Aug 26, 2022

(+) Staying Legal When Digitizing Printed Books

The following is a Plus Edition article, written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.

I wrote recently about my efforts to digitize my personal library and then to throw away the physical books I have collected. Several people wrote to suggest that I not throw away the books. They suggested that I donate the books to a library or to some other person who could use them. For most of these books, I don’t think I can legally do that.

Warning: I am not a lawyer and cannot offer legal advice. If you get sued, contact a lawyer, not me! The following represents my layman’s interpretation of what I have read. If you have questions, I will refer you to the Copyright Law as detailed in Title 17 of the U.S. Code. You can read the full law here:

I will discuss U.S. copyright laws but not those of other countries. If you are a resident of another country, please check the copyright laws where you live. They most likely will be different.

The issue in this case revolves around copyrights. May I legally make a copy of a copyrighted book or magazine for my own personal use? (I think so.) If I do that, may I give the original book to someone else? (I don’t think so.)

In short, any content that falls under copyright law belongs to the person who creates it. That is true of books, magazines, movies, music, and anything else that is the result of someone else’s creativity. A copyright is the set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute, and adapt the work. These rights can be licensed, transferred, and/or assigned, but only if so documented in writing. (This happens frequently when copyrights are transferred from the author to the publisher.) Never assume anything about copyrights!

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