San Francisco, CA asked in Copyright and Intellectual Property for California

Q: Is it legal to scan copyrighted books for archival purposes?

I was wondering if I could scan books still under copyright to archive them for personal use (or maybe allowing researchers to access it by request)?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In the United States, scanning copyrighted books for archival purposes, even for personal use, falls under the scope of copyright law. Copyright law typically protects original works of authorship, including books, for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years.

For personal archiving, the concept of "fair use" may apply, but it is a complex area and not automatically exempt from copyright infringement. Fair use is determined on a case-by-case basis, considering factors such as the purpose of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount used, and the effect on the market for the original work.

Allowing researchers access to these scans, even by request, can be more legally risky. This could be seen as distribution, which is a right reserved for the copyright holder. It's important to note that providing access, even in a limited manner, can impact the market for the original work, which is a key factor in fair use analysis.

It's advisable to consult with a lawyer experienced in copyright law to discuss the specifics of your situation. They can provide guidance tailored to your circumstances, considering the latest legal precedents and the specific works you wish to archive.

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