Taking camera-phone pictures of a book you aren’t buying: Legal or not?

With the Dallas Morning News closing in on its paywall strategy in the next few weeks, perhaps it’s time to think about the cost/value of information these days.

Given the ability we all have now to photograph anything we want anywhere we go, there’s a potential problem here — where does copyright law enter the picture?

A New York Times writer asked that question over the weekend with a scenario that could happen to any of us — and maybe has. He writes about how he and his wife were in a bookstore looking for remodeling ideas. Naturally, the bookstore had plenty of remodeling books. So they flipped through books for a couple of hours, finding great ideas and using their camera phones to take pictures of the pages they wanted to show their contractor. And then they left the bookstore without spending a cent on books.

Obviously, the authors and publishers of the home remodeling books put them together with the intention of selling the books; they probably didn’t anticipate people taking the ideas — the literal ideas — for free. The bookstore didn’t get much out of the deal, either. But to be fair, the author spends the entire story questioning whether or not what he did was legal and/or ethical.

Read and discuss, as they say. Of course, you’re free to take pictures of whatever you want in our magazine, since our printed Advocate will remain free, as will all of the stuff on this blog, in our weekly e-newsletter, and on our neighborhood Facebook page, too.


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