Homemade adaptations

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  • Because I know a bit more about copyright than others at my library, here is a situation that came to my attention today:

    A mother of a special-needs child has acquired published copies of classic and limited vocabulary children's books via donations and library book sales. She and a group of volunteers disassemble each book, laminate (oversize and heavy-duty) each 2-sided page with added verbal and visual cues below each page, and reassemble the "book" into a 3-ring binder containing the original covers in the see-through front and back insert holders. She then donates these adapted materials to libraries who will accept them.

    Here's the description inserted at the end of each book: "Leap Into Literacy is a program designed for children that are pre-readers or for non-verbal children with special needs. Children's books are adapted to enable the children to take part in reading for fun and enjoyment. The books are taken apart and picture communication [symbols with permission from www.mayer-johnson.com] is added. Picture communication backgrounds are colored coded for the parts of speech. Pages are laminated and placed in binders enabling the child to keep the book propped open with ease. Books may also be placed on pedestals for children with fine or gross motor difficulties. The pages are laminated to mimic the stiffness of board books and because they can be easily sanitized for children with compromised immune systems. Page 'fluffers' are added to enable a child to turn the page with less difficulty."

    In a letter explaining these "Leap Into Literacy" books, the mother writes: "Having a child with special needs, I understand the importance of learning, and learning can come from the enjoyment of a good book. By adapting the book, we may give a child an opportunity to handle a book independently. The books can also expand a child's picture vocabulary among many other benefits. My goal is to have adapted books available in all the libraries [in the area] while having an even greater number of books available through the inter-library loan system. ... Since these books are quite unique, families with special needs children are not aware that they exist", [hence, the desire to make them known through libraries' catalogs and holdings].

    When I was presented with a "do you see any [copyright] problems with this?" question, my initial reaction was that anybody is free to tear/cut a book apart and laminate/reassemble it if they so desire. Possibly charging for it might present a problem, but, on the other hand, garage sales and library book sales resell books all the time, so that didn't seem to be a difficulty. This wasn't an actual concern, though, because these were being freely donated. But...

    Then it occurred to me that the added material (the verbal and visual cues added to each page) technically made this an adaptation (a derivative work), because it was no longer the work as issued by the original publisher. I'm very sympathetic to what this mother is trying to accomplish and how she has thought of all the little things for successful use of these materials, but, on the other hand, I'm not sure whether or not the library should accept these 16 books (and more in the future?) which might(?) be considered copyright infringements. Other libraries in the area have accepted these materials, and there was a newspaper article a couple of years ago about this project that this mother was doing for her daughter with cerebral palsy and for other special-needs children. However, "everybody else is doing it" doesn't hold much legal water. We may still go ahead and accept them, but I was curious of the viewpoints of others here.

    So, the ultimate question is, can our library accept these materials to put in our catalog, to circulate, and to interlibrary loan?

    Thanks in advance for comments and advice!
  • Is she breaking the law?

    No one knows unless she gets sued and a judge makes a decision.
    My gut feeling is that what she is doing is covered by fair use, but I might feel differently if I saw the actual source material and the adapted book.

    Four factors of fair use:
    1. Character of use: clearly educational, apparently non-commercial. Supports fair use.
    2. Nature of work: I'd argue that the original works are more factual than creative, but I haven't actually seen the books. Probably supports fair use.
    3. Amount used: I have no idea. It seems like significantly less that 100%. Apparently supports fair use.
    4. Market effect: None. As far as I can tell, the books are assembled from legally purchased originals, not duplications. You could argue that more books are sold because of this project. Supports fair use.

    Without actually seeing the material, this appears to be fair use to me. If it is fair use, then the first sale doctrine allows you to catalog, circulate, and interlibrary loan the book.

    I hope that helps.
  • [quote=AFry]Four factors of fair use: 2. Nature of work: I'd argue that the original works are more factual than creative, but I haven't actually seen the books. Probably supports fair use.[/quote] A couple of the books are nonfiction (such as "The zoo book" and "What's under the sea?"), but most are fiction ("Hop on Pop", Clifford the red dog stories, Disney's "Snow White", etc.). [quote=AFry]Four factors of fair use: 3. Amount used: I have no idea. It seems like significantly less that 100%. Apparently supports fair use.[/quote] The whole book is used; to my knowledge, nothing is omitted (including the covers). The only difference is that 4 symbols and the associated words from the original page are added below every original page that has textual content along with illustrations (for example, nothing is added to the verso of the title page, since this is not part of the story).
    Without actually seeing the material ...
    We don't have scanning facilities, nor do I think photographic images are permitted here (since "(img) tag: off" appears in the administrative settings for the editor software used in this forum), so here is a rough drawing of what a typical "adapted" page looks like (ignore the word "Code" since that is the only way to obtain monospacing): [code],-------------------------------------, | clear laminate | | O | | ,-----------------------, | | | | | | | | | | | original | | | | | | | | page | | | O | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | '-----------------------' | | ,-----------------------, | | | added material | | | '-----------------------' | | O | | | '-------------------------------------'[/code] Does this additional information help with the uncertainties?
  • I'm sorry; I completely misunderstood what she is doing. I thought she was taking excerpts from several books and assembling it into a compilation. I had a lot on my mind at the time and was probably trying to do too much at once.
    Does this additional information help with the uncertainties?
    Yes, but there will always be some uncertainty unless she is sued and a judge makes a decision.
    "Hop on Pop", Clifford the red dog stories, Disney's "Snow White", etc.
    Factor 2 opposes fair use.
    The whole book is used
    Factor 3 opposes fair use. I believe that 1 and 4 still support fair use and in this case, I think 1 and 4 trump 2 and 3. However, I think fair use may be irrelevant in this case. Let's consider a different scenario. The first sale doctrine allows you to circulate books that were legally obtained. This also explains the garage sales and library book sales. If I check out one of your books, highlight the important passages and add margin notes, you are still able to legally circulate the book regardless of whether or not either you or the copyright holder gave me permission to alter the book. You could legally sell the altered book. Here's another scenario. We legally create hardcover compilations of magazines. We could legally circulate those bound volumes. We can donate or sell those bound volumes. I don't see enough alterations in the special needs versions to call those versions derivative works. They certainly aren't the original versions, but the material protected by copyright is unaltered. Bottom line: I don't think you need to worry. Sorry about the confusion.
  • If the communication symbols added can themselves qualify as original authorship, and the fact that they are used with permission suggests that they can, then an adaptation of another original work so as to incorporate those symbols does seem to meet the definition of an derivative work from section 101 of the copyright act.

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