I have a question on a book which its last edition was published about 50 years ago and its author died about 47 years ago. Now it is out of print. The last edition of the book I am interested was translated to English (in 1965). I have sent email to its publisher about this book, but I didnt receive any answer. I also searched this book in the publisher's website, but I didnt find it. I also mention that I cant find its translator.

I have found the electronif file of the book in a website which allows users to download many books from it illegally (that is without any permission from the actual publishers).

My question is: Can I use that illegal electronic file of the book for self study ?

I put the information of the book below:

Title: Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers

Second Edition Revised 1965

Author: Wacław Sierpiński

Translated from Polish by: Janina Smólska

Publisher: PWN-Polish Scientific Publishers


The copyright on the book (original) expires 70 years from death of the author (per Polish law) - so you're still 22 years short on that.

The copyright on the translated version will be a joint copyright of the author and the translator, so the longer of the two period applies; Janina Smólska is polish too, and it seems she died in 2002 so the translation will enter public domain no earlier than in 2072.

Until then, you can use excerpts from the book under fair use clauses - e.g. for educational use, in white papers. You certainly can't distribute the book, and the site you got it from does so illegally. Using it "from illegal source" is a grey area. More specifically, per US law (DMCA) it seems like the act of downloading the book (which you did already) is illegal, while using it afterwards is okay.

To be on the "clean" side, borrow a copy from a library, to have it on record, and then nobody can complain you copy&paste excerpts from the electronic version as long as you don't brag about it.

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  • Cautious, "fair use" is a concept of US copyright law (and other English speaking countries). It may not apply to Poland. – John Smithers Mar 4 '17 at 22:12
  • @JohnSmithers: True. Though it contains the educational clause, allowing for use of excerpts. – SF. Mar 4 '17 at 22:45
  • @Sf, Regarding your last para, can't they indict you for lying that you didn't use the electronic version? – Pacerier Jan 20 '18 at 8:06
  • @Pacerier: if they can prove it (how?) they'd be due for statutory damages (no monetary loss since you could have used the library copy instead) which is more headaches and costs than what's to be gained. So unless they are after making your life more ifficult on some personal vengeance quest, as opposed to making profit, they won't. – SF. Jan 20 '18 at 8:16

Whether or not a book is in print has nothing to do with copyright. For example, it's illegal to copy someone else's book, put your name on it as the author, and sell it. Whether the book is in print or not does not change this. So if this website is selling (or giving away) unauthorized copies of books, the fact that this book is out of print doesn't make it any less illegal.

As to you using the illegal copy ... I am not a lawyer, I doubt anyone would prosecute you for reading an illegal copy even if that's a technical violation. But then, the music industry in the US has been going after people who illegally download music with a vengeance. I've seen news reports of a grandmother sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars because her 10 year old grandchild downloaded a song on her computer, etc.

Anybody on here know the legalities on that?

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I can speak only of US copyright law, but the big risk is if you share the file with others. It subjects you to potential statutory fines up to $150,000.

You are not sharing the file -- just using it for your own purposes. So I don't believe you are subject to charges of copyright infringement.

By the way, the worldcat library catalog shows over 500 copies in libraries worldwide (including several in Houston -- where I live!). That makes it fairly easy to request as interlibrary loan through your library http://www.worldcat.org/title/cardinal-and-ordinal-numbers/oclc/796464

With some out-of-print books, it is not unusual for people to reproduce chapters (or entire contents) on the web. It's not an ideal situation obviously.

If you are teacher and xeroxing portions for a class, that might raise additional issues.

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