rather than provide a digital copy of the books that are required reading that Jack owns, you will create a CD whereupon he will put a scanned copy in PDF format of all the books that are required in the learning process which cannot be saved on the students computer, and the CD must be returned to Jack when the course of study is completed. If the student enjoys the books (one or all), the student is advised to go and purchase the book for themselves.

At no time will this book be provided to the student for a price other than perhaps postage and the CD must be returned to Jack upon completion of the study program.

#3 it would seem logical to me that this practice would be legal under the provisions of the Fair Use statutes, how say you?

Posted at 09/29/2010 11:18:31 by Archbishop Mark

re: Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

Mark, I am not an attorney and I recommend that you contact one to get a legal opinion. From my studies, this would not be considered Fair use -- the distribution of a copy of a copyrighted work. That said, in the U.S. there are some additional provisions (exclusions) for persons with disabilities IF the works are copied by an authorized organization (e.g. a school with a disability support team) Best to do some research and get the facts. My personal opinion is that while you can argue fair use to make a copy of a paper book (that you own and keep in your possession) for your OWN consumption; you cannot make the same case the minute that you transfer or loan the book or the digital copy to another person. Again, touchy area and I recommend you contact an attorney. Best of success to you.

Posted at 09/29/2010 12:03:19 by Eric Mack

Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

Thank you for your prompt reply, and I appreciate your evaluation of the scenario.

What if the CD is locked and the documents cannot be removed or copied from the CD, and the CD must be returned after completing the course of study. Would that add strength to the dialectic?

Posted at 09/29/2010 13:07:37 by Archbishop Mark

re: Is it legal to scan your books to read on a Tablet PC?

I don't think it would, Mark. When I did my research - and remember I'm not an attorney - I found that I could argue some personal uses but beyond that you are on shady ground. I concluded that for my own academic purposes as long as a) I purchased the book and kept it in my posession, and b) kept the scanned copy in my posession, and c) did not share, lend, or sell either, then the publisher was not harmed and I "may" have a case for personal use. Not so in any other scenario.

Posted at 09/29/2010 13:14:19 by Eric Mack

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