book covers

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Pausch Last Lecture book cover.A colleague asked me my thoughts on using book covers on university web pages. It's not an extremely complex issue, but there are some caveats. The main one, in my mind, being where the image of the book cover came from.

Legal writings on the issue seem to agree that using an image of a book cover for review or commentary falls under Fair Use. Even regular-old Copyright law seems clear when it discusses the scope of exclusive rights and flat out states:

§113 (c) In the case of a work lawfully reproduced in useful articles that have been offered for sale or other distribution to the public, copyright does not include any right to prevent the making, distribution, or display of pictures or photographs of such articles in connection with advertisements or commentaries related to the distribution or display of such articles, or in connection with news reports.

Does that mean you can go to the Amazon site and grab an image for your web page? I'm not so sure. It's okay to use the cover, but the image of the cover is a separate work. Libraries use different sources for their cover images. Syndetic Solutions is one, as is a more folksy LibraryThing. I would strongly recommend shooting a photo of the book or scanning the cover to obtain an image that you could claim fair use of.

My own preference, when I don't have a copy, is to create an illustration of the book, and use that in instances where I can claim Fair Use. For Pausch's book, I looked at a scan on the Schlow site, then re-created a rough cover layout and tipped it into perspective. I've done the same for multimedia objects that refer to books and in presentations for the vice-provost. It seems easy and feels legal.

…of course, I'm not a lawyer. …and I wouldn't use such an image to in anyway compete with Amazon or Mr. Pausch.


Mary said:

Hmm, I'm probably being bad by pulling in a feed to my page at from my LibraryThing.

dave said:

Library=Mary. What was I thinking not checking with you first.

Is the service free? It appears so....

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