would like to make library cassette tapes into CD's...

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  • Hello all, I work part time at a local library. I love listening to their big collection of books on tape, but unfortunately, that's all they really have, books on TAPE. I very much have the ability to take a cassette tape, record it onto my computer, and create a very nice looking CD from it.

    What i'd like to do is convert all the cassette tapes this library has into CD's, and allow all the library members to have the choice between cassettes or CD's. I'd charge the library to do this, of course, but i think its a very valueable service. I'm ready to go with it, but before i make my presentation to the big muckity mucks, i'd like to figure out what sort of copyright issues i might be running into by doing this.

    ..I figure i should be ok, because the library isn't going to be selling these CD's, just loaning them out. No one is making a profit, except for me who is providing the service of copying the book on tape. There are of course countless services on the internet that take cassette tapes, and other aging sound storage, and transfer them into CD's. I can't figure out what the problem could be copyright-wise, but i figure i should do the research before i get my hopes up!

    thanks for your help :)

  • Hi,

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are several problems with this copyright-wise. The only way that you could do this legally, as far as I can see, is if the copyright owner for those books on tape contracted you to do it or gave you or the library permission -- you can't just go ahead and do it on your own without infringing their exclusive rights to make and distribute copies of their work.

    First of all, those countless services on the Internet that convert analog sound recordings to digital only do this for things that the customer owns the rights to -- they can't legally copy third-party copyrighted materials unless the copyright owner authorizes the copying or unless the copying qualifies as fair use (and fair use would be very restricted for such commercial, for-profit copying).

    You say that no one is making a profit from your proposed copying of the cassettes except you. Well, that's good enough for any lawyer who might be hired to pursue an infringement suit against you. The fact that you're providing a service in exchange for your fee is beside the point -- you're making a profit by exercising the copyright owner's exclusive rights without their permission. Your use would be considered for-profit/commercial, and so the first factor in a fair use analysis (purpose of the use) would clearly weigh against you.

    The second factor (nature of the work copied) would probably also weigh against you, especially if the books on tape were fictional/creative. (Even if they were non-ficition works, the fact that the book is "dramatized" in the reading could reasonably lead one to consider the work highly creative.)

    You'd be copying the entire cassette in each case, I presume, so the third factor (amount copied) is also not in your favor.

    Finally, your copying would have a very definite adverse effect on the market (or potential market) for the work, so the fourth factor is against you. Even if the copyright owner hasn't yet made the tapes commercially available on CD, they could in the future, and if the library has already paid you to copy the cassettes, they wouldn't have any reason to purchase the CD's sold by the lawful owner of the work. This constitutes a clearly adverse effect on the potential market for the work.

    The first sale doctrine, codified in Sec. 109 of U.S. copyright law, allows the library to purchase a copy of a book on tape and loan it out to multiple patrons. It also allows them to sell that copy of the cassette when they've decided they want to remove it from their collection. But first sale is limited to giving, loaning, or transferring ownership of that single purchased copy of the book on tape -- it doesn't allow the library to dub multiple copies and loan or sell those, even when the library is a non-profit public entity.

    If and when the day comes when analog cassette tapes can be considered an "obsolete format," then the library would have some leeway under Sec. 108 to copy the tapes in another format, such as CD's. But even then they would have to meet specific requirements and would be limited in how the copies could be used. I'm afraid the day when cassettes can reasonably be considered an obsolete format is still a long way off, and your question is pretty much a slam-dunk, copyright-wise. (And btw, if you are making your own personal copies, in their entirety, of the cassettes you've borrowed from the library, even that in most cases won't qualify as fair use -- especially (but not only) if those recordings are still commercially available in any format.)

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