Optical character recognition and copyrights

Many wonder what the effects of scanning an image using optical character recognition and the ramifications as it results with copyrights. In other words, when a PDF is scanned using optical character recognition and it is turned into an editable document, what is the impact as it relates to copyrights?

Put simply, is the document that was copyrighted still protected by the copyright? Or, do copyright rules not apply due to the document being turned into an editable document?

The answer to this question is actually rather simple. The truth is scanning is clearly an act of copying, or “reproduction” as that term is used within the meaning of section 106(1) of the Copyright Act.

This means means that permission would need to be obtained by the copyright holder before the document were to be scanned and edited in any way. Otherwise, a party would run afoul of copyright laws.

While it might seem tempting due to the ease of optical character recognition to scan a copyrighted document into an editable document, the reality is that this can cause legal problems. This kinds of legal problems can result in litigation.

For this reason, individuals and entities will want to be careful before scanning and editing any copyrighted documented. Before any individual engages in this act, they will want to seek and obtain permission.