We recently received an interesting question via our website from Anthony about audio book copyright. I decided to answer it in a blog post as it may be relevant to others.
Anthony’s question about audio book copyright
I would like to know if a company that sells audiobooks has the right to copyright a book.
For example, someone posted an excerpt from a book called (pardon the language) “Go the F*** to Sleep”. They posted it on YouTube and Audible told them to take it down.
Since Audible only sells the audio book and it is also sold by other sources, are they able to claim copyright on it? Or shouldn’t the copyright only be with
A: The Writer of the book,
B: The reader of the Audiobook,
C: The publishing company for the actual book or
D: The publisher in charge of creating the audiobook?
Audible is just a retailer and should not have the right to claim copyright on materials they sell. Am I correct or am I incorrect?
Although the author will have copyright on the content of the book, (i.e. the words) it is possible for others to have copyright on different aspects of the book including artwork and audio narration.
In terms of an audio version of the book, unless the author / publisher get the studio and producer recording the book to sign an agreement to the contrary, the audio producer is the copyright owner of the audio. I cover this in more detail here “Copyright in Audio Book Recording & Production“.
Typically book publishing companies will make sure that they document and buy-out certain rights from the audio book production company.
In the case of Audible, although I don’t know the specifics of their agreement with the authors / publishers I do know that they sanction the recording of many of the books and therefore will most likely own the copyright in the audio book version. Under these circumstances they would have the right to say it can’t be used.
Audible strictly control how their audio can be used. As an Audible customer I know that they use DRM which makes life more complicated for honest subscribers like me. Their .aa format is their proprietary audio format which makes it impossible for me to burn CD’s of books I purchase and I have to authorise every device to play it. In my experience Audible’s software lacks flexibility with their DRM dictating the way you listen to their audio. Sorry, a different matter but one that really irritates me.
Anyway, back to the original question. The only way around this that I can see is to get permission from the author and publisher to create your own audio version. This way you can make sure that you have all of the production copyrights and do what you want with the audio.
I guess you could also contact the books author and publisher to see what their view is. Often people are grateful for the exposure and will be happy to allow part use of their material. Assuming that they have control over all of the copyrights.
Please feel free to contribute your comments and opinions.