What are the copyright issues in lending Kindles and ebooks to our students? (01 May 2013)

One of the legal rights a copyright holder has is the right to control the renting or lending of a work to the public. Copyright in a work is not infringed by lending by an educational establishment, as provided for by s.36(A) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. However, a restriction on lending might be contained in the content purchase agreement, and make any lending a breach of contract (even though it is not an infringement of copyright). A copyright holder also has the right to control the copying and communicating of the work to the public. Each time a work is downloaded and accessed by an individual, this is likely to be deemed ‘copying’ for the purposes of the UK law (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988). Using a copyright work (e.g. copying it) is not an infringement under UK copyright law if it is used fairly and with acknowledgement for the purpose of non-commercial research, private study, criticism or review. However multiple copying, even for educational purposes, does not fall within this fair use definition in the UK unless it is for genuine criticism and review or current affairs reporting, and requires permission which is often granted via licences e.g. the CLA licence.

Lending Kindles preloaded with third party content, such as an ebook currently in copyright, via a library or learning centre, would breach the current stated Kindle terms and conditions of use as far as UK users are concerned. The Kindle terms and conditions state that the digital content is for personal use only and in terms of the accepted definition of personal use in UK copyright law, Amazon have confirmed that this does not extend to personal use of one e-book (purchased by an institution as account holder) by a large group of learners. However Amazon separately states that kindle content can be enjoyed on multiple devices (usually up to six) registered to the same Amazon account but the Kindle terms of use regarding digital content would have to be adhered to. This means that content could be uploaded in limited circumstances and our FAQ on lending content has more detail on this.
In addition an FAQ on their website confirms that at the present time Amazon does not have a mechanism for the library style lending of e-books by  institutions in the UK to users having their own Kindles, although we understand that this is now an option in the US for some material.

For more detailed information on copyright visit the JISC Legal website at http://www.jisclegal.ac.uk/LegalAreas/CopyrightIPR.aspx


The Kindle Store Terms of Use and the FAQ on lending are available from the Amazon website.


Posted on 01/05/2013

Jisc Legal has now closed, and this website is now archived.

Technology and the law support is now provided by Jisc.  Contact customerservices@jisc.ac.uk, or call 0203 006 6077.