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Q: Book Summaries and Copyright Law ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Book Summaries and Copyright Law
Category: Business and Money > eCommerce
Asked by: cassanova-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 06 Sep 2006 16:21 PDT
Expires: 06 Oct 2006 16:21 PDT
Question ID: 762834
There are a number of companies (,
that sell book summaries online. These summaries are of copyrighted
published books, often bestsellers. The summaries are short, typically
8-10 pages. Is it legal to produce and sell these summaries without
prior permission of the publisher? I feel that it may be as the
summary does not directly "copy" from the text. Or it may be covered
under fair use, much as book reviews are. Thank you in advance for
your help.
Subject: Re: Book Summaries and Copyright Law
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 06 Sep 2006 19:24 PDT

A fairly small amount of summarization, as might be found in a book
review, is usually considered fair game.

But the type of summary you are describing is almost certainly an
example of what copyright law deems a "derivative work".

Only the copyright holder has the right to create a derivative work of
a copyrighted piece.  Anyone else attempting to do so is very likely
engaged in copyright infringement.

You can read the official US Copyright Office publication on derivative works here:
Copyright Registration for Derivative Works

and note the following excerpt:

A ?derivative work,? that is, a work that is based on (or derived
from) one or more already existing works, is copyrightable if it
includes what the copyright law calls an ?original work of
authorship.? Derivative works, also known as ?new versions,? include
such works as translations, musical arrangements, dramatizations,
fictionalizations, art reproductions, and condensations.

The summary you described may be something less than what one commonly
thinks of as a 'condensation'.  But I think it very likely the courts
would find otherwise, were such a case to go to litigation.

In other words, only the copyright holder can make -- or provide a
license for -- an extensive summary of the work.

Of course -- and as noted at the bottom of this page -- Google Answers
is no substitute for professional legal advice, so be sure to take all
this with the appropriate grains of salt.

But I wouldn't recommend making any unauthorized summaries just yet...

Let me know if there's anything else you need on this.


search strategy -- Used bookmarked sites on copyright.
Subject: Re: Book Summaries and Copyright Law
From: tr1234-ga on 06 Sep 2006 16:36 PDT
I'm almost certain that at least some of these executive book summary
companies actually license rights from the publishers of the books
they summarize, paying a modest fee for the rights (just as, say, a
magazine wanting running a substantial book excerpt would pay for
serial rights.)

Such summarization *might*, as you say, be considered fair use, if the
matter ever went before court. But by formally negotiating with the
publishers, a book summarizing company would render "fair use" a moot
Subject: Re: Book Summaries and Copyright Law
From: myoarin-ga on 06 Sep 2006 17:51 PDT
Search in the box below with   copyright
and you will see in the answeres to some of the questions that come up
that anything that is written automatically has copyright protection,
including the summaries you ask about.  If someone is selling their
summaries, they will have a great interest in defending their
copyright against anyone who tries to use and sell the texts.

Of course, this in not legal advice, as you can read in the disclaimer below.

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