Every once in a while I come across an article whose quality stands out exceptionally in my field of research. While I don't always have the time to read the full paper (usually tens of pages long), I "mark" it so that I may read it later or refer to it in a future article if needed. Unfortunately my attempts at marking articles have always had several shortcomings:

  • Bookmarking it: after a while I will forget what I bookmarked, what the title of the article was, the author, and so forth,
  • Saving it on disk: I never recall I had them in the first place,
  • Printing it out: tedious, and after a while I am left with hundreds of pages of documents lying around in an unordered fashion.

So I was thinking of collecting my "favorite" articles into a single collection, then having them printed in the form of a book, strictly for personal use of course. Then whenever I am writing on a specific subject, I take the book down from the shelf that corresponds most to my research and have everything nicely laid out in a single place.

Now obviously, this raises all sorts of red flags about printing a large number of people's work, collecting them in a single place, having it bound in a book, ... So I am not sure what I am allowed and not allowed to do in such a context. Legally speaking, can I do this without fear of a backlash?

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    "Having them printed..." by whom? A print shop or self-publishing outfit will likely refuse because of copyright concerns. – Nate Eldredge Jun 21 '18 at 16:33
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    Anytime you say "legally", you have to specify the country whose laws you want to ask about. People on this site are generally not experts on law and you may get better answers at Law.SE. – Nate Eldredge Jun 21 '18 at 16:34
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    Isn't the normal way of handling this situation to have a physical file folder full of individual printed papers? And possibly several of these covering different projects/areas of research interest? I see no reason to complicate things by proposing a 'book' of dubious legality. – Bryan Krause Jun 21 '18 at 17:02
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    @Bryan Krause: I agree, and I've seen quite a few professors with labeled notebooks in their bookshelves. The labels are on the spines --- you scotch tape a strip of paper onto the spine that has the topic of the notebook written on the strip of paper. In my case, I literally have several hundred such notebook binders shelved in large bookshelves that line most of the walls of a room at home. Of course, I didn't fill these binders in the last few years. This is something I've been doing for about 30 years. – Dave L Renfro Jun 21 '18 at 17:28
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    I think the answer is probably yes (in the US at least), based on this analysis. Regardless, it is nearly impossible to imagine a scenario where this would get you into trouble. By contrast, the scenario in which you will use the book to make a positive contribution to humanity is quite easy to imagine. So, I know what I would choose to do. – Dan Romik Jun 22 '18 at 5:32

I did this, but very cheaply, with printer paper, a three-hole punch, and ring binders. A subject label on the spine and maybe some index tabs finishes the job. You are making something simple into a complex problem.


I don't see how printing a paper for one's personal use could be legal, but printing 2 or 10 and binding them together would be illegal. As long as it is actually strictly for your personal use, if printing a paper for your personal use is legal where you live, then certainly binding them together is.

But I would advise against actually binding them. Let's say you do, then the next day you find a new paper on the same topic. You will want to kick yourself, because you will not be able to add it to the collection. I think that most people have bunches of physical folders, with papers consisting of stapled (or otherwise kept together) stacks of papers, but separate papers not being bound to one another.

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    As long as it is actually strictly for your personal use, if printing a paper for your personal use is legal where you live, then certainly binding them together is - Citation needed. Legal matters are complicated, and that's one of the reasons why we typically avoid answering them here. – Bryan Krause Jun 21 '18 at 17:37
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    @BryanKrause You think that if I have ten papers on my desk, and I take a stapler to them, I become a criminal? Law is complicated but it's not that complicated. I can give you a citation for French law, Article L122-5 of the Intellectual Property Code: an author cannot prevent someone from making a copy for a strictly personal use. It says nothing about the form of the copy. – user9646 Jun 21 '18 at 17:38
  • I didn't say that. I said it can be complicated. I think the likelihood of any consequences is vanishingly small, of course. You may be allowed to make a copy, but including a copy in a bundle of other works is no longer a copy. I agree it's silly, law in general is silly. – Bryan Krause Jun 21 '18 at 17:43
  • Law is not silly - laws have to be updated to account for the actions of silly people... What’s that phrase : laws are for the guidance of intelligent people and the obedience of fools... – Solar Mike Jun 21 '18 at 17:53

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