30 posts in 30 days #5: A Copyright question for you

FileCopyright (Simple English) Wikibook headerIn anticipation of a future post I’ll be writing I’d be interested in my reader’s responses to a question based on the following two scenarios:

  1. A patron borrows a movie from the library on Monday, watches it, and returns it on Tuesday.
  2. A patron borrows a movie from the library on Monday, places a copy on their hard drive, and returns it on Tuesday. They watch the movie on Wednesday and deletes the copy.

We can assume that scenario #1 is perfectly legal and that scenario #2 is not. (Feel free to debate whether #2 should be legal or not but that isn’t my question.)

The question is, if the library has reason to suspect that situation #2 has occurred, should they do anything about it?

One Reply to “30 posts in 30 days #5: A Copyright question for you”

  1. Unless the patron explicitly says, “Guess what, I copied this movie onto my hard drive,” the library would never have probable cause to suspect situation #2.

    In any event, I don’t personally believe the library is obligated do anything about it. Libraries don’t stand over people’s shoulders at the photocopiers and make sure they’re carefully conforming to fair use principles when copying pages from books. Libraries have always operated on the honor system with regards to copies patrons may make of materials of any format.

    It is not the circulation worker’s job to be the copyright police–they don’t have the training or the legal authority to back it up. Libraries certainly have neither the right nor the power to search a person’s hard drive for an illegal copy, even if the suspect has their laptop inside the library.

    DVDs all have warnings they force you watch before the show, so I don’t even think libraries need to explicitly warn patrons of copyright law. The materials come with their own warnings. If a library suspected a problem and wanted to cover themselves, they could post the copyright warning prominently beside their movie collection. That’s as far as I think libraries should have to take it.

    I am not a lawyer. These are purely my opinions.

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