Going from SD card to Calibre to Copyright

Having just bought an SD card for my Sony e-reader PRS-650, I couldn’t find out how I could add books on that SD card to an existing Collection on my reader. After reading this post I found myself downloading a program and discovering that on my PRS-650 it could be done without it. It seems that you can’t mix e-books from different sources on your Sony (PDR-650) e-reader. You have to create a new Collection on your SD card for your ‘SD Books’.

  1. From Home, go to Collections.
  2. Press Options
  3. Choose New Collection
  4. Choose a name and press OK
  5. Choose SD Card and press OK

An SD icon will appear on the right side of your collection. When you go into that Collection and add books, you can add your ‘SD Books’, only your ‘SD Books’. Books which are on your e-reader must be put in a different collection.

Now about that program that I had to download. It was actually quite good. It’s called Calibre  and it’s free for download (Windows, Linux, OSX or portable). It neatly manages all your e-books, turns PDFs into epub, let’s you change/add covers, meta-data and ratings and more. I got so hooked up that I wanted to add my whole library to my e-reader (which should be able with my 16 gigabyte SD card). But now I had run into a new problem: am I allowed to have a digital copy of my books when I have the original standing on my shelf?

It seems that in most countries you are allowed to download for personal use. However, with SOPA (and PIPA) and ACTA lurking around the corner you never know what you are allowed to do or not in the near future. Dominic, a law student, has made a clear comment on this subject:

(1) It’s not illegal to copy the book into a PDF by yourself and then upload it to your [e-reader]. Personal use (at least for books) is strongly favored by American copyright law, and practically speaking, no one else would ever even know, because it would only be between you and your [e-reader]

(2) It’s arguably not illegal to download the book in PDF form from a website and upload it to your [e-reader].. Again, this is pretty personal use, although if the relevant authorities ever got ahold of that server’s logs, they might make your life rather miserable. You’d be hard pressed to prove that you already owned the book at the time, but assuming you could, you’d be pretty safe.

(3) Torrents are a special case, because you’re simultaneously downloading and uploading the file all around the world. In this case, you’re making way more copies than you’re allowed to: you’re not making complete copies for everyone in the swarm, but you’re certainly making copies of bits that get uploaded elsewhere. This is a Very Bad Thing: there are practically no circumstances in which you’d be allowed to make copies for strangers in this way.

Now most books I can find for free on the Gutenbergproject.org site, but I’m still struggling about option 2. For I find it strange that even though I have bought a (hard-copy) book, I can still be sued for having a (free) digital one.

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