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 Posted: Fri Mar 28th, 2008 06:28 pm
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booklover
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As technology has gotten better, the quality of scanners has steadily improved. From time to time when I get a library copy of a book I really want, I've scanned it into my computer so I would have a copy of it. About 90 percent of the time it has been a book that is out of print although some are still in print but are very expensive. For example, there is a book on Lincoln's assassination that used I could get for about $50 or $60 and $85 new. Obviously, I can get it for free from the library. I guess I'm wondering about the ethics of this.

Books that are out of print don't bother me as much, because the author doesn't get any money from Alibris or Abebooks. Sometimes the cost of shipping the book is unreasonable (I mean, does it really cost $9 to ship a $2 book?) and sometimes the book is just plain hard to find. On the other hand, a book that is in print, even if it is expensive, causes me a problem. If my book is ever published, I want to be able to get as much compensation that is coming to me, yet in this real world I'm not made of money. I spend far more on books in a year than some people do on food and with the cost of gas going up everyday, I have to cut somewhere. I'm not trying to make any money with this but am trying to save.

So, what do you think?

Best
Rob



 Posted: Fri Mar 28th, 2008 07:19 pm
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ole
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My take on that, Booklover, is that if it remains for your personal use, it is legally sound. It might be avoiding some author or publisher royalties, but if you simply read it or scan it at the library, the fee has been paid. It's not that much different than reading a borrowed book.

ole



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 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 04:20 pm
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booklover
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Ed,

Appreciate your input. I guess the biggest difference as I see it is that I'm not making 30 copies (or even more than the one I plan to use for myself). I agree with you that the professor who does that is wrong (and probably would be reprimanded by the school he or she teaches at). Just curious though as to how it is different from taking a book out of the library and reading it? The book is paid for by the library and the author is compensated. All I'm doing is taking advantage of the technology as it exists. Would it make a difference if I sat down and copied the book entirely in longhand?

Not trying to be argumentative here, because I don't necessarily disagree with you entirely, but what about buying books from a used book store? The author isn't compensated for that sale, but was for the original purchase. I don't feel guilty about that, because the situation wasn't of my creation. As a (hopeful) author I would like to get paid every time my book sells, but as one who has spent several years around the used book business, I know that will never happen.

Should I not take advantage of the technology in what I see as the same type of situation? I didn't make scanners nor did I make photocopiers, but they are here. I realize I'm trying to rationalize my own behavior, but the point that I would draw the line at is that I wouldn't do it for a book that was in print, reasonably priced ($85 for the book that I described is not reasonably priced) and widely available. I guess that makes me a thief with ethics :).

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Rob



 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 04:44 pm
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David White
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It is beyond an ethical issue, it is a legal issue that violates the law.

If we sent one of us to buy a book and then all of the rest of us made a copy for "our personal" use the book sellers and authors would be hosed. The sale of one book is not compensation enough. Booklover, using technology as your excuse makes you sound like a pimple faced kid stealing music, it's very unbecoming of you ;). Who are you to dictate the price of anything in a free economy?  If the price is too high, don't pay for it, but for heaven's sake don't steal it! If you put your house on the market for what I deem to be too high a price, does that allow me to move in and occupy it?

Property rights my friend, it's what the country was founded on and how it should be until Obama becomes president and institutes socialism, then you can steal books with impunity ;).

Last edited on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 04:56 pm by David White



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 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 06:11 pm
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booklover
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David,

If you've never burned a CD, made a taped copy of an album (definitely showing my age here), borrowed a book from a friend, or EVER borrowed something from someone so as to not have to purchase it yourself, then I will accept your chiding. However, if any of these aren't true, I guess we all have our own Machiavellian sense of right and wrong. Following your scenario to its logical end, it would be wrong for me to borrow someone's truck to move simply because I don't want to buy a truck for myself. Not buying the truck because it's too expensive for just one move hurts Ford, Chevy or whichever truck manufacturer I prefer. Where's the difference?

Who am I to dictate the price of anything? I am the consumer, to whom the right to dictate the price is well-accepted in a free economy. That's one reason libraries are so popular. Many people don't want to spend $35 for a book they only plan to read once, so they borrow it from the library. But by doing so, they deprive the author of another sale. Do we ban libraries?

As to your point that the sale of one book isn't compensation enough, than what is? Do I have to pay the author every time I buy a book, even when it's used? Do I need to donate $1 every time I check a book out of my library. Or have I already done so by the fact that my taxes support the library's purchase of the author's book?

I never realized that socialism was a license to steal, unlike good old American capitalism, which is just chock full of examples of exemplary business practices and whose practitioners would never ever try to rob the consumer of anything. So does that mean if McCain is elected, we won't need labor unions any longer or anti-trust lawsuits will be a thing of the past? Oh happy day!;)

Best
Rob



 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 06:27 pm
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Dixie Girl
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i do it all the time. its for my personal use so i dont worry about it.



____________________
War Means Fighting And Fighting Means Killing - N. B. Forrest When war does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Stonewall Jackson


 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 06:36 pm
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booklover
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Let me throw this discussion in a bit of a different direction. I have access to a major university's database of electronic library sites through a friend who attends there. While I'm not a student there, I do pay taxes in that state. I can't get access to it, the university says, because I don't pay them tuition or fees, yet my tax money helps keep them going. Through this access, I can get copies of journal articles that otherwise would cost me money to copy and I also have access to databases that help me in my research. Problem?

I say no, because the access is paid by the friend, who through her own free will has allowed me to use her log-in code. Had she said she was uncomfortable with doing that, I wouldn't have access to it. So is anyone getting hurt in this scenario? I'm getting the research material I need (for free), the university is getting her money and part of my taxes are used to help support that university. I can't see the harm to anyone here.

Best
Rob



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 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 07:37 pm
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ashbel
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I agree with David.  There is no reason why scanning a copyrighted book is OK I don't care whether it is for personal use or not.  The authors of these books put their talents, hours of research and analytical skills into creating a book.  They need to be compensated for their efforts.  It is hard enough for historians to make a profit on a book the way it is.  Allowing unauthorized copying of their work makes it even more difficult.

I also don't buy the argument that since you are a taxpayer in a state you are entitled to the unauthorized use of a state university database.   All state services are regulated by rules and laws that make them viable.  Obviously, you could not have unlimited access and use of all state facilities at all times just because you are a taxpayer.   We would have chaos. 

As a tuition paying parent of three recent graduates of state universities I can assure you your taxes do not cover university expenses.  I don't accept the argument that it is OK because a friend allowed you to use their access code of their own free will.  If you expect to use the service, pay the price.



 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 07:43 pm
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booklover
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Ed,

Ownership of the access code, to me, is immaterial. The university allows her the code to help her in her work, and from there its up to her own conscience as to what she wants to do with it. In no way is the university harmed by her action. It already has her money. As I said before, had she declined my request, that would have been fine. Her getting into trouble (although again, I ask how is the university harmed by her action?) would not have set well with me.

Maybe if you asked Blago nicely, he might let you fly in the plane. :)

Ed, as I see it, every generation bends rules that they find inconvenient to their own interests or desires. No one generation holds the moral high ground over another. I've met plenty of people of my grandparent's vintage who wouldn't think twice about picking your pocket while shaking your hand.

Best
Rob

Last edited on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 08:24 pm by booklover



 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 08:01 pm
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booklover
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Ashbel,

The university will not allow me to pay the price because I'm not a student there. I've asked. The only way I can use the database is while visiting. Since I'm limited in my travel ability, having access to it for just one day helps me as much as having a bucket to empty the ocean. I work on my book everyday and need access to various items everyday.

I have unlimited access to most state supported services all the time. I drive on their roads, although I don't own them. I use their libraries, although I don't own them. At one time, I used one of their university dorms, although I didn't own it. The reason is because I pay taxes. Whether my taxes go as far as your tuition does isn't relevant. My taxes are used in their budgeting and at least part of it goes to pay for those services I am denied.

As a resident of this state, my taxes entitle me to free library privileges in every state-supported university. That means I can, with a valid card, go to their facility, check out a book, and use it with the same privileges that a student has (albeit for not as long). Why, then, can't I have access to the same database, from my home, that students, faculty and staff also have.

Best
Rob



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 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 08:20 pm
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aphill
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Have you actually ever read the Copyright Act itself?  It's actually not too complicated with legal gobbly-gook and fairly straight forward to understand.  Go here: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html and you can access it for free. 

All laws have a basis in public policy, if you think about them.  Copyright exists because we want people to produce original works.  We therefore grant the author of such works the exclusive right to profit from the work for a certain amount of time subject to some specific limitations.  The same thing happens in patent.  (In the case of patent, we want to encourage inventions.) 

The holder of a copyright has EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS to control the copying of his work.  You may not like it, I may not like it, but that is the law.  There are of course certain exceptions (Fair Use -- that's sec. 106 -- being the best known, and of course there is also a pretty large number of works that now fall into the public domain and are exempt from copyright restrictions).  The great thing about living in the USA of course is if you don't like the law, you can petition Congress to amend it or change it.  (But good luck getting past the Artist's Guild, Author's Guild, the screenwriters .... )

You ask about libraries.  One thing to keep in mind is the Copyright Act makes SPECIFIC DISTINCTIONS made between libraries "open to the public" and private collections.  Libraries are granted more rights than private citizens in terms of what is allowable as far as copying goes.  (For example, see Sec. 108 of the Copyright Act).

The big difference between your personal copy (a private collection) and the copy owned by the library (a public collection): the copy in the public library can be FREELY USED BY ANYONE (subject to waiting your turn, of course), whereas the copy you make is for YOUR USE ONLY -- YOU control who has access to it.  The general public can't use YOUR copy, only those YOU permit can access the copy.  See the  funademental difference between the two?  As I said, law is in part based upon public policy; while we want to protect the intellectual rights of authors (and thus encourage more works), we also want people to be able to freely access information.  The library is the goverment's way of allowing the public free access to certain information that is otherwise protected from being copied by the copyright law.

(Furthermore, by creating a copy, you're creating a new piece of property.  That's QUITE different from lending a previously purchased copy.)

Here's the difference between selling second hand books and copying the book for your personal use.  In the former, you're selling PERSONAL PROPERTY; you're selling a copy of a work that the original author was compensated for.  In the latter, you're selling INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY.  You may not think there's a big distinction here, but the law does.  Specifically Sec. 202 of the Copyright Act permits re-sale:

"Ownership of a copyright, or of any of the exclusive rights under a copyright, is distinct from ownership of any material object in which the work is embodied. Transfer of ownership of any material object, including the copy or phonorecord in which the work is first fixed, does not of itself convey any rights in the copyrighted work embodied in the object; nor, in the absence of an agreement, does transfer of ownership of a copyright or of any exclusive rights under a copyright convey property rights in any material object."

By the way your friend could get into trouble for allowing you to use her password.  I went to a STATE school that gave us access to Lexis and certain specific collections in the state system.  Our tuiton dollars paid for that.  The license agreement specifically forbade us from doing work for outside employers in particular on Lexis; it was a subscription specifically designated for our personal educational use only.  A few classmates got caught using it for their employers and the school, students, and employers got into quite a bit of trouble for breach of the license agreement (basically a breach of contract).  It's possible she has only a very specific license and she could be violating her license by allowing you free access.  Even if it's not, I think it's ethically dishonest, but that's just my opinion.





 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 08:24 pm
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David White
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Booklover:

I guess I should have put some more winkies in there or left out the political commentary. I wasn’t chiding you but I was pointing out what you are doing is illegal.

You are talking about an area I have to be expert in to put food on my table, so excuse my taking a strong stand on it. As a journalist and budding author you should be on my side, as the law will protect your ability to make a profit off the intellectual property you produce. It’s obvious from your reply that you do not understand the intricacies of Intellectual Property law. That is not an indictment of you, by the way, because many aspects of IP law still need to be worked out in the courts. But to address your points, I have created CDs as backups—not for distribution to friends and that is legal per the courts even if MCA doesn’t think it should be. I have borrowed and lent books with friends, that does not violate copyright law because I give them or obtain the original work I purchased—I don’t make a copy. Copyrights have a very long life and the Sonny Bono legislation increased those even longer for older works. There are memoirs of Civil War personalities that are still protected by copyright depending on renewals and when the personality died. There are very few books one could copy with impunity without contacting who now owns the copyright.

Bama has already said it well, but I’ll just add this as to your friend, I have no doubt she signed some sort of an agreement to obtain the key to the university archives. I also have no doubt that it includes language that she will not share the key with anyone else. If she has shared the key with you, she may be in violation of the law as she is dealing with a public university but she is undoubtedly subject to civil action if she violated her NDA or license agreement. If the university wanted everyone to have access they would be issuing unrestricted keys.

As to your rationale that you pay taxes, I can’t speak for your state but in my state, public taxes only support about 13% of the operating costs of the university now, the rest comes form students and their families through tuition and fees. Public Universities are becoming less and less public.

Please don’t take this as chiding and heaven forbid don’t take it as legal advice ;)



 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 08:39 pm
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ashbel
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Booklover

You certainly know how to start a lively discussion!

Thank you Bama, aphill and David for three excellent posts.



 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 09:16 pm
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booklover
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First off, I asked this question knowing full well that several people may (and obviously do) disagree with me. So if I seemed a bit sensitive to either Ed or David, allow ME to apologize.

Second, whether or not I understand copyright law and intellectual property issues (and not being a lawyer, I only have a laymans understanding of both, so certainly no offense taken, David) I am coming to this from what happens in the real world. David, as a budding author I certainly want to make as much money off my work as is possible, but does that mean I will sue someone who scans my book into his or her computer after checking it out from the library? No, because I was already compensated by the library's purchase of my book. What happens to it after that point is no longer in my immediate control, and while the law may have definite points as to what is legal in this situation, how many people have been arrested or fined for copying a book? I see the Copyright Act notice at every copy machine (or scanner) in every library I visit, but I've yet to see the police haul away someone or see someone fined for doing so.

If by the point this happens I have other books in print, it may prompt the person to buy one, or it may prompt him to go back to the library, check out another one, and scan it in as well. I can't stop someone from doing it, and worrying about it seems a waste of good stress. Even though I'm not magnanimous enough to say I don't care about making money, my main motivation in writing is to share what I know about Everton Conger with the rest of the world. Making a boatload of money from it would be wonderful, but it's not my main motivation. I accepted a long time ago that I'm never going to be rich from what I write.

I also think we're mixing issues here. My whole point was really based on a moral or ethical question as opposed to a legal one. While the two should be intertwined, they often are not. It's not legal for me to go 65 in a 55 mph zone, but is it immoral? No. Even if I cause a wreck that injures someone, that could happen if I was going 45 in that same 55 mph zone, and if punishment were to be meted out, the law wouldn't recognize whether I was speeding (unless it was excessive, which is another legal hair) or going slow. It may not be legal for me (in the strictest sense) to check a book out of the library and scan it into my computer, but is it immoral? By my way of thinking, no, because the author and the publisher have already been compensated to the fullest extent the law allows. As they are the only ones who would be legally (and morally) injured by my action, and since the compensation has already been given, there is no injury, at least not in a legal sense, and again, in the moral sense (and David, I'm sure even a first-year law student could find hundreds of holes in my theory and shred it to bits, from his point of view, but that will not change my opinion because as I've viewed it through about a decade of covering courts and the legal system, all the law is is what some judge decides it is on a given day--a bit flippant I know, but nonetheless at least partially true).

As far as my friend is concerned, again I'm not too worried about her. I doubt she's the only one who is doing this, and when she is no longer a student, I will no longer have access to the database. David, whether my taxes cover 1 percent or 100 percent of the operating costs of a university seems like picking nits. My point is I'm paying part of the bill. Therefore I have a right to the same access that others who make up a part of the school's budget has access to. If that's not possible, or fair, then allow me to pay a fee for the access, which as I've stated before I'm clearly willing to do, but if not, then I'm going to continue to do whatever it is I have to do. So far, I've not lost any sleep yet.

By the way, David, I loved your last line...so lawyerly!;)

Best
Rob



 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 09:22 pm
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booklover
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Ashbel,

No charge for the service--in fact use it at your discretion. :)

Best
Rob



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