Here's the scenario

  1. A user takes a photo using an app from a book, which might have be copyrighted.
  2. The app then uploads the photo to a cloud service in order to analyze it using OCR
  3. The app receives the OCR result and extracts 100 (most used) words from it in order to process the result within the app

According to the cloud provider the data gets deleted on call of the app or within 24 hours. The data is only accessible by the app once. Neither is more than an excerpt extracted nor is the photo accessible once it has been send to that server. Also there is no way the result contains a whole sentence of the page (only single words).

My major questions in my head for that case would be:

Does making a photo of copyrighted material equals to making an illegal copy?

Does sending that photo to a server to process count as distribution?

  • 2
    If you're serious about making the app, talk to a legal professional rather than randos on the internet. Jul 11, 2023 at 12:10
  • 1
    Questions for legal advice are off-topic here. If you rewrite your question to be more generic, it could probably be answered.
    – PMF
    Jul 11, 2023 at 12:29
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    I think this is a straightforward "is this legal?" question, rather than a request for legal advice. So I believe it to be on-topic. However @ComicSansStrikephim is correct: if you are actually planning to do this, talk to a lawyer first. Jul 11, 2023 at 14:31
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    Based on what you already know about copyright law, do you think that if you read the book and tallied by hand the 100 most used words, would doing that violate copyright? Is there something about the means to the end that you are unsure of? If you would clarify your specific concerns over process you might get a better answer. Jul 11, 2023 at 15:35
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    @MichaelHall Good point, I added my concerns to the question. So in your example I would make a photo of a text and giving it to photo studio and get a printed out variant back which I can then cut into pieces. From my feeling using your example I would state that neither me nor the photo studio have made any illegal copies. Jul 11, 2023 at 16:52

1 Answer 1


If there is a copyright violation then it is by the user; the service would presumably work the same, and be as useful, for text where the user owns the copyright or has a license to do this. As long as the service doesn't actively encourage copyright violation then it is in the clear.

The user might be able to claim fair use or fair dealing (depending on the country). The rules vary between countries and are too fact-specific to analyse here; it would depend on things like whether the end user is making money out of it and if the result is used in scholarship. However the fact that only the 100 most-used words are retained would generally count in favour of fair use.

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