Topic | Copyright and out-of-print books

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  • Author
  • Doug Smith

    We’ve had a few discussions on the forum regarding copying books that are out of print. I realize this can be a confusing topic so I would like to clarify what the actual laws says and how it affects what we do.

    Out of print simply means a book is not currently being published. It may or may not be published again in the future. Out-of-print does not equal out of copyright. The copyright holder still retains all rights whether a book it is in print or not.

    Copying an out-of-print book without permission of the copyright holder is illegal under US law. It doesn’t matter if it is only for private or educational use. It also doesn’t matter if the book will not be for sale.

    There are exceptions when the copyright holder (not necessarily the author) gives permission or the book is old enough to have lapsed out of copyright. The rules for when a copyright lapses are somewhat complex so I won’t detail them here.

    Fair use guidelines do allow for short excerpts to be copied. That’s where the idea of an educator making one copy comes from, but it is limited to small portions of a book defined by specific rules. See page eight of Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians from the US Copyright Office for details.

    I will be moderating a few posts and linking them to this post for details. Please don’t take it personally if your post is moderated. The purpose of this is to clarify, not to scold or punish. It is important to do so to insure that SCM is not seen as advocating illegal activity. Thanks for your understanding.


    Wow, thanks, Doug.  I appreciate this.  I had no idea about the copyright laws.  I assumed, wrongfully so, that out of print meant fair game for copying for personal educational use.  Now, I’m really not sure what to do about Yellow and Pink and A Water Snake’s Year ~ too expensive to buy and my local library doesn’t have a copy.  Off to plan D…..Wink


    Thanks, Doug, for clarifying this!  SCM’s high standards are appreciated.  I’m happy that I was able to find and request a copy through our inter-library loan.  I’m looking forward to reading this much talked-about book…Mar


    Oh, Mar, tell us what you think!  I can’t get my hands on a copy yet, but I’m going to see if I can get it on a loan from a local private University that has a copy. 

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
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