Copyright issues in Audio Books

Authors of original work in any form have copyright protection and audiobooks are no exception to this. Section 17 of the Copyright Act, 1957 sets out that the author or creator of work is the first owner of copyright. Copyright includes a bundle of rights such as the right to reproduce, create derivatives, distribute copies, and perform the work publicly. If an audiobook is based on a literary work, the copyrights lie with the author of the literary work since the audiobook is derived from the original literary work. These rights have to be granted by the author to another party in order to create the audiobook. Naturally, the reverse is also true.

If the work was originally an audiobook, it will be protected as sound recording. "Sound recording" means a recording of sounds from which sounds may be produced regardless of the medium on which such recording is made or the method by which the sounds are produced. The copyrights in sound recordings include the right to make any other sound recording embodying it; to sell or give on hire, or offer for sale or hire, any copy of the sound recording; and to communicate the sound recording to the public. The rights lie with the performers and the producers of the audiobook and will have to be transferred to another party that wishes to create a literary version. Copyrights can be assigned through a contract, in exchange of consideration.

Copyright protection kicks in automatically as soon as a work, such as audiobook is created. Registering a copyright, places on record a confirmable account of the date and content of the work so that in the event of a legal claim, or a case of infringement of rights, the copyright owner can produce a copy of the work from an official government source. Another advantage of registering a copyright is that, since India is a member of the Berne Convention, the copyright protection also extends to the over 140 member countries that are members of the Berne Convention. In India, registering a copyright is not mandatory. Exceptions are often granted for circumventing the plagiarism protection tools for research, testing, national security, etc

While more and more people are becoming sensitized with issues of plagiarism and copyright violation, detection of infringement of rights is thornier with audiobooks than with literary medium. There are a number of software to detect plagiarism of text but not much exists to check plagiarism in audiobooks. There exists software to convert audio into text that in turn can be checked for plagiarism. However, to be able to directly check for copyright infringement in audiobooks remains a challenge (perhaps that is a startup idea! ). There is also software that are able to detect the exact music after hearing a few notes so perhaps in the near future we might also see a plagiarism check on audio mediums. To build technology to prevent copyright infringement may go to the extent of preventing copying by robots, etc. but technology will not be able to prevent manual copying.

When an infringement is found, the Copyright Act, 1957 provides for both civil and criminal remedies. Section 55 provides for civil remedies and states that, upon infringement, "the owner of the copyright shall be entitled to all such remedies by way of injunction, damages, accounts and otherwise as are or may be conferred by law for the infringement of a right." The Act also provides for a number of criminal penalties including imprisonment, police intervention, payment of fines, etc.

Author: Vasundhara Bhatia

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