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March 10, 2007

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Thanks for pointing that out to me! I must have missed it this morning. I am an Amazon Affiliate, mainly so I don't feel guilty about using their book jacket images; but (as I posted over at Fuse) my concerns about Amazon are more about copyright & who owns them (I know, I cannot help being the law nerd.)

Liz, yeah, that legal language is not too cool, about Amazon's keeping the copyright and such. I can't blame you for being the legal nerd!

For what it's worth, I think (but am not 100% positive) that using a book cover from the publisher constitutes fair use.

The Amazon discussion is interesting. As a side note, B&N.com is actually a separate company from the stores. They are ultimately owned by the same parent company, but they really have nothing to do with each other. That's why when you buy something online and try to return it in a store, you get store credit just like if you were returning it without a receipt. So while I'm thrilled that you are getting great service from your local store, I wouldn't necessarily use that to make you feel more loyal to the website. In general, if you're buying online, it's a whole different ballgame.

Hey, Katie. I did not know that about B&N online. There used to be a wonderful independent here in town, but B&N and the Internet ran it off.

Susan, I've had a hard time finding a definitive statement re cover art. If newspapers & magazines can use cover art for free when they review an item, so, too, should blogs is a very common sense approach; but then, I also know that libraries buy the right to use cover art in catalogs & websites, and I wonder, if it's something that can be bought/sold in such a context, can blogs/websites really use it for free? Wikipedia suggests that it's OK and mentions using low res images, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Book_cover. This is the only slightly relevant case I've found: http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2006/08/amazons_display.htm

I'd prefer to err on the safe side; and that's part of the reason I go with Am.Affiliates. In all honesty, I think as a practical matter this is not something that copyright owners will litigate because use of covers is free publicity for the books/cds/dvds. I don't think it's something to get overly worried about; but I think it's something that bloggers should think about, the same way we think about what's allowable under copyright when we post our Friday Poetry poems.

With most blogs being self-published, I can imagine that if any cease&desist letters went out, the cheapest thing for a blogger to do is to remove the artwork rather than incur costs litigating, even if the blogger is in the right (such letters & threats have been sent out to fan sites who use of photos from movies & TV shoes.) We're a pretty tight group so I think the moment one of us got such a letter, the emails would start to fly.

Why would a copyright owner go after blogs? Money. While I cannot imagine bloggers ever paying for the ability to use cover art, I've begun to hear librarians grumble about why they have to pay to use the covers when others don't. So, backwards as it may be, to protect the right to charge some they may go after those who don't pay anything.

Liz, I didn't know that libraries have to buy covers. That's very interesting; I can see why librarians would grumble. Do you think that a blog review of a book makes a case for fair use of its cover?

Susan, I haven't seen the contracts myself, but I'm told that the reason some online catalogs have bookcovers & some don't is the cost; and that (at least sometimes) when the cover image is purchased, it applies to other uses on the website. Since library sites are often more about promoting the book (new books! booklists!) than reviewing, I don't think they can get away with the review exception.

As for use on a blog...I'm a bit conflicted. Straightforward review, just like a newspaper, shouldn't we have the same rights as newspapers? (And I'm assuming newspapers don't pay for images...but, newspapers have to pay for other photos they use, don't they? (Making assumptions about what is "Free" and not reminds me of the "free music!" teens I've talked to who always say "we listen to music on the radio for free" and I'm all, no, the radio pays per song. You just don't know it.))

Anyway, what is the definition of a "review"? (Yeah, this is one of the "tells" that I'm a lawyer.) If it's a list of upcoming new books...not a review. What about if its a book discussion? Or say a list of "strong kids" in books? Are any of them "reviews"? Is an author interview a "review" exception? Yet all are "reporting on" the book. I think I'd want to argue the broader position that "reporting on" books and using the image to illustrate the article is "fair use," but frankly, I'm not familiar enough with when newspapers & magazines do and do not have to pay for the images they use. (And while obviously I am overanalyzing a bit here, I do think it's important to ask; but I'm not so into it that I'm going to find out newspaper policies for their various images they use. )

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