Scanning books for personal use

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  • I recently read a newsletter in which the author described how he cut down on clutter by scanning books, both in and out of copyright, to make a single digital copy of each for his personal use (in the U.S.). I have read many thoughtful opinions both for and against this format-shifting (I hope I use the term correctly). The newletter's author, though, also purports that the original must be destroyed (print version) - so far I have found nothing to support or refute this from the U.S.  Depending on how one opts to scan the book, the original may need to be taken apart and may be trashed anyways. Does anyone have any thoughts on scanning a book for personal use and if the original must be kept? Could the location of where one stores it make a difference (in the cloud or on a personal device)?

  • If a book is in the public domain you are free to make an alternate copy of it. Keep in mind though that some public domain works that are republished may have new copyrightable components added to them (e.g. a new edition of the novel Little Women could include illustrations, an introduction, etc.). While the copyright protection granted to these added works would not extend to the text of the original novel itself, you would need to consider one of the exceptions found in the law, e.g. fair use, if you wished to include these copyrightable components in an alternate copy you make of the work. Also, translations of public domain works (e.g. a recent translation of the book The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas) may be fully protected under copyright law as a derivative work, so while the original is in the public domain, this new, derivative version may not be. If you’re eager to have digital copies of public domain novels, you may wish to checkout sites like Project Gutenberg where you can find and freely download public domain copies of many of the classics. In addition to not having to worry about copyright, this will save you a lot of time in making your own digital copy!

    Fair use can be considered when looking to format shift a work that is fully protected by copyright law. I always recommend this tool to those looking to make fair use determinations: There is nothing in the fair use statute that specifically requires that the original copy of a work be destroyed. In regard to where digital copies of works are stored, you may wish to consider the security of cloud storage and the potential impact if an online storage system is hacked and copies of copyrighted works an individual has made and stored there were made freely available online. I'm not too tech savvy so I'm not certain how likely this scenario could be in this day and age, but I think it's something to consider as part of this proposed project.

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