I'm learning languages and in my opinion, one way to improve my skills is to read books aloud. Making it a habit would help me with my vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, etc.

I also think there might be some people online who would be interested in listening to books that I read aloud.

Therefore, I wonder, can I read parts of a book aloud online? Could I publish these videos on YouTube? Is that legal? I don't mind reading from older books, as I read those books might be public domain

  • Vince, for help with your vocabulary and grammar, you may find the English Language Learner Stack Exchange helpful (ell.stackexchange.com), as well as possibly the English Stack Exchange (english.stackexchange.com); though for learning English, I would recommend the former. – sharur Aug 27 '18 at 21:43
  • Go to librivox.org where your help will be appreciated. – gnasher729 Apr 27 '19 at 6:48

If the book you read is in the public domain* you should be fine. Otherwise what you are doing is copyright infringement and probably not protected by fair use**.

One of the rights granted to copyright holders is to control derivative works, and transference to different mediums, which is what your recordings would be.

Under US law, whether an instance of copyright infringement is fair use is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, weighing four points:

  1. the purpose and character of one's use

  2. the nature of the copyrighted work

  3. what amount and proportion of the whole work was taken

  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of the copyrighted work

In my non-lawyer evaluation, point 1 depends on what you do in your video (unless you monetize your Youtube video, in which case it is likely to be decided against you), but if you are merely reading the book out aloud, it is unlikely to be in your favor (although it may not be against you as an "educational tool").

Point 2 depends on what is being read, with a informative work (e.g. a textbook) being more likely to be fair use than a creative work (e.g. a novel).

Point 3 depends on how much and what proportion of a work you use; since you are presumably reading a whole book, this would most likely be ruled against you.

Point 4 would almost certainly be decided against you, as you are essentially creating an unauthorized audiobook.

In summary, you can read a book aloud. You can record your reading of it for your personal use. You should NOT upload it to Youtube, or other sharing sites.

*Note that different countries have differing rules on when a book enters the public domain, and since the internet crosses borders, multiple rule sets may apply.

**Technically, even if you had fair use protection, it would still be infringing on the copyright, it would however be legal, as fair use is an affirmative defense.

  • "You can record your reading of it for your personal use." On what legal basis is this allowed, even if the other three factors (1-3) are against your use? Presumably recording it for personal use has no impact on the market, so factor 4 seems to be in your favour. – Brandin Aug 28 '18 at 9:46
  • @Brandin: Copyright is decided on a case by case basis, as is what weight should be given; It is possible that a single factor can outweigh the other three. Also, Factor 1 would also be in the OP's favor if it the purpose and character of their use was "personal", but the OP mentions sharing it on youtube, which would not be personal use. – sharur Nov 26 '18 at 17:13
  • Recording the reading for your own purposes is infringement, since you're making another copy. It's very likely that the copyright owner won't find about it, very likely that the owner won't care about it, and it's exceedingly unlikely that the owner will pursue the case legally, but it's still unlawful. – David Thornley Dec 26 '18 at 18:25
  • Your "technically" is technically wrong; the law is worded such that it's not an infringement. "Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work... is not an infringement of copyright." - 17 USC 107. – D M Apr 25 '19 at 22:39

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