The Napoleon Series: FAQ

E-Books, Images, the Forum & Copyright Infringement

By Howie Muir

This FAQ briefly explains a revised policy with regard to posting information about downloadable electronic books, as well as about including images of text or graphics with a posted message.

While the Napoleon Series Discussion Forum actively encourages the exchange of information about sources of books and data about the period, as a part of the general exploration of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic era, we find it necessary to more clearly define a line of acceptable conduct on the Forum in order to protect the Napoleon Series from any inadvertent infringement of copyright law.

While participants are invited to post news about, and urls for, sites where e-books of interest may be downloaded, such sites may only be those understood to hold copyright to any of the copyrighted material offered. For example, though Google may not hold copyright to the content of a given book in the public domain, it will have copyright to the scans (the electronic medium) of a book that it makes available for download. Downloading (and encouraging downloading of) content from its site for personal use is fine. Please do not place on the Forum information that would be, or appears to invite, violation of copyright laws, which would include information on downloading e-books in the public domain from sites that do not hold appropriate rights to copyrighted scans.

While it is not a violation of law to create a hyperlink, it is a violation of copyright law to create a link that aids in the unauthorized copying of a copyrighted work, especially if the linking party knew or had reason to know of the unauthorized copying and/or having encouraged it. Since the Series' Forum is moderated, this seems likely to make the Series especially vulnerable to charges of contributory copyright infringement.

In summary, participants are welcome, even encouraged, to share information (and urls) here about internet sources from which copyrighted e-books and other materials may be downloaded legitimately. Please do not discuss on the Forum sites that do not hold appropriate rights to downloadable, copyright-protected material -- such posts will be deleted to protect the Napoleon Series from any associated legal liability.

Posting electronic images of text is provisionally permitted, as is transcription of text, under the concept of “fair use”. (Currently, one helpful discussion of “fair use” doctrine may be found at Unless the person posting has full copyright to both the text and the electronic scan posted, or both text and electronic scan are in the public domain, or has the stated permission of the copyright holder(s), the text (transcribed or electronic) must constitute only a small fraction of the original source.

Posting electronic images in general (i.e., paintings, photographs, maps, etc.) constitutes a different matter since, in most cases, the entirety of the original item is reproduced. Therefore, the Series must request that participants avoid non-text images unless that individual owns copyright to both the image and its scanned version, has the stated permission of the owner(s), or that you positively know that both the image and the scanned version you are posting are no longer protected by copyright. This applies, of course, even to images from another website.

An alternative to posting electronic text or other images, particularly if unsure whether elements of either are still under copyright, is to post the url, or link, to text or images that can be freely accessed by the general public.

Copyright is a complex and multi-layered issue that has only become more so with the arrival of the internet. In view of the potential penalties for violation, please act responsibly when choosing what to post. Thank you for your cooperation.


We are pleased to have received special permission from the New York Public Library (NYPL) allowing participants to post on the Forum, in any individual message, a single image from the Vinkhuizen Collection held by the NYPL (

The NYPL asks that each image used be credited in the post as follows: “Image courtesy of the New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.” We ask that participants honor their request.

The Napoleon Series appreciates the generous consideration of the NYPL in extending this privilege to the Forum’s participants.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: 11 March 2006; revised 5 July 2007.



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