E-books are subject to the same copyright laws as other creative works. There is a copyright for the author from the moment they create the book. Despite the ease of copying and distributing e-books, the increased threat of pirated versions poses other copyright issues that continue to evolve.
What Is Copyright Protection?
When a creative work is created and written down in a “tangible form of expression,” it is automatically protected by copyright.
It is the exclusive right of the copyright owner to reproduce and distribute an ebook for public sale, rental, lending, or giving it away for free. Without express permission, copies of the e-book cannot be reproduced or distributed.
Notice and Registration
Any work created after 1978 is protected under copyright without displaying a copyright notice, but displaying the notice can dismiss any claims in an infringement suit that the defendant was unaware the work was protected. You are not required to register your e-book with the U.S. Copyright Office. However, doing so gives you significant advantages, including receiving legal costs and penalty awards beyond your sales damages in any infringement lawsuit.
What Is the First Sale Doctrine?
A significant difference between e-books and print books can be seen in the first sale doctrine.
The first sale doctrine applies to e-book readers and e-book files. According to this doctrine, once a copyrighted book is sold, the copyright holder loses their distribution rights, and the new owner can then distribute the work. Therefore, if a book is sold in an e-book format, the purchaser can then transfer the file to another person.
The doctrine, established by a Supreme Court ruling in 1908 and codified in federal law in 1976, permits the purchaser of a copy of a copyrighted work to sell, display, or otherwise dispose of that copy without permission or consideration of the owner’s interests.
A printed book can be lent to a friend, sold to a used bookstore, or donated to a library under this doctrine. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, copyright law still prohibits the unlicensed reproduction of copyrighted books. The first sale doctrine does not impose any practical restrictions on traditional book buyers since reproducing a printed book requires significant effort.
Limiting Reader Rights
When the original purchaser of an ebook wants to share it with a friend, they can attach a copy in an email and send it off, possibly unaware that they have infringed the author’s copyright if the original download remains on her computer.
When copyright is strictly enforced, it restricts the rights of e-book readers in ways that have never been done before. However, copyright has been difficult to enforce in the digital era. To prevent unauthorized usage of e-books, publishers and e-book retailers have attached various digital rights management software to e-books.
Even so, the idea that someone could be unauthorized to lend out a book he legitimately purchased is onerous to many people. It is illegal to circumvent Digital Rights Management (DRM) software under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA).
It states, however, that “In practice, the anti-circumvention provisions have been used to suppress a wide array of legitimate activities rather than stop copyright infringement” in its report on the “unintended consequences” of the DMCA.
What Is DMCA Takedown Notice?
As part of the DMCA, copyright holders are also required to send takedown notices to Internet service providers to remove infringing content. The U.S. Copyright Office maintains an online directory of service providers’ agents. A copyright holder can send a takedown notice to the website’s service provider’s agent if he discovers a copyrighted work on the website that has been allegedly infringed.
What Is an E-book Reader?
E-book readers, also called electronic book readers, display books on a digital screen instead of on paper. The device converts a digital file containing the book’s text into a readable format. “E-books” are digital copies of books.
Individual e-books are usually cheaper than paper print versions for consumers. In most cases, e-books are purchased online and downloaded into an ebook reader for personal use.
Consumers purchase or use e-books on a subscription basis, similar to a rental service.
There are numerous e-book readers on the market, but they all work on the same principles. In spite of the fact that some consider e-book readers to be a new format, they are still subject to basic copyright laws.
How Do Copyright Laws Apply to E-Book Readers?
E-book readers are subject to basic copyright laws. The holder of book copyright is the only one authorized to reproduce or distribute the book. In most cases, the author holds the copyright to a book. Many authors work with a publishing company to distribute their books in an e-book format.
In order to sell or reproduce copyrighted material through e-books, publishing companies and manufacturers of e-book readers must obtain authorization from a copyright holder. Using an e-book reader to publish a copyrighted book can result in legal consequences, such as a copyright infringement lawsuit.
Several federal laws govern E-book copyright. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the No Electronic Theft Act are among these laws. For more information on such laws, contact an attorney.
How Can I Protect My Copyrighted Literary Works?
When an author’s ideas are expressed in a tangible form, they automatically acquire a copyright. Drafts are automatically copyrighted once they are written down.
Digital copies of the book do not affect the author’s copyright. As a result of the copyright, the author has exclusive rights to their work, especially when it comes to distribution and reproduction.
Issues can arise in the case of electronic reproduction of a book without the copyright holder’s consent. The most important step an author can take is to register their copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office.
The registration is required for certain actions, such as filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement or using the copyright as evidence in court. You can prove that you own the rights to the book by registering your copyright.
An e-book contract may be necessary if you are working with a publisher. In terms of e-book copyright issues such as distribution and reproduction, be sure to specify your preferences in detail.
E-books are relatively new technology, and digital communications laws are still in their infancy. A well-drafted contract can often prevent disputes over copyrights that digital rights management laws may not anticipate.
Are E-Book Readers Subject to Copyright Laws?
It is possible for copyright holders to file a lawsuit against e-book readers for infringement.
The plaintiff will usually need to prove that the defendant had access to their work and that their work is sufficiently similar to the copyrighted material. However, registering the book with the U.S. Copyright Office is necessary before filing an infringement lawsuit.
What Should I Do if I Have a Copyright Issue Involving an E-Book Reader?
The laws governing e-book readers and copyrights can be extraordinarily complex. This is due to the fact that the technology is new and constantly updated. You should consult with a copyright lawyer if you feel that your rights under copyright protections have been violated. To avoid potential disputes over e-book distribution, you may want to work with an attorney if you plan to write a book.