A comment on this answer of mine about e-book lending suggested that it would be better to talk to a lawyer. The situation is as follows: My head of school asked me to explore means of providing our core text books in electronic form to our students. I talked to Library services and IT services and they recommended iPads with standard consumer licensed e-book versions installed. I passed this information on to my head of school, who instructed the school manager to buy the iPads, copies of the books, and other associated hardware needed for running an iPad lending service. Have I, my head of school, or my school manager been negligent for not consulting a lawyer in this manner? Should academics really be consulting university lawyers on a regular basis?

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    I know this isn't really about the question, but I'm really curious how you find it worthwhile to pay for iPads to put the textbooks on. It seems to me that ebooks aren't usually that much cheaper than physical ones.
    – Jessica B
    Dec 12, 2014 at 10:35
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    @JessicaB our students asked for them and the university presumably thinks it makes us look cutting edge. No way they would give us money to buy textbooks for our students, but they didn't hesitate when we asked for money for iPads.
    – StrongBad
    Dec 12, 2014 at 10:40

1 Answer 1


Well, first of all it's good to check the license yourself. Here you will find that it says that

(i) You shall be authorized to use the iBooks Store Products only for personal, noncommercial use.

So, in this case it wouldn't even have been necessary to contact a university lawyer for the simple reason that the license is incredibly clear. In cases where it isn't you should at all times contact a university lawyer or contact the company in question itself, because in general IT and library personnel are not trained in legal matters (I just dropped by the library to ask). Now a valid argument could be made that it's the libraries responsibility to ask the university lawyer instead of you, but that's up to the mechanisms within your institution, the core issue remaining that one should be consulted somewhere down the line.

As to the question of negligence, I think (as a non-lawyer) you might be attributed negligence for not reading the license yourself, but not for not consulting a lawyer and just asking library/IT personnel. Still, it all depends on who was technically responsible for what and how the question towards the library people was phrased.

Additionally for future reference in case people find this through Google, the license also says

You acknowledge that you are purchasing the content made available through the iBooks Store Service (the “iBooks Store Products”) from the third-party provider of that iBooks Store Product (the “Publisher”); Apple is acting as agent for the Publisher in providing each such iBooks Store Product to you; Apple is not a party to the transaction between you and the Publisher with respect to that iBooks Store Product; and the Publisher of each iBooks Store Product reserves the right to enforce the terms of use relating to that iBooks Store Product. The Publisher of each iBooks Store Product is solely responsible for that iBooks Store Product, the content therein, any warranties to the extent that such warranties have not been disclaimed, and any claims that you or any other party may have relating to that iBooks Store Product or your use of that iBooks Store Product.

So not only would you need permission from Apple, but also from the third party selling every single individual book.

  • You keep saying "you", who is the "you" you are referring to? Is it the person in IT services, Library services, myself, head of school, the school manager, or the person in the school office who hands out the iPads.
    – StrongBad
    Dec 12, 2014 at 10:22
  • @StrongBad Whoever was assigned this task was the you I was referring to. Either way, just before your comment I added some in on the topic of negligence. Dec 12, 2014 at 10:24
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    Note that not everything forbidden by a licence is actually forbidden. Some clauses can be overruled by courts declaring them abusive, or institutions may be special cases in the law for certain activities.
    – Davidmh
    Dec 12, 2014 at 18:47
  • @Davidmh: True that, if I remember I will edit that into the answer next time I have access to a computer. Over where I live we indeed have some laws regarding physical books and public libraries (which state funded libraries normally but not always are), but no such thing for digital content, however this could well be different in other countries (although I have never heard of such a thing in any of the major countries). Dec 13, 2014 at 8:06

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