Is it illegal to download PDF eBooks?

Ricardo Lee

2022-08-04 11:24

•  Filed to:


• Proven solutions

The question is "Is it illegal to download and read PDF e-books?" First of all, two points must be made clear

1. PDF is just a file format, and whether it is infringing (illegal) depends on the content of the file, not the format in which the file is stored.
2. Only e-book downloads are discussed, so whether or not the infringement depends on whether the content itself is protected by copyright and how to obtain the file.

Discussing the issue of copyright protection and whether it is illegal pdf is irrelevant information. Changing to epub, Mobi, txt, and other formats will not affect the results. However, I don't think it is necessary to revise the original question, because pdf is the most common format for distributing electronic publications, and this is a question that is likely to be asked by someone who does not understand copyright-related knowledge. Removing the word pdf will affect their future view. opportunity to this question. I've added several other formats to the question description for easier searching.

Closer to home, since whether it is illegal or not depends on whether the content is protected by copyright, and how to obtain the content, let’s talk about the situations we generally encounter in life.

In most countries, works automatically enjoy copyright after they are completed, without the need for application and official certification. Therefore, it can generally be assumed that all written works that can be accessed daily are protected by copyright, and then the following situations can be excluded:

1. The author voluntarily waives copyright protection. For example, using the Creative Commons agreement, or declaring to assign or give up the copyright protection that you enjoy by other means.
2. Copyright protection expires several years (usually 50-70 years) after the work is published or the author dies.


Let's talk about how to get it. The original purpose of copyright is to protect the rights and interests of authors. Determining whether there is infringement does not directly correspond to whether an individual pays for access.
1. Buying physical books or e-books through formal channels is not infringing.
2. Authors or licensors freely distribute or provide free downloads for promotion and other purposes, and obtaining e-books in this way is not infringing.
3. From unauthorized channels (such as pirated sites, and resource sites), even if you pay for downloading, it is also an infringement.
4. Free access to copyright-protected e-books through other unauthorized channels is of course an infringement.
Before downloading, it is enough to see if the website provides information such as author, publisher, copyright agreement, etc., and it is enough to judge whether your behavior may constitute infringement (illegal). Especially in the United States, the laws are relatively sound, and it is almost certainly illegal to find such information in an obvious location.
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