View single post by aphill
 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 09:20 pm
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Lee's forgotten general

Joined: Fri Jun 9th, 2006
Location: Ohio USA
Posts: 12

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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: 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.

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