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Copyright and "Consumable" materials

Discussion in 'Copyright, Trademark, Patent Law' started by jeredwm, Mar 17, 2011.

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  1. jeredwm

    jeredwm Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I am considering the purchase of (several copies of) a book for internal training purposes. The book contains the following message at the beginning:

    THIS WORKBOOK MAY NOT BE COPIED OR USED BY MORE THAN ONE STUDENT. RESALE IS ALSO PROHIBITED.

    <Title deleted> is a consumable classroom workbook. It is not a textbook or reference work. Under copyright law, no consumable book can be photocopied to create, replace, or substitute for its repurchase regardless whether it is used in whole or with any of its parts. Please refer to U.S. Copyright Office, Circular21, page 11...<etc.>

    Now obviously I do not intend to reproduce copies of this book in order to "replace or substitute for its repurchase" (or, indeed, for any other purpose). It is the issue of transfer/sharing that concerns me--particularly the bit at the beginning in caps.

    So, my questions are:

    1) Does this imprint--particularly the all-caps part--hold any legal weight? Can they legally restrict sharing or reusing by including such a warning?

    2) What are the standards by which a text is deemed "consumable"? Does the simple declaration of the text as "consumable" carry legal weight? Nothing I have seen in this book is actually "consumable" in the conventional sense. It is, to all appearances, a textbook; there are some questions asked with some space left in which one might write an answer, but I haven't seen any activity (puzzle, chart/drawing, etc.) that must be completed in the book itself, and most of the pages contain only printed information, not spaces for student input.

    3) In general, would the publisher have any legal case if I were to assemble a small library of these books and use them with multiple training groups, provided I use the originals and do not reproduce any material contained in the book?

    (As a matter of interest, the bottom of this warning page contains the following text:
    We offer a reward for any referral of copyright infringements through the use of this workbook that result in litigation. Please contact using the information found below.​
    This suggests to me that they may be aggressively litigious...)
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2011
  2. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    1. Putting words in capital letters doesn't change the law or the "fair use exception", which is most commonly cited when small portions of a textbook are photocopied for a classroom setting. I just realized you wrote "workbook" -- see below.

    2. I'm not sure of what the word "consumable" means in this context. I don't think the book is edible. ;) Perhaps this is a workbook where it is intended that the purchaser write in the book and "consume" it instead of making copies so that it can be resold as a new or used book?

    3. If you're talking about copying the book, that obviously would be problematic. If you're just talking about ripping out the pages and reassembling them the way you want, that's not a problem so long as you don't photocopy them and distribute them.

    I'm not sure what you're trying to do. If you have a single book and you show the class and everyone answers on their own pieces of paper, that would not seem to constitute copyright infringement. Honestly, I'm not sure what you're trying to do here and I can't speak more as to the application of copyright law in this instance.
     
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  3. jeredwm

    jeredwm Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thanks for your reply, and sorry for my lack of clarity. Let me try to be more specific.

    I am the coordinator of a tutoring center at a university, in charge (among other things) of tutor training. The books are tutor training materials, and what I would like to do is to buy a set of these books and keep them in the tutoring center, re-using them with each new group of tutors.

    The language I quoted above from the front of the book seems (to me) to be attempting to prohibit just such use--e.g., "may not be used by ... more than one student," "resale is also prohibited," "is a consumable classroom workbook...not a textbook," etc.

    So, my basic question is, am I on safe ground using the book in the manner described, or can the publisher effectively force us to buy a new book for each new tutor? In particular, can the publisher enforce the clause that "this workbook may not be...used by more than one student"?
     
  4. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    You ask "Can the publisher ...", yes of course they can!

    Will they recover?

    That question should be taken to your university legal staff.

    In fact, that legal staff wouldn't appreciate you posing your query to anyone but them.

    If you are given incorrect or improper advice, your university and the taxpayers (or those that have endowed your existence) suffer.

    Consult your in-house legal counsel.
     

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