When is it legal to photocopy a book here?

[repost from the Legal affairs board–where not one person replied to it!]

I wanted my students to photocopy a book for class, but many of them are reluctant to do so.

What does the law here actually say about copyright? Does Taiwan follow the provisions of that international treaty? (Copyright being good for the life of the author, plus fifty years–right?)

Is there a loophole for academic purposes, or for books that are otherwise unavailable here?

Apparently the police have raided photocopy shops over this and fined people. Is this a criminal matter instead of a civil matter here?

Also, some students seem reluctant to copy any book, no matter how old. They say the police will never understand that it is public domain. What’s the best way to handle this?

Ask if any of the students have bought a CD/VCD/DVD lately. Then ask if any of them were pirated.

About half the class should no longer be able to argue that they can’t go and photocopy the book.

I went to the orientation at our school’s library recently, and we were told that we could not legally copy more than 1/3 of a book, and of course it was limited to academic purposes.

Yet, a professor in our department, who shall remain nameless, has asked students to copy entire books from that library and others for him/her. The students have refused to do so.

Can anyone say “special 301 list”, boys and girls?? And Taiwan wonders why it is on the list? This professor’s idea was “if we are not going to sell the books, it is OK to copy them.” Wonder how s/he thinks the authors make any money??

Er, thanks, but my question is specifically about how to know whether copying is legal or legal. Do I need to be looking at how old the book is, or what year the author died, or what? Are there loopholes for academic use, if we can’t get the book here? (The U.S. has this.) And does anybody else have experience with police getting involved in this?

P.S. I guess ironlady’s “third of the book” would be the answer to the academic loophole part. (Did they say how many copies you could make?
Can you copy one-third on three separate occasions?)

So now, which books are protected in the first place? Is it life plus fifty?
Or is anything with a binding considered protected, even if it’s the Bible?

Ding Dong,

No one responded because no one knew the answer. Only a copyright lawyer would know, and I am not one either but I’ll tell you what I do know.

Before Taiwan joined WTO, determining whether the work of a foreigner received copyright protection in Taiwan was very complicated and uncertain. It’s still not easy but since joining WTO, Taiwan is bound by the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement of 1994. Under the TRIPS Agreement, Taiwan must give the same protection to all other WTO members that it gives to its own nationals. It also must give the same protection to members of each WTO country that it gives to members of every other WTO country. In addition, the WTO requires Taiwan to give protection to the works of any citizen of a country that is party to a multilateral IP convention, including the Berne Convention on copyrights, pursuant to the terms of that convention. I believe the Berne Convention gives copyright protection as follows. Writing: life of the author plus 50 years; photos or art: 25 years from creation; music: 50 years from date recorded.

Among other things, the Berne Convention gives an author the exclusive right to reproduce or translate the work. Surely the Berne Convention contains a “fair use” exception but I dont know what it says. I doubt that it is 1/3 of the work (but maybe that’s a reasonable rule of thumb). Definitely, copying an entire book for your class is illegal if the book is protected. I guess you just need to use your best judgment.

In any event, I hope you will disregard wix99’s suggestion that students and teachers might as well violate the law and steal others’ property by illegally copying books because they illegally copy CDs and VCDs anyway. Ironlady, I’m glad that students in your school have learned the difference between right and wrong and refuse to steal when asked to do so by the professors. Hopefully that is a sign of a greater trend.

I am not actually encouraging people to break the law. I am just surprised that your students were so conscientious about this given that there is so much pirating of music and movies in Taiwan. While not being an expert in copyright law there is the concept of “fair use”. A whole class making a copy of a book probably does not constitute fair use. Generally fair use allows you to copy a chapter of a book or a few pages for use in class, etc.

Thank you, Mother Theresa. In this case we are talking about a book published in 1933, so I didn’t think it was “stealing.” It looks like that would depend on when the author died, though. Hopefully early! We don’t really have time to order a published version, unfortunately.

Check this earlier thread about copyright duration.

Did you try Project Guttenberg? They have a huge amount of older stuff publicly available for download in txt format.

If it’s there then not only are you probably OK to copy it, but it will probably be more legible than a straight copy of a book.

How much does it cost to photocopy an entire book anyway? Depends what value you place on your time, I guess.

Thank you, Cranky Laowai. The conclusions reached on that thread were that maybe, the rule here now is life plus fifty (Berne convention) for most works published after 1952. For older works, who knows.

They are making some noises (eminating from America, and specifically from Disney etc.) about extending copyright from 50 to 70 years there, which apparently would oblige all Berne signatories to recognize the same rights for American copyrights. So, no public-domain “Steamboat Willy” Mickey Mouse (free Willy?) in 2003.

And thank you too, tmwc. I’ll look for Guttenberg.

Taiwan does not appear to be a signatory of the Berne Convention.

I believe that due to Taiwan’s political status it was not allowed to sign the Berne Convention and other such treaties, but by joining WTO Taiwan has become bound by their provisions.

The TRIPS Agreement of 1994 requires all WTO members to comply with the major multilateral IP conventions – Rome Convention of 1961 (live performances, broadcasting), Paris Convention of 1967 (trademarks, patents), Berne Convention of 1971 (copyrights), IPIC Treaty of 1989 (integrated circuit layout design) – whether they are members to them or not.

See: www.taipei.org/un/wto.htm and

Taiwan’s pushing for free-trade agreements with a number of countries, including the United States. This gives America a chance to press Taiwan to apply copyright exentions retroactively. I hope Taiwan doesn’t give in. The copyright terms in the United States and Europe have become absurd. :imp: