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  • I work in a school system that has several books that are on cassettes for kids to take home and listen to. Problem is not having enough of cassette players as most homes do not have this. Can we legally convert the tapes to diskettes so the students can play them on their pc?
  • I think that you will find a lot of disagreement on this issue, even among copyright experts.

    I believe that this activity is legal as long as you aren't using this to increase the number of copies you can circulate.

    I believe this is fair use. Here's my brief fair use determination using the four factors:
    1. Nature of use: educational, in your favor
    2. Character of work: probably creative, not in your favor
    3. Amount used: all of it, not in your favor
    4. Effect on market: difficult to assess

    Here's how I would assess market effect. Honestly answer the following question: how would you resolve this situation if you knew for a fact that conversion is illegal? If your answer is that you would buy new versions, then the market effect may be significant. If your answer is to buy more cassette recorders, then the market effect would be zero. If your answer is to live with the situation as is, then the market effect would be zero. This is all my interpretation. There is no definitive answer.

    Assuming that the market effect is negligible, I think this would qualify as fair use.

    You shouldn't circulate the cassette and the disk at the same time. The easy way to do this is to retire the cassette collection. However, depending on the size of your collection and the use patterns, you may be able to reasonably conclude that the number of simultaneous uses is trivial.
  • I do not completely agree with AFry on this issue. If you retire the cassettes completely, his argument may hold but you cannot circulate both the CD copy and the cassette which would be considered the archival copy. Also, if the same stories are available on CD then what you are doing is changing the medium which is not usually permitted under the four factors. The use may or may not be educational either since you do not tell us if these stories are required reading or for pleasure.
  • I wanted to mention that changing the medium is likely allowed for personal use- Recording Industry Association of America v. Diamond Multimedia Systems, Inc (
    This wouldn't qualify as a personal use, but I thought it worth pointing out.

    I don't know of a case that is very close to this situation.
  • I understood that this is illegal. It is equivalent to photocopying a book because it is worn out. THe only possible exception is if the work is not available in CD and you can assert that cassette players are impossible to obtain at a reasonable cost (this happened back in the Betamax days.)
    For personal use one time OK. For institutional, even educational, use it's a no.
  • I would say that your best bet is to check and see if these books are now available for purchase on CD, and if they are, buy them. Another possibility might be to buy some cassette players and lend those out as well. Even though the kind of reformatting you're talking about doing is educational and not-for-profit, I still think it carries a risk, especially if the books are available for purchase on CD.

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