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Old 02-02-2010, 01:01 PM   #1
Ben Thornton
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Is it legal to sell an electronic back-up of a book?

There are companies who will sell you a vinyl LP along with a CD copy of it, as well as making copies of vinyl that you send them. This can be useful for obtaining deleted albums.

As this appears to be legal, would it be legal for a bookshop to sell physical books with an electronic digital copy? Would new and second-hand be any different?
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Old 02-02-2010, 01:02 PM   #2
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There are companies who will sell you a vinyl LP along with a CD copy of it, as well as making copies of vinyl that you send them. This can be useful for obtaining deleted albums.

As this appears to be legal, would it be legal for a bookshop to sell physical books with an electronic digital copy? Would new and second-hand be any different?
There's no question of it being illegal. Many technical books already come with a CD containing an eBook version of the text.
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Old 02-02-2010, 01:09 PM   #3
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It depends on who created the electronic version.

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Old 02-02-2010, 01:09 PM   #4
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What I meant was not whether the publisher could do it, but whether a book seller could do it - i.e. adding the digital copy to the original paper book - without requiring the copyright holder's permission to do so.
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Old 02-02-2010, 01:16 PM   #5
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What I meant was not whether the publisher could do it, but whether a book seller could do it - i.e. adding the digital copy to the original paper book - without requiring the copyright holder's permission to do so.
Ah. In that case, the answer is "definitely not", unless, of course, the book is in the public domain.
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Old 02-02-2010, 01:35 PM   #6
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What I meant was not whether the publisher could do it, but whether a book seller could do it - i.e. adding the digital copy to the original paper book - without requiring the copyright holder's permission to do so.
Nope... though it would be nice to be able to get a digital version with a paper book... like most movies now a day
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Old 02-02-2010, 01:39 PM   #7
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You're free to make a backup copy of any media you own, /for personal use/. You are not allowed to sell said copy. Technically, you're also supposed to destroy the copy if you transfer ownership of the original copy.
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Old 02-02-2010, 01:46 PM   #8
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You're free to make a backup copy of any media you own, /for personal use/. You are not allowed to sell said copy.
If that's true, aren't the LP "back-up" sellers providing a service to help you to make your own back-up - a model which would translate to books?

The idea is that they're not selling a copy, but the original along with a back-up that they've made for you in advance.
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Old 02-02-2010, 01:52 PM   #9
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If that's true, aren't the LP "back-up" sellers providing a service to help you to make your own back-up - a model which would translate to books?

The idea is that they're not selling a copy, but the original along with a back-up that they've made for you in advance.
Theoretically, I believe that what they're doing is illegal under US copyright law-assuming they don't have permission from the copyright holders to do so. In practical terms it seems unlikely anybody will bother to prosecute them, as long as they restrict themselves to albums that are not otherwise available.
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Old 02-02-2010, 02:25 PM   #10
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If that's true, aren't the LP "back-up" sellers providing a service to help you to make your own back-up - a model which would translate to books?
If they made the backup on their own time and send you both, rather than actually selling you retail copies of both the LP and the CD, then technically it's illegal.

But I doubt anyone except the most rabid RIAA lawyer would view this as problematic, and there might be ways around it. E.g. afaik it's legal to offer the service of converting a recording to another format for personal use -- e.g. a wealthy person could hire a service to convert a private CD collection into digital files for personal use. In this case, they would technically bundle that service into the LP sale.

Similarly, I assume you could run a service bureau where you offer to convert books into ebook format, including OCR and proofreading, again for personal use only. Or, if you're the rights-holder, for commercial use.
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Old 02-02-2010, 02:47 PM   #11
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Theoretically, I believe that what they're doing is illegal under US copyright law-assuming they don't have permission from the copyright holders to do so. In practical terms it seems unlikely anybody will bother to prosecute them, as long as they restrict themselves to albums that are not otherwise available.

And it's this lack of practicality that led directly to treating every consumer as a criminal a priori: even though the laws are on the books, the technology now allows enforcement of said laws via the technology itself. Which, while it may seem to make sense initially, it actually steps on other consumer rights, such as the right to make a personal backup. Which is why the fight is now over DMCA exemptions, so reverse engineering DRM so one can make a personal copy of a DRM'd work is possible and legal.
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Old 02-02-2010, 02:49 PM   #12
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But I doubt anyone except the most rabid RIAA lawyer would view this as problematic, and there might be ways around it. E.g. afaik it's legal to offer the service of converting a recording to another format for personal use -- e.g. a wealthy person could hire a service to convert a private CD collection into digital files for personal use. In this case, they would technically bundle that service into the LP sale.
These are in fact legal, and there are, last I looked, a few about. the CEO of a company I worked for several companies back paid one to rip all his CDs and put them on his NAS.
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Old 02-02-2010, 03:52 PM   #13
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I had a colleague who was not at all wealthy who made use of a very low-cost CD ripping service to convert his collection into mp3 - namely next door's kids!

I wonder how much they'd charge to scan my paperbacks ...
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