Digital Read Alouds: Copyright and Creation Questions @kerszi #library #slj

Are you up to date on your copyright? How about your podcasting skills? This evening, I stumbled on a conversation that gave me the opportunity to revisit both. Mind if I share my journey with you?


Kathi Kersznowski shared the following tweet:

There were some great responses to this tweet. Before jumping into those, and sharing my small contribution, I was curious to learn more about the Global Read Aloud.

About The Global Read Aloud

You might think I'd know all about this, but aside from a brief look some time ago, I hadn't really taken a deep look at Pernille Ripp's program. She writes the following:
This is all run by me, Pernille Ripp, one person, who has a full-time job as a 7th-grade teacher, as well as speaks, trains, and writes outside of that. (Source)
It's always amazing to see what one person can do. This seems to be a great program that involves some great opportunities to connect.

It seems to me that people sign up to read books live. Consider Pernille's post:
The premise is simple; we pick a book to read aloud to our students during a set 6-week period and during that time we try to make as many global connections as possible. Each teacher decides how much time they would like to dedicate and how involved they would like to be. Some people choose to connect with just one class, while others go for as many as possible. The scope and depth of the project is up to you. While there are commonly used such as Skype, Twitter, Padlet,  or Flipgrid, you choose the tools that will make the most sense for you. Teachers get a community of other educators to do a global project with, hopefully inspiring them to continue these connections through the year. (Source)

The Question

In the question Kathi shared, the person asks if she can make a podcast of her global read aloud books that she reads for free. She wasn't sure if she could put it on YouTube or not. My response appears below the list of podcasting tools. There were many podcasting tools shared.

To be honest, making a podcast is not tough at all. It would be easy to create a read aloud. You could even use a tool like Voxer then publish the shared voxer link to Twitter or elsewhere. There are many ways to get the job done. The problem isn't with the podcasting tools....

Podcasting Tools

While there are many podcasting tools available, some of the tweets surfaced some of the best:
Malcolm Wilson even put together a blog post and podcast guide to help out.

Copyright Issues

The problem with the question Kathi's friend asked is what another, Mr. Luukkonen, asked. In fact, it was the best question asked in this thread, which was great! Here we all were excited about overcoming the technical obstacles, but Mr. Luukkonen asked the $1 million dollar question.

I suppose this wouldn't be a copyright issue if The Global Read Aloud chosen books met either of the following criteria:
  • Books selected were public domain or free from copyright
  • Book authors had granted permission for the books to be read by anyone
A review of the contenders from the past, reveals that these Global Read Aloud books are copyrighted. I do not know if the authors or publishers said it was OK for people to record them as audio books then share them online. Another concern is that the increasing profits book authors make from commercially producing audiobooks (e.g. Audible).

Public Domain or Copyright-Free Books Wakelet

To satisfy the first item, I created a list of websites where folks could find public domain or copyright-free books that could be read aloud. You can see the Wakelet collection below:

Copyright Issue?

The problem is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). My understanding is that recording a copyrighted book into audio format is a violation of copyright. However, on reading The School Library Journal article, I came away with a different perspective. Here's the money quote:
The fact that hundreds of storytime performances can be found on YouTube and Facebook gives you an indication that the risk is low, and more significantly, a lot of people do not think that digital storytime is against the law. The public's behavior shapes the law and how we interpret it. 
Yes, a rights holder could sue a librarian for reading on YouTube. A rights holder can decide to sue whomever they want. But this is ridiculous—who would sue a library or teacher for digital storytime? The case would be thrown out of court. The rights holder that brings the lawsuit would look despicable and get bad press. 
So, my gut reaction may be wrong. It was based on a more restrictive use of copyright. Ok, so maybe I was looking at it from a Tech Director perspective, worried about dragging a school or staff in a problematic situation.

Wait, Was I Wrong or Right?

However, reading the comments on the SLJ article reinforces my stricter interpretation of copyright. Since I'm not a lawyer, I only try to offer suggestions that align to best practice. 

Some comments on the SLJ article from August, 2019:
  • Giving away a whole book to the world on YouTube, or even on a school intranet, is theft, plain and simple.YouTube has algorithms to find when you use copyright music. They will soon be able to find you and shut down your channels.At the very least, you should contact the copyright holder to let them know your intentions and ask permission. That is a common courtesy.
  •  For example, the claim that "The public's behavior shapes the law and how we interpret it" after pointing out that, in essence, "everyone else is doing it." It is very true that most people speed on the highway. However, I have not let that "shape my interpretation of the law," and I think that a judge would find my argument that everyone else's speed has changed the law somehow to be quite laughable. Using fair use guidelines, the criteria are not met. One is using the ENTIRE book, not an excerpt, and it does directly negatively impact the market value as it absolutely CAN (and does, for users who do not have access to a print copy or the published audiobook) serve as a substitute for the book. 
I encourage you to read the entire article and comments section. To be clear, The Global Read Aloud is NOT advocating violation of copyright. A quick reading of Pernille's FAQ suggests that this may be a question and answer worth adding to the list.

My Recommendation

My recommendation? Don't record copyrighted books to audio format and share them on the Internet via YouTube or anywhere else. At best, if you do violate copyright of books without author/publisher permission, share EXCERPTS of the books only in a walled garden environment that reflects the "closed nature" of a classroom, such as Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, etc. that only students are allowed to access.

Perhaps, if books are to be recorded, have students create them and then perform them or record them for sharing with the world. That's a better alternative.

Again, The Global Read Aloud program, as it involves synchronous performance, appears to be OK from my limited perspective.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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