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Home » Are you infringing on any copyrights when making an audio recording of a book and distributing it as a podcast?

Are you infringing on any copyrights when making an audio recording of a book and distributing it as a podcast?

Do Priests own Bible’s rights to read it in Churches?

Yes, almost inevitably.

The sole exceptions to this rule would be a book whose copyright coverage has expired. In the United States, a book published before 1923 is automatically in the public domain; those published between 1923 and 1978 are protected for 95 years from the date of publication. So you could create an audio recording of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Beautiful and the Damned” (published 1922), but not “The Great Gatsby” (published 1925), at least, not until 2020. Oh, and if you run into a case where the book was written before 1978, but not published until after that, the copyright lasts the life of the author plus another 70 years. (So, if a late Salinger manuscript is discovered, and someone proves he wrote it in 1975 rather than 1980, it would remain under copyright until 2080.)

So, if you want to do this, stick to something written and published a century ago, and pay attention to differences in national copyright laws, too (eg if you plan to use an English author, look at when/where the book was first published, and whether it’s still under copyright wherever it was first published.) Frankly, I’d stick to stuff that’s at least a century old, or look at the books available for free or 99 cents as e-books — that’s a dead giveaway that it’s not under copyright.

But don’t mess with the copyright of authors. These days, audiobook revenues is a growing part of overall sales, and it’s (a) legally perilous for you and (b) unbelievably unethical to trample over the rights of the people who spent years of their lives creating something original to entertain/inform their readers. Sure, you’re reading their words — but that’s not a justification. The publishers hire professional readers or even well-known actors to do that and people like me spend money to listen to those very carefully performed, edited studio recordings because of their caliber. The publisher may authorize the release of some recordings for non-profit use, but has no interest in a rival amateur podcast out there, for any purpose that isn’t promotional, which is why when book reviewers get copies of books to review, it’s made clear that it’s fine to quote short segments for review, but that’s all. Without the consent of the publisher, anything more is breach of copyright. For instance, a magazine wanting to run the first chapter of an exciting new novel would need to get the consent of the publisher.

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