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MaisyS's avatar

Can I read this pdf online legally?

Asked by MaisyS (652points) May 27th, 2021
7 responses
“Great Question” (3points)

In my country, as far as my research has shown, copyright expires 50 years after the author’s death. I want to read The Colossus and Other Poems by Sylvia Plath online for free, because I can’t go to a library or bookshop currently and don’t really have money that can be spent on books. If I read a pdf online, or use a website like Scribd or some such, would this be legal, seeing as it has been 58 years since the end of Sylvia Plath’s life?

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Tropical_Willie's avatar

Try Gutenberg

From their website“Encourage the Creation and Access of copyright-protected eBooks[electronic books].

In general, this Project is focused on the authors who wish to share their works with readers.

In particular, this Project is our Self-Publishing Press for eBooks presumed NOT to be in the public domain, but whose copyright holder is wiling to allow limited access to readers for personal study and non-commercial sharing.

With your assistance in adding new books into this collection, and insuring to NOT infringe on authors’ copyrights, our hope is to eventually bring readers a million eBooks on this site.

MaisyS's avatar

@Tropical_Willie thank you so much for the response! I did check Gutenberg before I posted this question and unfortunately didn’t find the book :(

SavoirFaire's avatar

You should be fine if you’re just reading it online. Downloading it would raise the question of whether the specific edition you are looking at is still protected (if it’s actually a PDF of some specific edition rather than a PDF of just the pure text), but just reading it online shouldn’t get you into trouble.

If you’d like to send me a message telling me what country you’re in, I could check it against the national and international laws that apply to you. But in all likelihood, it wouldn’t change my answer. Even if your country is part of the TRIPS Agreement, it still gets to set its own rules about things like poetry and literature. Most of the modern international law regarding intellectual property focuses on things like technology and pharmaceuticals, and the expiration period you mentioned meets the requirements of earlier treaties.

Disclaimer: I am not an intellectual property lawyer, but I have studied intellectual property law extensively.

flutherother's avatar

Faber hold the rights to Sylvia Plath material but their fair use policy is concerned with publication rather than private use.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@MaisyS Thanks for your message! As I suspected, your location doesn’t change my answer. Your country is part of several international treaties, the most relevant of which are the Berne Convention of 1886 and the TRIPS Agreement of 1994. Your country’s copyright laws meet or exceed the minimum requirements of these treaties, so you should have no problem reading a PDF online. You should also have no problem if you download an edition that was published before 2013 so long as you don’t travel with it (the legality of which is murky, so I don’t recommend it). Both of these activities fall within the scope of your country’s laws and are not prohibited by any of the treaties it has joined. The only parties with any potential legal liability here are the uploader and the host site (depending on where they are located).

@flutherother Yes, but Faber’s rights only apply in countries that have extended the period of copyright to the present day.

JLoon's avatar

SaviorFaire is right – again.

Except in certain countries that aggressively monitor & censor citizen access to otherwise public information (China…you suck), you should have no worries about reading or even downloading even copyrighted material as long it’s for your own personal use.

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