Legal Option for sharing (some) copyrighted books

I came across this a little while ago:

This appears to be a *legal* option for sharing books that were published between 1923 and 1941, which opens up the possibility of legal digital access to, for instance, the anniversary edition functional method books, which were published in 1936 (and renewed in Oct 1963, dang it, otherwise they would have been free and clear long ago).

The Internet Archive’s pages refered to above as the ‘Sonny Bono Memorial Collection’ are here:

And the only tips I found so far for how to submit to the archive (IA in general, not just this specific collection) are here:

If none of you beat me to it, I plan to try my hand at scanning in the functional method books alluded to above sometime soon (Gregg Shorthand Functional Method, Part One and Part Two).

So, if anybody already has clean scans of books that are perhaps not as legal as they could be (1923-1941), here’s a way to go straight: donate the scans to the Last 20 project. (and let me know if you donate the ones I mentioned above, you can save me a lot of work). NOTE that none of this makes it suddenly legal to share the files willy-nilly; the legal loophole only applies to libraries and other non-profit entities, not the likes of us.

On a final note, as long as I’m dumping links to copyright-related stuff: in case this one hasn’t already shown up, the page below has an extremely useful set of links at the bottom of the page. They lead to the listing for copyright renewals for various years; this is how I was able to verify that the functional method books above were renewed and hence still under copyright.

Here it is:


Previous post:
Next post:
5 comments Add yours
  1. Thanks for bringing our attention to this article.  It is very interesting.

    I am not a lawyer and what I say is not be taken as legal advice, but as I understand, Internet archive may have to scan the books themselves as the law says:

    "(a) Except as otherwise provided in this title and notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement of copyright for a library or archives, or any of its employees acting within the scope of their employment, to reproduce no more than one copy or phonorecord of a work"

    And individuals probably may not count as employees of the Internet archive.

    On a similar note though, I wonder whether that is possible to start a "Gregg shorthand online library"?  I wonder what constitutes under law as a library and what would satisfy "within the scope of their employment".

    Copyright law is so complicated.  Maybe that is why we pay lawyers so much

  2. Good point!  If everyone involved is a volunteer, then does any act of volunteerism, i.e. donating time to scan and submit a book, qualify as equivalent to being an employee?

    Likewise, Can a non-profit like IA accept donated time as equivalent to employee status for this?


    Actually, the thing that worries me more — and detracts significantly from my original enthusiam — is the comments  to the effect that the book cannot be in the collection if it is readily available for a reasonable price. I got my copies of the functional method books quite easily through Amazon, so…I might not be able to put them up after all.

    Dunno.  I need to email IA directly and ask about this stuff.

  3. A minor update on this: I haven't been able to get any response whatsoever from the folks at Tried their main contact email, also tried some of  their staff archivists emails. Crickets.

    I called, got a young lady I who assured me they check the email every day and check their spam folder also, so…I don't know.

    At this point, I'm inclined to just upload the stuff I believe to be legitimate by this ruling (except for the gray area touched on above).  If they get gigged for it, well, they shoulda answered my (many) emails…

    Not that I'm likely to have time to do any of this any time soon, anyway. I'm banging this message out hurriedly on a lunch break, after squeezing 5 minutes in to transcribe a little of Sweet's current shorthand to a Google Doc, and 5 other minutes to attempt cleaning up some images of Callendars shorthand primer preparatory to transcribing it also into a Google Doc (Gregg gets the just-before-bedtime slot, so I'll remember it easier), another 5 minutes on another thing, etc. And now lunch break's over, so that's that.

    1. Actually, I think only libraries can do the scans legally.

      A great number of the Gregg Shorthand electronic resources available in were scanned by one of our members (Paul James), who used to work for the LA public library. I haven't heard from him in quite some time, but if you want, I can contact him and ask him if he knows anything about scanning restrictions relating to personnel.

      1. Nonprofit archives are covered also. Section H of This Legalese Chunk is what they refer to in the 'last20' collection intro.

        The part that is a gray area is whether volunteers, particularly 'drive-by' volunteers who just get a login and start uploading, qualify as 'part of the archive'.  The wording is: 

        ' it is not an infringement of copyright for a library or archives, or any of its employees acting within the scope of their employment' blah blah blah.

        So I assume – but don't know – that a volunteer wouldn't count as an employee, but maybe they do under these circumstances. It is a non-profit, after all.  For that matter, the very act of volunteering might allow them to consider you 'part of them', i.e. part of the archival organization even if not a paid employee. Beats me. 

        But to answer you properly, yes, it it would be interesting if you could get in contact with him, although I admit at this point I'm more interested in his experiences getting people to *respond* to him from


Leave a Reply