Ownership of copyright and electronic reserves

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  • At first I thought this situation was cut-and-dried, but I started thinking about some "what if's" and thought that I would ask this forum to see what other's think:

    A faculty member wants to scan one of our library books so that he students can use it for the Spring semester. The book is out of print. This faculty member is one of the two authors that wrote this particular book. I only received this information second-hand, so I haven't had a chance to ask any questions.

    But I was wondering:

    Who owns the copyright of a book? Is it the author of the book? Or does the publising company own it? Or does this vary? I know that in regards to journal articles, that copyright is almost always transferred to the publisher creating the journal.

    If this faculty member/author does in fact own the copyright of this book (this is just an assumption), is he allowed to give permission to scan his book for electronic reserve for his students to use?

    I mean, putting logistics aside (and even the idea of fair use), can an copyright owner of material do whatever they want with their materials?

    At this time, I'm not sure why the faculty member wants to scan the book instead of just putting the book on physical reserves. I can only assume that maybe this is a distance learning class -- but I'm not really sure.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  • The copyright of a book might be owned by the author or authors or the publisher or other person to whom the copyright has been transferred. It depends on the authors' contract with their publisher. Some contracts transfer copyright ownership to the publisher, and some authors retain their copyright ownership.

    If the author did retain his copyright in the book, he would be able to grant permission for reproduction of his book (in this case, however, he might also have to obtain permission from his co-author).

    Under section 106 of the U.S. copyright law, copyright owners have exclusive rights of reproduction, adaptation, distribution, public performance and public display.

    Also, even if the authors did transfer copyright to the publisher in their contract, if the contract included an "out-of-print rights reversion" clause, the rights in this particular book may have reverted back to the authors.
  • Thank you Ruth!

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