Saturday, November 05, 2005

Amazon - Selling what's already free? 
Amazon has announced that they are going to offer individual pages of books for sale (on line, of course).


For almost any purpose that someone might want to put a single page from a published book, the fair use provisions of the US copyright law apply. In other words, it's okay to use the contents of the page for scholarly, pedagogical, or review purposes (USC Title 17,Chapter 1, Section 107). The only reason I can see, in my (admittedly myopic) view, is for use in another commercial work - but in that case, the author or publisher would have to buy rights from the copyright owner anyway - they want the right to use the content, not the page, in a derivative work. Same deal if it's an illustration they want to use, instead of the text.

So, if you want to write a paper, or a presentation, or a review, or an article, and cite some text from a copyrighted work, go to the library and make a photocopy of the page, or to a brick'n'mortar bookstore and copy out the passages you need. The law says you can, it's almost certainly cheaper, and Jeff Bezos doesn't really need the money.

(Disclaimer: IANAL)

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