Q. What are copyright restrictions on out-of-print books? Can I scan the book and post it in Blackboard Learn for my class?
As a general rule, works published in the United States remain covered by copyright protection until 70 years after the death of the author, even if those works have become out-of-print. Due to changes in copyright law, there are many exceptions to this general rule, which are outlined by tools at http://www.lib.umn.edu/copyright/publicdomain. When copyright protection expires, works fall into the public domain and can be used freely by anyone. While they remain under copyright, they can only be used with permission of the copyright holder or under a valid claim of Fair Use. One way to achieve permission is to use an electronic version purchased by the university through the library or another unit. As long as an "out-of-print" work is under copyright, you can only use it in Blackboard under those terms.
To determine whether you can make a valid case for Fair Use, I recommend the "Thinking Through Fair Use" tool provided by the University of Minnesota at http://www.lib.umn.edu/copyright/fairthoughts. Short of talking to legal counsel, it is the best option available for getting advice about the Fair Use options for a particular intended use.
To pursue electronic access through the library, please contact the library about the particular work.
If you are considering a work that was published outside the United States, the situation is much more complicated, because the rules governing copyright protection of foreign works were drastically changed by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. For foreign works, it may be best for now to assume that post-1800 works are covered by copyright.