Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cover me: Your right to reproduce copyrighted packaging

Dear Rich: I have a question. I'm starting a literary website and I'd like to put up a lot of book covers. Do I have to get permission from the book publishers? I'm so glad you asked. Chances are you won't have to ask for permission because of an exception under copyright law (17 USC Sec. 113(c)) that permits you to display pictures of product packaging "in connection with advertisements or commentaries" related to distribution or sales of those products. So, for example, if you provide links to an online retailer like Amazon where the books can be purchased, you will qualify under this exception. Ditto if you're acting as a journalist and commenting on the book. By the way, this exception applies for any "useful article," not just books. So it also applies to the cover of the "Crunch: Belly Butt and Thighs Bootcamp" DVD, the Pizza Party Elmo toy, and my super favorite new album.