Is there anything wrong with taking pictures of Library books and then posting said pictures to a blog?
August 21, 2008 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Is there anything wrong with taking pictures of Library books and then posting said pictures to a blog?

I work in a university library and would like to start a blog about special, unique, or interesting books that I find on the shelves. Along with writing about the books, I'd like to take pictures of them - specifically of the covers, the binding, and (maybe) a page or two of text. Would I be violating any laws?
posted by inviolable to Law & Government (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: No, if you are writing about the book and reproducing a small amount of the work (the cover, a couple of pages) that falls under "fair use" by US Copyright law. If you are reviewing a work, you are able to reproduce small bits as part of that review.

The more you use, the more pages you photograph, the less likely it is fair use, so if you photograph 1/3 of the pages, probably not fair use. A few pages, the cover, yes fair use.
posted by arniec at 12:34 PM on August 21, 2008

Probably not (lots of "it depends" here), but don't you have a legal department for questions like this?
posted by toomuchpete at 12:34 PM on August 21, 2008

I'm not a lawyer, but I think that you should be ok. Seems like it falls under the fair use category.
cover and binding - publishers would not care
page or two - no one would just read these two pages instead of buying the book, so publishers won't loose any profit. Actually you might even be helping them, coz once a person reads a page or two they might actually go ahead and purchase the book.
posted by WizKid at 12:39 PM on August 21, 2008

Best answer: You would own the copyright to the photos, as long as you are not using them in a commercial context it would be fair use. Commercial meaning advertising or something like that, blogging about books would fall under editorial so you don't need permission (unless you are reproducing more than just a cover or page or two).
posted by bradbane at 12:42 PM on August 21, 2008

While I don't think you'd be breaking any laws (I'm not a copyright lawyer, etc.), I think it would be wise to either a)check with your employer before starting this project, or b)take steps to do it anonymously.

(The library I work at, for example, has a policy which bans photography in its public spaces. And many employers might not be thrilled to have you spending your work time on personal projects (even if you were doing the whole thing on your own time, it seems like that might be difficult to prove after the fact).)
posted by box at 12:49 PM on August 21, 2008

Yeah, the issue might be the fact that you're taking photos in the library. If you wanna be extra careful you should find out, legally, if a university library is considered public property or private property, or perhaps private property open to the public, like a mall.
posted by girlmightlive at 12:57 PM on August 21, 2008

Response by poster: In regards to taking pictures in the library, I would check the books out and take the pictures at home.
posted by inviolable at 12:59 PM on August 21, 2008

Best answer: According to US Copyright Law...
posted by girlmightlive at 1:06 PM on August 21, 2008

It's only an issue if it violates any of the terms of your employment, and, even if it doesn't, I would highly recommend communicating your plans to your employers, so they aren't surprised by it down the road. It's a great idea for a blog and could be great publicity for the library. I have often thought about doing something similiar, but already have so many projects going on my blog that I need to finish a few before I start anything that would involve me going back and forth to the library. Good luck with it, and be sure to post it into projects!
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:08 PM on August 21, 2008

Oh, and I'd scan the book covers, rather than photograph them, unless you are thinking of photographing them in an especially arty way.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:09 PM on August 21, 2008

If you're thinking about things in your library's special collections or particularly significant items, I wouldn't think they would go for it. The author probably still has copyright for recent items. For older items you'd have to be very careful, some libraries make a lot of money from permissions and photoduplications, even so far as claiming copyright themselves. If it's an unusual book about bananas it's probably not that big of a deal, if it's the Popol Vuh, then don't even ask.
posted by Craig at 2:11 PM on August 21, 2008

The author probably still has copyright for recent items.

Doesn't matter. See girlmightlive's link to "Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use."
posted by languagehat at 2:25 PM on August 21, 2008

Response by poster: thanks to all so far for your insights, especially girlmightlive for the link. I'm focusing more on books that are currently circulating and not in special collections because I'd like to inspire people to go look at the books themselves which is easier to do when the book is readily accesible on a shelf.
posted by inviolable at 3:04 PM on August 21, 2008

Another thing to consider: your university might want you to start a blog about their library, for any number of reasons: projecting an intellectual image, encouraging students to be interested in their resources, increasing web presence...

I'd pitch this to your boss as an official project! You can check out some top university library sites to see how they 'market' their rare books online.
posted by acidic at 3:05 PM on August 21, 2008

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