Copyright of scanned public domain works

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  • I was wondering whether it is possible to copyright scans of public domain books... I encountered a CD which has such scans, but the CD is commercial, so I'm not sure whether the scans carry a copyright (they did put their trademark symbol on the first page of every scanned PDF file though). The license agreement is VERY vague: it states that one cannot reproduce the "software", but that term is used in such a vague way that I don't know what it's refering to (there are actually what is commonly known as "software" [i.e. executable files] on the CD).


    Edit: And just a note... if the scans can not be copyrighted, I'm planning on making them avalible on my website.
  • First, I am not a lawyer. ^^

    This is something of a complex issue.

    If the object is in the public domain, then a copy that is an exact reproduction, with no creative element, is likely to also be in the public domain.

    If there is a creative element associated with the copy, then the resulting derivative work might be protected by copyright, related to those creative elements.

    Selection and arrangement of the materials in the book might also have creativity associated with them. If there is a particular selection of images that are scanned, then duplicating that exact same selection of images could be infringement.

    The license could also be problematic.
  • Hmm... can scans of public domain works can be licensed as images? What exactly constitutes a copyrightable image?

    The scans can be called "exact reproduction" as far as scanning go (of course the quality will be less than the actual book). The only difference is that they put their logo on the first page.

    Also, there is no creative element whatsoever besides cutting the scanned book into sections.
  • In practice, some institutions do license use of works in the public domain based on their physical ownership of the scanned object rather than copyright ownership. Basically, they say that in order to access any version of the image that they have physical custody of, including scans that they have generated, you must agree to a license that restricts the way that you will use the image. Some institutions generate revenue in this manner. Whether or not this is a good or bad thing is debatable, and debated, as is whether or not this type of licensing is completely valid in any given jurisdiction. ^_^

    Exact reproductions of what? The entire book? Portions of the book? Selection of what is scanned can also be a creative element.

    Edit: Also, the digitization and post processes themselves might convey creative elements, if there are changes to functionality or how the item is viewed. It all depends...
  • I guess I'll stop all the parallels with real "books" lol. Basically, I came across a CD from which of course has scans (PDF) of scores in the public domain. One PDF file on the CD is usually not the entire book because most music score books have many pieces in them. What they did was basically scan each piece in a particular score book and put the scans in a PDF file. There IS a license that is part of the CD, and CD Sheet Music claims in the license to have rights over the PDF files as "software".

    I know they have generally quite a high quality of scanning, and so I would like it for my site ( I feel that they should be paid something for their pains to do such fairly high quality scans, but I don't like how they are making so much money off public domain works which are supposed to be freely accessible to everyone.
  • "Sweat of the brow," that is, effort in copying or compiling a work of not copyrightable materials, is not enough to give copyright. Digitization gets more complicated. In this case, licensing will be the problem. The difficulty becomes, whether or not your actions are legal, the company may sue you if the company believes that their license agreement prevents those types of uses.

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