Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Libraries and photocopies

MITS, the Michigan Information Transfer Source, is a great resource I recently discovered. For a small fee they can make PDFs for you from books in the University of Michigan Library.

The first book was no trouble. I'm having trouble with my second book. MITS told me

We cannot copy this entire book, as that would be a violation of copyright. We could loan you the book for a few weeks, and then you would ship it back to us. The costs for this are $20 plus shipping.

The book is an exhibit catalog from the Bibliothèque Nationale department of coins and medals. It was sold or perhaps given away for free at an exhibit 20 years ago.

I realize that the UofM library would lose a copyright suit from the BnF, so it makes sense that they won't copy the catalog for me. I don't understand the point of the law, though. Why is it illegal to copy an out-of-print or never-for-sale book?

My sometimes-friend Reid Goldsborough tells me that infringing is "theft" and wrong because it "depriv[es] the party who created the property from revenue earned through his or her labor." I think it is a pretty big leap to assume that if a book is in copyright there is a living creator and a revenue stream. I urge readers to assume that if a work isn't for sale on the entire Internet then no one is being deprived of revenue by photocopying it.

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