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I am looking for US laws specifically identifying this scenario, I am not looking for interpretation of the law. I am looking for law relating to personal use/reading only.

I stumbled across Planet eBook which along with several older classics is offering Nineteen Eighty-Four, Published in 1949 George Orwell. The work is PD in several countries like Canada & Australia but it looks like it will not be PD in the US until 2044. It turns out that Planet eBook is located in Australia so like Wikilivres.ca it is PD in the country the server is located in.

Are there laws defining the legality of a US citizen, in the following scenarios?

  1. Downloading a copy for personal use to an ebook device while in the US
  2. Reading a copy of the ebook from a server in PD country without downloading (i.e. html only)
  3. Opening a copy of the ebook from a server in PD country without reading
  • 1
    In any sane legal system all three scenarios are equivalent, because you get a stream of bytes downloaded on your device/PC.The format is irrelevant as long as the content is accessible by you --- in other words, opening a web page or downloading a file are equivalent, since you have ready access to the content. As for your main point ("is it legal for a US citizen"), probably the answer is "no", but I do not know the US copyright laws well enough to be sure. – Alberto Pettarin Jan 30 '14 at 21:27
  • In most legal systems streaming/viewing is considered legally different from downloading - and a browser cache doesn't make it "downloading", legally. – his Jan 30 '14 at 22:04
  • As noted by Chad in his answer below, browser caches are local copies on non-volatile memories, which are equivalent to ("intentional") downloads. "Streaming" was not mentioned in the question. – Alberto Pettarin Feb 14 '14 at 21:18
  • Legally in some countries a copy in a cache is not considered a download. It is technically, it is not legally. – his Feb 19 '14 at 12:40
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Assuming the US Citizen is in the US then almost always yes it is illegal.

Downloading a copy for personal use to an ebook device while in the US

Yes the US copyright law prohibits the downloading of works that are protected by copyright in the US from foreign servers that do not have permission to distribute the copyright protected material in the US. This is part of the Title I of the DMCA.

Reading a copy of the ebook from a server in PD country without downloading (i.e. html only)

Technically you are still downloading the text. The HTML Files are stored on your local computer in your Temporary Internet files. This would be in violation of the DCMA. In theory if you remote in to a computer in another country and read it, they there would be no violation of the DCMA. However if you are remoting into that server specifically to evade US law then you are in violation of other statues involving international crime.

Opening a copy of the eBook from a server in PD country without reading

This is going to be dependent on if the text gets stored in non volatile memory on your computer. If it creates temp files with the text on your hard drive then technically it would violate Copyright in the US under the DMCA. If it is only putting the text into memory then it is not actually creating a copy of the document. So it does not violate the DMCA unless there is a way to save the text on your local device in which case it would be a tool capable of circumventing Copyright. In which case the use of the tool is a violation of DMCA even if it is not used in this manner.

  • may I say that all these provisions are insane? (living in Italy, I am used to insanity of the law, btw) – mau Jan 31 '14 at 8:37
  • @mau - The DMCA is a train wreck... My favorite part is where is says you can host anything as long as you pretend not know what you are hosting and not be sued or arrested for it. – Chad Jan 31 '14 at 14:40
  • Is "If it is only putting the text into memory then it is not actually creating a copy of the document." correct - it is a copy in the computers memory - and with virtual memory that could have be saved to disk – user151019 Feb 27 '14 at 18:27
  • @Mark - So it does not violate the DMCA unless there is a way to save the text on your local device in which case it would be a tool capable of circumventing Copyright - Theoretically there could exist a device that does not have the capability to write to nonvolatile memory and the memory is not able to be accessed by external devices with out permanent physical modification of the device(ie if you can plug in a cable to do it thats not good enough) then you would be fine. I know of no modern devices that operate like that though. – Chad Feb 27 '14 at 21:05

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