View single post by aphill
 Posted: Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 03:58 pm
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Lee's forgotten general

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

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You can allow someone to borrow your copy of a book for the same reason you are allowed to re-sell your copy of a book.  The law makes a distinction between a piece of material property (i.e. a physical book) and intellectual property (the expression of ideas contained in the book -- the contents). 

Think of it this way.  I own a a painting of A.P. Hill by John Paul Strain.  Hangs in my office.  That actual, physical painting is mine to do as I wish with.  I can sell it, give it away, let my friend borrow it and hang it in his office for a time, or I can even throw it in the closet and never look at it.  On the other hand, I do NOT own the right to make a copy of the painting.  That right is reserved under copyright law to the artist.

By the same token, if you own a copy of say "Bold Dragoon" by Emory Thomas, you can freely dispose of your copy of the book as you wish.  You can keep it forever in your library, you can write in it, you can give it away, you can allow someone else to borrow it.  But what you actually own is a PHYSICAL BOOK.  Emory Thomas (or his publisher -- whomever properly owns the copyright -- they can be bought and sold, by the way) owns the CONTENTS of that book.  It is his exclusive right to allow copying of the CONTENTS of the book.

The contents of the book are of course to a certain extent intangible.  Intellectual Property is an interesting area for the very reason that you're dealing with something that is NOT really tangible as most other property is.

Just as an aside -- you can only copyright an expression of an idea, not an idea itself.  If I have an idea to write a history of A.P. Hill's Light Division, that is not protected under Copyright.  If I actually wrote something down in a fixed form, it would be protected as an expression of my idea.   You also cannot copyright facts, though you can copyright the way you arrange facts if it is in a unique enough way. This is why, by the way, the Phone Company can't copyright an alphabetical directory of phone numbers.  It was a 1991 decision by the Supreme Court usually referred to simply as "Feist" if you're interested for some unknown reason.

I am a licensed attorney, but the above is not intended to be used as legal advice.  Furthermore, what consitutes "Fair Use" under section 106 is a murky area of the law, and I am not passing any legal opinion as to whether you're in compliance or not with the law.  If this is of concern to you, you should speak to an attorney licensed in your state. 

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