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This is your portable infringement case.

November 11, 2010 \pm\30 3:46 pm

I love the authority of the language in The Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, telling me that “This is the” particular version of the item I wasn’t even considering necessary to my daily life, such as The Belle Epoque Espresso Machine in gleaming copper and brass with eagle ornament and double spigot and filters for single and double shot espressos, power to produce 15 bars of pressure for complex coffee, and the finest naval brass boiler to hold a half gallon of water for 60 espressos, as well as warming shelf for several cups, all for the neat sum of $6,000. Hammacher Schlemmer is the precursor (and successor) of The Sharper Image catalog. When my brother and I were young kids, we liked leafing through the many pages of this one-time black & white HS catalog and laughing at the wild products. There were plenty of toys to be amazed by, such as in-home cinema popcorn and sno-cone machines, or miniature ferarri testarossa. But, it is the “copy” (pun intended) for The Portable Handheld Scanner that worries me. “This is the portable, cordless, handheld scanner that preserves important documents, letters or recipes onto a memory card for later retrieval on your computer.” The picture shows the scanning wand hovering over pages of a book. 

I understand the desire to snap up one of these devices for $99.95, and digitize your favorite parts of books you largely do not need–or want to pay for–but not if it constitutes copyright infringement. It would be great for love letters between ancestors that belong to a second cousin who won’t let go of them, or a chunky tax return taking up file drawer space. On Facebook the other day, 32 Poems editor reported that an online magazine swiped off her web site an unpublished poem of hers with attribution, yet without asking and without her sending it. This violates the copyright holder’s right to control the use of the written work. The thread for this post brought up the virtually-indelible Google cache, web-postings v. publication–if there is a versus–and immortality avenues of discussion. A portable scanner could increase the swiping editor’s range of theft.

This is your portable infringement case with legal bibliography to seek out and scan, and clip-on, solar-powered beeper to notify your attorney…

  1. November 12, 2010 \pm\30 3:59 pm 3:59 pm

    If anything, Angela, a poem that appears on a web site is likely to be considered published, rather than unpublished, and certainly not up for grabs. If you wrote it, the copyright is yours. This can be hard to prove without previous publication or registration with the Copyright Office. The law says the the copyright holder has the right to make money off the work and control its use. There should be no expectation, in my opinion, that someone will, on the web or in print, violate your copyright.

  2. Sarah permalink
    November 12, 2010 \pm\30 5:17 pm 5:17 pm

    Do you remember the early scanners in the 1990s? Before flatbed scanners were on the market they were all handheld ones. My family had one and it was a piece of crap; you could never get your hand to track smoothly enough to get a decent scan. I don’t know that a handheld scanner is going to make a huge rift in the fabric of copyright-space-time these days, considering every cell phone can take a better picture of a page in a bookstore, or scan the barcode, or or or, plus Google Books is way ahead of any Hammacher Schlemmer-reader on this front already.

    All the same, I too had dreams of my very own sno-cone machine. Where is my app for that?

    • November 13, 2010 \pm\30 7:58 pm 7:58 pm

      Ha! When Apple can give us Sno-Cones from the iPhone, the revolution will begin. I so recall those old scanners, now that you mention it. It’s true that cell phones can get great images, but it is the fact that no mention was made of how not to use this scanner, yet including a photo of how not to.

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