So are Reetz and the builders of the DIY scanner pirates? That would depend on who you talk to, says Pamela Samuelson, a professor at University of California at Berkeley, who specializes in digital-copyright law. Trade publishers are almost certain to cry copyright infringement, she says, though it may not necessarily be the case.
Google was recently forced to pay $125 million to settle with angry book publishers and authors who claimed copyright infringement as a result of the search giant’s book-scanning project.
But not so individual users who already own the book, says Samuelson. If you scan a book that you have already purchased, it is “fine, and fair use,” she says. “Personal-use copying should be deemed to be fair, unless there is a demonstrable showing of harm to the market for the copyright at work,” says Samuelson.
For publishers, though, the growth of the DIY scanning community could hurt. Publishers today sell digital versions to customers who already own hardcover or paperback versions of the same book.
“You cannot look at this idea from the perspective of whether the publisher can make extra money,” says Samuelson. “Publishers would love it if you can’t resell books either, but that’s not going to happen.”
Instead, communities such as these are likely to force publishers to offer more value to customers, she says.
“There have to be things that you get with an e-book that you don’t get by making your own copies,” says Samuelson. “It’s not such as stark challenge for copyright owners, because not many people are going to take the trouble to make their own scanner system. Most of us want the convenience of buying digital books for the Kindle, Nook or Sony Reader.”
And unless, it becomes a hotbed of pirated content, the DIY scanner is unlikely to have a Napster-like end, says Samuelson.