Both the law and the real world situation is unclear.
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).
Would publishers mind if you are using their intellectual property like
this? It's not clear. 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? 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.
If you use Bowker/Syndetics images in a way not covered by the license,
that's a license issue. Amazon licenses from Bowker, and in turn
licenses the end-user, so there are various parties there that could be
violating licenses. Google also licenses either from Bowker or Ingram or
someone else, not sure who, but I'm pretty sure they've gotten cover
images by license.
The LibraryThing archive was not obtained by license. It was obtained by
individual users scanning and uploading. So the only license involved is
one between LibraryThing and the end-users of the images, there is no
license violation with any provider of the image possible. Just possibly
a copyright violation.
Lars Aronsson wrote:
> Tim Spalding wrote:
>> I really hope this—or more probably what comes of this—ends the
>> selling of covers to libraries.
> Probably not, with all the restrictions you attached.
> Still, this is a most interesting experiment. Commercial sellers
> supposedly have a legal backing from contracts with publishers,
> which you don't? How long will that last? If it does last, it is
> indeed a big win.
> In the blog entry, you wrote: "Publishers and authors want
> libraries and bookstores to show their covers." -- I'm not so
> sure. I think publishers want copyright to make it hard to use
> out-of-print books, so people buy new books instead. Back in
> 1932, Aldous Huxley wrote: "We don't want people to be attracted
> by old things. We want them to like the new ones."
Digital Services Software Engineer
The Sheridan Libraries
Johns Hopkins University
rochkind (at) jhu.edu