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Carly's avatar

Is this particular situation illegal?

Asked by Carly (4360 points ) September 30th, 2011

I’m taking a math course with a teacher that just switched what textbook they require for the class. It’s $200, you can only get it new, and I didn’t have time to “rent” it online and have it shipped (our bookstore doesn’t rent to students and I live in a rural area without a car, so everything off campus has to be done online).

After buying it and then getting the syllabus in class I realized my teacher would only be having us use 4 out of 15 chapters. At least four other people in the class besides me were very frustrated that we had to buy it because we fall into the huge category of poor students. I decided to scan the chapters and then returned my book, but then I found out that the other 4 wanted the digital copies so they could return theirs, too.

In the past, I’ve had teachers at the same school do this for their students if they’re using a very small portion from a text, so I’m wondering if what I did was ethically, or even legally wrong. My intentions were purely to help my fellow students who were very much in need, and I did not ask, nor did I take any kind of payment for the digital copies I sent them. Also, I don’t plan on giving out any more. It was just for these 4 people and myself.

However, I’m feeling that my idea for creating open-sourced chapters will eventually get me in trouble unless I can back up my case. Any suggestions?

ps. I still don’t have enough money to buy the book. :/

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12 Answers

lillycoyote's avatar

I think it may fall, probably falls, under the Fair Use Doctrine but it’s kind of hard to say, the guidelines of the Fair Use Doctrine are not absolutely clear. and I’m no expert on copyright law. :-)

Here’s a helpful chart

GabrielsLamb's avatar

You’re supposed to wait until afterward to sell your USED books. We all have to buy things for school that are at times pointless and useless. I did too but I sold then when I was done to avoid having to feel the way you do.

Sometimes it’s right to be right and sometimes you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

You did what you felt you had to… It really isn’t anyone’s business… Just don’t get caught.

*Like by posting a question on the net with your pic on it. LOL

Carly's avatar

@GabrielsLamb hah, true.. :(

SavoirFaire's avatar

I am sorry to say that what you did is almost certainly not fair use. You are demonstrably interfering with the market for the original product because all of you returned your books to get the refund. Four out of 15 chapters is also nearly a third of the book, which is more than your teacher could have gotten away with copying and handing out to you.

Morally, I am with you. Being on the teaching end of things, I am intimately familiar with the ways publishers try to entice me to sink students into massive debt. Legally, however, you could get into trouble. And if you make a habit of buying, copying, and returning books, your campus bookstore is likely to catch on. Be very careful.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I hate when they do this. I’d be especially pissed if this happened with a book that expensive. I wouldn’t buy it. I’d make sure the teacher gets a wake up call – anonymous email, whatever – that people simply don’t have money for a book that expensive. It’s like they’re totally disconnected with reality.

Bellatrix's avatar

I would not be allowed to set a new text after people have started my course. I also wouldn’t set a text and only use four chapters unless I knew the book could also be used in future units the student would have to take.

With regards to your copying, you can only copy one chapter or 10 percent of the book. So if you copy more, you do breach copyright regulations. I found this website that seems fairly comprehensive. Copyright and fair use

digitalimpression's avatar

You’re also not supposed to cross a street outside of a cross-walk. Some things I would justify based on my own temperamental moral compass.

Hibernate's avatar

I know a few people who either take photo of the book or take a xerox copy of the book. Just remember not to carry all of the chapters with you at given times. If you study chapter 3 then carry only chapter 3 with you. This way you avoid the copyright rules. Oh and when people start mentioning you have more than one chapter of that book just tell them you “Borrowed” it from someone else. They can’t prove it’s yours or not. [just remember to have one chapter at a time].

As for the being legal or not just talk with the person in charge of that school and maybe he can tell you more.

SpatzieLover's avatar

It’s only illegal if you get caught. ;)

gondwanalon's avatar

You didn’t do what you did for profit. You did it to survive. Forgetaboutit and study hard!

escapadesofapoet's avatar

I don’t know about the USA, but in the UK you can photocopy and take 10% of a book without needing to tell anyone. So you can go to the library and photocopy 10% or one chapter of the book without infringing copyright.

I would agree with many people above and say its not something the police are going to be knocking your door down about.

In future I would simply get together and buy the book between you then scan the book into the computer. that way you all have use of the actual book which you could share in class and a digital version to use on your own. If you have bought the book you can copy the book completely, you just cant distribute it.

But if four of you bought the book then four of you can have a copy right…

P.S. i bought a book before my uni started, one that we were advise to purchase the summer before. Got to uni where they announced a new version had been realised that we needed to have. So i had to buy another edition of the book to find out only 2 pages had been added! Other then that just the page numbers had changed by two >_< it happens :/

SecondHandStoke's avatar

As the husband of a textbook company editor:

Go on, keep stealing.

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