How the Library Deals with Copyright

As we explore the 21st century, we need to realize that the library is composed of paper and digital formats.  The digital books started off as public domain paper documents. On the Internet’s predecessor, Arpanet, Michael Hart created the oldest and largest digital library in 1971.  He named it Project Gutenberg.  It was going to contain all public domain books in electronic format for free to anyone who wanted to download them and read them ( ).  “Its goal, formulated by Mr. Hart, was “to encourage the creation and distribution of e-books” and, by making books available to computer users at no cost, “to help break down the bars of ignorance and illiteracy.” This digital library now houses more than 30,000 books in 60 languages.  The categories for this library are: “light literature,” “heavy literature” and reference works to the general reader.  It also contains a few copyrighted books that are reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner.   Ann Gilliland, one of the professors of the “Copyright for Educators & Librarians  Course”  stated that, “Material that is not in copyright, and or that is not copyrightable, and is free to use, is in the public domain” (Duke University, Emory University & The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).

The Copyright Law of the United States, Title 17 of the U.S. Code was created  to protect authors of  literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works (United States Copyright Office website.  Circular #1, “Copyright Basics”).    This covered copies, derivatives, performances, and displays of the authors printed books or audio recordings.  Lisa A. Macklin, from the “Copyright for Educators & Librarians  Course” by Duke University, Emory University & The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, stated that “Section 108 is a specific section in copyright law for libraries and for archives.   Copying is made without the purpose of either direct or indirect commercial advantage. So what that means is that either the library or archive doesn’t charge for the copies or, if they do charge for the copies, they charge on a cost recovery basis, meaning they charge to recoup the cost of actually making the copies”.

The library can contain downloadable audiobooks and ebooks for the library customer to use, sometimes depending on availability, at the public library (–ebooks-427).  Espresso Book Machines in the libraries have caused some controversy due to their capability “of printing any PDF file provided by the customer. This enables customers to print anything they desire, regardless of whether it is copyrighted. But there are parameters in place to avoid copyright infringement” (

A library customer can request a book by having the library print a copy from the Espresso Book Machine, if it was available through the EspressNet catalog. The Marriott library purchased an Espresso Book Machine in 2010.  Through this machine the library was able to print a book that was checked out from the library or was not owned by the library.  The library, adhering to copyright fees for newer books, could print newer books for sale to the library customers (


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