Is it legal to use a scanner or camera to digitize a copyrighted book if it's only for personal use? I own the book, and I have no plans to sell it or give it away.

If so, once the copyright expires, can I share my copy, or do I have to scan it again?

1 Answer 1


US copyright law does not distinguish "personal use" from "non-personal use", though it does distinguish commercial from non-commercial, where stronger sanctions can arise from commercial infringement – which can include "private financial gain". Copying a whole book which you own is copying which is what define infringement, and because of the extent of copying, it is unlikely to be found to be fair use. There is a special provision for software in 17 USC 117 that allows for making backup copies, which is not applicable to physical books. You are not a statutory archive, which is another escape hatch.

  • 1
    The actions proposed in the question sound like "format shifting". Can you address whether the permission for format shifting would be applicable?
    – Ben Voigt
    Feb 2, 2023 at 17:07
  • @BenVoigt yes, it would be format shifting AFAICT. It would be very similar to ripping a CD, and there is, obviously, no DRM involved.
    – Someone
    Feb 2, 2023 at 17:21
  • @Someone: Following the link to the answers discussing 17 USC 117 (where the rules for both format shifting and backup copies are found), I am led to believe this format shifting is not a permitted format shifting, because it doesn't involve a "computer program". But there should be other rules surrounding format shifting that apply to computer data that aren't programs, such as music and video.
    – Ben Voigt
    Feb 2, 2023 at 17:23
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    Is there a case which explicitly states that creating a private copy of an entire book is not fair use? I understand that the extent of the copying is an important factor, but the fact that the copy is never shared and doesn't affect the market for the work seems significant too.
    – sjy
    Feb 3, 2023 at 3:18

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