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Is downloading free college books legal?

On Behalf of | Sep 5, 2022 | White Collar Crimes

Many college students end up purchasing textbooks for hundreds of dollars only to use most of them for only a semester or two. These same students are then only able to resell these books at a fraction of the price. It’s no wonder, then, that many students are looking for other ways to cheaply acquire their books.

Many students are finding it easier to acquire their textbooks online, in digital format – but just because students can find the books online, doesn’t mean it’s legal. Here’s what you should know:

Copyright law infringement

Books, movies, games, programs, music and TV shows are all protected under Copyright laws. Copyright laws protect original “works of authorship” that are affixed to a physical medium. This means that there must be special permission from an original author or owner to copy, distribute or alter an intellectual property (IP). Logging into the wrong computer to retrieve a textbook can also run you afoul of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – and that could lead to even more serious charges.

What does this mean for college students who download textbooks online? It depends on where you acquired your textbook – if you found a legal site that offered a digital textbook for a price, then it’s likely legally being distributed. However, if a site offers a textbook for free, then it may not be legally distributing the book – unless the author or IP owner permitted their book to be distributed in that manner. 

If you recently downloaded something online, then you could face charges – you may need to reach out for legal help to find out what steps to take next.

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