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Old 04-07-2011, 07:37 PM   #1
Gwen Morse
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Georestrictions and the "ethics" of travel as relates to the Public Domain

While eating a croissant and admiring the pretty lights of Paris (on vacation ) and wandering through these boards...it suddenly occurs to me I'm in a different (book publishing) geographical location.

I've moved out of my normal Geography (the USA), to Europe. That means different books are in the Public Domain.

It also occurs to me to wonder about the ethics of taking advantage of that Public Domain. Am I entitled to use European versions of Project Gutenberg (or other, similar sites)? Am I entitled to download only as many books as I could actually read while here? Am I entitled to download the entire European archive as long as I do it while physically in Europe on a European IP (no 'sneaking back later' to get something I've forgotten)? If I bring these theoretical ebooks back into the US, am I importing a restricted product? Would any government agency expect me to report them, at least in theory? Are there any US or EU laws that cover this situation specific to digital media?

Similar questions might apply if I was able to buy ebooks while in Europe, but I have no idea how to prove a Paris "presence". They could certainly be added into the already speculative mix for people with multiple homes/apartments or other recorded residences. If I bought $800+ worth of ebooks while here, would US customs expect me to report it on my customs form when I fly back into the US?

It seems like it could be an interesting topic, if nothing else looking at geo-restrictions from a different angle. Is there a way to make geo-restrictions less restrictive if you're a globe-trotter?
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Old 04-07-2011, 07:51 PM   #2
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It also occurs to me to wonder about the ethics of taking advantage of that Public Domain.
Gwen, copyright (and therefore public domain) is a legal matter, laws written and passed by governments.

Do you allow the government to determine your ethics?
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Old 04-07-2011, 08:09 PM   #3
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If you 'd just buy a book it 'd be fine.
same if someone 'd buy a book and give it to you
so why should it be different when you get PD?
Methinks you are allowed to download stuff which is PD in France as long as you are there.
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Old 04-07-2011, 08:29 PM   #4
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Gwen, copyright (and therefore public domain) is a legal matter, laws written and passed by governments.

Do you allow the government to determine your ethics?
The question evolved as I started on my third petite croissant (these things are addictive!) and became half about ethics, and half about legality.

I already know what I'm going to do while I'm here in France. I'm going to eat way too many mini-cheesecakes and tarte pecans, put on 10 pounds, and buy my ebooks from Amazon. When I finally tear myself away from the food, I'll probably poke through the British Public Domain options and pick a few choice titles just to have them as souvenirs.

I'm just asking what other people think, as a way to spur discussion.
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Old 04-07-2011, 08:56 PM   #5
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While you're there, you have the legal right to download any European public domain works, just like you have the right to buy them from a bookstore, and, were you so inclined, walk into a copy shop & make copies. Or print out copies & sell them.

Public domain is not based on one's residence; it's a matter of location.

If you wanted to play target/guinea pig, you could:
1) Download 500 European-not-USan public domain ebooks,
2) Burn the whole set to a hundred CDs,
3) Bring CDs back to the US,
4) Sell CD's for $5 each,
5) Wait for lawsuit.

Because while you're allowed to, for example, buy a public domain book in a bookstore for 1/4 the price it sells for in the US, and bring it back and sell it at a markup (so far; there's a lawsuit in the works that's poking at this idea), this hasn't really been tested with ebooks, where most of the advantage is in instant/online copies, not hardcopy-for-sale.
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Old 04-08-2011, 03:55 AM   #6
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You are perfectly entitled to download any works that are in the French public domain, and take them back to the US with you. That's absolutely legal.
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Old 04-08-2011, 11:46 AM   #7
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I'm not sure you covered this in the "purchase" portion. What if you buy legitimate books from Amazon's US store while over there. Did you make purchases that must be declared when you return? After all, you did buy stuff while out of the country.

I still remember returning from Europe (heavy duty hiking trip) after 3 weeks. Customs Lady read my form and said "You did not purchase anything?" NO, I replied. I get shipped to the detailed inspection line. Asked more forcefully "Are you sure you don't want to change your form and add purchases?" No, I replied.

She literally took everything out of one large suit case, two largish backpacks and went through all the items. She turns to me and says "You really did not purchase anything!" Off I went! Took more than half an hour after a Europe to Seattle trip - Pain in the butt!
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Old 04-08-2011, 07:01 PM   #8
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Because while you're allowed to, for example, buy a public domain book in a bookstore for 1/4 the price it sells for in the US, and bring it back and sell it at a markup (so far; there's a lawsuit in the works that's poking at this idea), this hasn't really been tested with ebooks, where most of the advantage is in instant/online copies, not hardcopy-for-sale.
*LOL*. No thanks, I'm not wealthy enough to fight that sort of battle.

I do appreciate the suggestion though, it's the sort of discussion I was hoping to spur.

Do you have any reading links that point to the lawsuit you mention?
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Old 04-08-2011, 07:07 PM   #9
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I'm not sure you covered this in the "purchase" portion. What if you buy legitimate books from Amazon's US store while over there. Did you make purchases that must be declared when you return? After all, you did buy stuff while out of the country.
Well, I don't know if I "should" declare my Amazon purchases (it seems like an ambiguous grey area), I can tell you I won't.

The only reason Amazon sells to me while I'm out of the country is that I'm on vacation. They still consider selling (kindle) products as purchases made "in" the US and they hold me to US Geo-restrictions. If they think it's an internal, US purchase, I'm not declaring it as an external, vacation purchase. Customs can fight it out with Amazon (not that they'll notice).
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Old 04-08-2011, 10:16 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Elfwreck View Post
...
If you wanted to play target/guinea pig, you could:
1) Download 500 European-not-USan public domain ebooks,
2) Burn the whole set to a hundred CDs,
3) Bring CDs back to the US,
4) Sell CD's for $5 each,
5) Wait for lawsuit.
...
In Australia, this would be fine - the commercial importation of copyright protected ebooks is perfectly legal under s44F of the Copyright Act 1968. However, the parallel importation of physical books is generally prohibited.

The Attorney General's Department website (http://www.ag.gov.au/www/agd/agd.nsf...ightinfringed?) states:

Importation of Computer Programs and e-Books and e-Journals

The commercial importation of legitimate copies of computer software or electronic books (including collections of works), electronic journals and electronic sheet music into Australia without the permission of the Australian copyright owner is generally not an infringement of copyright. The imported copy must have been made with the permission of the copyright owner in the country of manufacture ... Note that downloading of copyright materials by computer from an overseas Internet site, which does not involve bringing of a physical item or medium into Australia, is not parallel importation. Downloading is an exercise of the reproduction or copying right of the owner of copyright in the materials concerned.

While it's legally permissible, it's hard to imagine circumstances in which it would be commercially viable.

JL
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Old 04-09-2011, 11:17 AM   #11
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While it's legally permissible, it's hard to imagine circumstances in which it would be commercially viable.
You mean I can't get rich selling CDs of European public-domain ebooks on ebay?
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Old 04-09-2011, 09:05 PM   #12
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While you're there, you have the legal right to download any European public domain works, just like you have the right to buy them from a bookstore, and, were you so inclined, walk into a copy shop & make copies. Or print out copies & sell them.

Public domain is not based on one's residence; it's a matter of location.

If you wanted to play target/guinea pig, you could:
1) Download 500 European-not-USan public domain ebooks,
2) Burn the whole set to a hundred CDs,
3) Bring CDs back to the US,
4) Sell CD's for $5 each,
5) Wait for lawsuit.

Because while you're allowed to, for example, buy a public domain book in a bookstore for 1/4 the price it sells for in the US, and bring it back and sell it at a markup (so far; there's a lawsuit in the works that's poking at this idea), this hasn't really been tested with ebooks, where most of the advantage is in instant/online copies, not hardcopy-for-sale.
Thinking about this some more, I think I would have to declare the burned CDs to customs on the way in (as having some sort of retail value meant for sale).

I wonder if it would be valid to download one copy of each of the European PD books, save them on my laptop, bring said copies into the US, and THEN burn them to CD and sell them.

Because, being in the (European) Public Domain, there's no restriction on making copies later. So I wouldn't need to burn them to CD before bringing them into the US. Once they're in the US, they have commercial value...but...I'm making copies of the non-commercial EU works, not the commercial US works. If I'm allowed to have copies of the EU PD works, then I have to be allowed to make copies once back in the US>

There's definitely a germ of something there. However, I still can't afford to put it into practice. Maybe if I win Powerball....
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Old 04-10-2011, 05:24 AM   #13
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I wonder if it would be valid to download one copy of each of the European PD books, save them on my laptop, bring said copies into the US, and THEN burn them to CD and sell them.
Not if you were in the US at the time, no, because the works would not be in the US public domain, therefore making copies of them while you are in the US would not be legal. A US buyer would also be breaking copyright law if they were to buy such a CD from you.
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Old 04-10-2011, 07:08 AM   #14
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A US buyer would also be breaking copyright law if they were to buy such a CD from you.
Would it be the same if she bought a paper copy of a public-domain book in Europe and sold it as a second-hand book in the US?

What is the difference between selling/buying a paper book legally acquired and imported, and a CD with ebooks legally acquired and imported?
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Old 04-10-2011, 07:15 AM   #15
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Would it be the same if she bought a paper copy of a public-domain book in Europe and sold it as a second-hand book in the US?

What is the difference between selling/buying a paper book legally acquired and imported, and a CD with ebooks legally acquired and imported?
Because with a CD you're making copies of the files; with a book you are not.

When you buy a digital file legally, you have an implicit licence to make copies as required for normal use of the product - eg, copying it in from the CD into the RAM of your computer in order to read it. With an illegally-acquired copy, no such implicit licence exists, hence the act of reading it will violate copyright law.

I don't actually know whether it would be legal for someone in one country to import paper copies of a book which is in the public domain (hence very cheap) in another country, but still under copyright protection in the reader's country. My gut feeling is that it's not legal. Obviously it's fine to visit that other country, buy it there, and then take it home with you, but that's a different situation.
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