Among the things to consider before you scan any book, you need to consider the legal aspect of book scanning, and what you can and cannot do in the eyes of the copyright law. In this article we’ll discuss when and how it is legal to digitize books.
*The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.
Is scanning books legal in the US?
The truth is, whether scanning a book is legal in the US depends entirely on what you intend to do with the digitized copy…
As a general rule, reproducing a copyrighted book was always considered illegal. However, things turned around dramatically in 2015, when Google went to the US Court of Appeals regarding their book scanning project (an effort to compile a digital library). They made history, making it legal to scan books even if you don’t own the copyright.
It’s important to note, however, that in Google’s book scanning project, only restricted snippets of the work were shown, and all written work was attributed to the owner of the copyright.
Thus, it’s perfectly legal for you to scan a book for personal use and fair use, in the US, and even to give a copy to a friend.
Fair use covers socially beneficial uses, such as for teaching.
But that’s not the full story here, because copyright law is still a very real concern and there are still some strict rules and regulations in place that you must be careful to adhere to when scanning books and using the digitized copies.
The key thing to remember, however, is that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material is strictly prohibited and a violation of the federal law. This covers pirating and the sharing of ebooks through peer-to-peer networks.
What’s more, all creative content of an ebook must be correctly attributed to the owner of the copyright.
These laws are the same across all 50 states.
Can I legally scan an old book?
Prior to the new ruling on book scanning in 2015, the rules were that any works published prior to 1923 that were in the Public Domain were (and still are) perfectly legal to both scan and redistribute.
Who owns the copyright over a book?
Once a book has been published, the author assigns copyright to the publisher. It is only when a book is self-published that the author keeps the copyright.
If I bought the book, am I allowed to Scan it?
We did mention this earlier in another FAQ, but it bears repeating here. It depends on what you intend to do with the digitized copy. It’s perfectly legal for you to scan a book for personal use and fair use, in the US, and even to give a copy to a friend. But unauthorized distribution is illegal.
What can I do with a book after I scan it?
Once you have scanned a book, you can use it for personal use and for fair use, such as to aid with your studies, or for sharing with a small group of friends.
However, you cannot make a digitized book available on the web unless you clear the copyright.
Can I scan a book for my educational purposes only?
Scanning a book for educational purposes is a great idea. Some students do it using their phone, a professional book scanner or the book scanner in the library. It is perfectly legal and should be encouraged. You can also scan a book for leisure purposes. But what you cannot do is redistribute it without permission.
Can I scan a book and present it on a zoom call?
As we have already discussed, scanning a book for educational purposes is perfectly legal. Thus, if you’re on a Zoom call and wish to share the digitized book for educational purposes, then this is permitted.
Can I upload a book to the internet after I scan it?
Just because internet giant Google has been given permission to scan a great many books to create a digital library does not mean that the same rules apply to everybody equally. This is difficult ground, and you need to tread carefully…
The key thing to remember here is that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material is strictly prohibited and a violation of the federal law. This covers pirating and the sharing of ebooks through peer-to-peer networks. What’s more, all creative content of an ebook must be correctly attributed to the owner of the copyright.
Yes, there are digital copies of books available for free online, but these are usually either books that were printed before 1923, or books where the copyright was cleared before the ebook was made available online.
So it’s probably not the best idea (legally) to digitize books and upload them online.
How to scan a book?
Once you have covered the legal part of book scanning and decided to scan your books you should learn about the different types of book scanners, the different brands, and the different specifications.
Later you should read our guides about how to scan books, how to scan a book on your phone, and how to scan old books.
Once you get that covered, consider reading about book scanning software, book scanning phone apps and OCR for book scanning.
If you want to get fast results with high quality scanning you might also want to consider a book scanning service to do the digitization for you. These services usually use a professional automatic book scanner that has a high quality camera and speed.
The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.
Happy book scanning!