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I provide an audio transcription service, for which I charge according to the audio length. Mostly I receive either audios or videos that have been produced by the person or organisation that sent me the material to be transcribed, so the copyright is theirs on both the source and transcript. No problem.

Sometimes, however, I get asked to transcribe material that is publically available online (e.g. podcasts or YouTube videos), and not owned by the person requesting the transcript. The transcript may or may not be for the requestor's personal use.

Is it illegal for me to transcribe this sort of material? I understand that a transcript of a podcast or video is a derivative work, and only the copyright owner can authorise creating a derivative work.

Thanks.

  • Are you doing something that you are not permitted to do, with that action being illegal if done without permission? Yes? Then yes, it's illegal. – Nij Mar 13 at 4:13
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"I understand that a transcript of a podcast or video is a derivative work, and only the copyright owner can authorise creating a derivative work."

You've answered your own question, at least for the US and Berne Convention (Wikipedia) signatories.

  • The Berne Convention also includes a number of specific copyright exceptions, and many countries signed the Marrakesh VIP Treaty. I assume if the transcription is based on such exception, it is fine? – wimh Mar 14 at 18:38
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A transcript is pretty much the very definition of a derivative work. The 4 tenets of fair use in the US are:

  • the purpose and character of your use
  • the nature of the copyrighted work
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market.

The purpose and nature of your product is a commercial sound-to-text transcript, so a text.

The nature of the work you work on is a copyright protected work of art or expression.

The amount is the totality of the work.

A Transcript is a usurpation of the potential market the original producer might have: video transcripts are the basis for translations.

In this case, all the factors weigh against the transcriptions, especially the commercial aspect and the market usurpation.

So in fact, yes, it is copyright violation.

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