First, IANAL, obviously.
> Clearly, publishers own the intellectual property of a cover graphic. Could
> using thumbnail images of lots of covers in aggregate be considered fair
> use? Maybe, the law is not clear (there is some case law to suggest it
> could be, but it's hardly settled).
Publishers make their covers available to them and to others because
they desperately want their covers out there. You can get covers from
publishers with amazing ease. I do not suspect Amazon or Syndetics
have licensed the covers in any way.
LibraryThing asserts no copyright over the images. In most cases,
copyright rests with the publisher. (In the case of the cover I
designed for my wife's book, it rests with me; I'll tell you nobody at
Amazon has asked for my permission—snort!) As such, there are fair and
unfair uses of the images. Using images in connection with selling
product is generally considered fair use. That's why you can take a
picture of your cool decorate skateboard and post it on ebay, but you
can't make a huge photo of the skateboard and make posters of it.
Commentary is another fair use harbor. I've never seen OPAC use
directly mentioned, but I can't imagine it wouldn't fall under it as
well. If you can show a cover to sell a book, a library can surely
show a cover to patrons interested in checking it out.
> Would publishers mind if you are using their intellectual property like
> this? It's not clear.
Do publishers sell covers or books?
> On the one hand, these days everyone thinks they
> should be getting paid if you are using their IP for anything. On the other
> hand, _some_ publishers are giving thumbnails for free to Internet Archive.
> Maybe publishers realize giving you this 'property' to, after all, let you
> advertise their wares for them, is a good thing. Of course Bowker/Syndetics
> (and I think Ingram has a cover service too?) don't like free covers because
> they make money from it. I am very very curious as to what terms Bowker has
> with the publishers; does Bowker have an _exclusive_ license with the
> publishers to do certain things?
No. They don't.
>How much, if any, do the publishers get
> paid for Bowker's use of their cover images? Very curious what the business
> situation is, because that helps us guess how various actors will behave.
I suspect the answer is nothing. There may be payments on either side
to make it happen easily.