Duplicating children's readalongs and other tapes and CDs

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  • Can a public library legally make replacement copies of audiotapes or CDs that it has purchased? The scenario is that an audiobook tape or CD is returned damaged by a patron or is simply worn out after multiple circulations and the library owns another copy of the same item. I would assume that the library is expected to purchase a new copy at that point. Some have told me duplicating is a "fair use" since the library already owns multiple copies of the item.

    Is it dependent on how much of the total work is damaged? A children's readalong, for example, generally has a book and one tape/CD. Is it legal to create a replacement for the tape which would constitute half of the work? How about an audiobook where 1 tape/CD out of 12 is damaged? These are not obsolete or out-of-print items.

    Thanks for any help and references to print sources that discuss this.
  • Carrie Rusell's Complete Copyright, link to the right, covers these situations pretty well. Unfortunately, my copy isn't at home right now so I can't refer to it. ^_^; Here are some thoughts.

    If it's a replacement copy, then you might need to rely on fair use for the replacement. The section 108 exemption for libraries to replace damage or deteriorating copies does ask that the library check if the work is availble "at a fair price." If not, then you can copy it and not infringe copyright. If it is, which you may indicate, then you may have a strong fair use argument. If it's 1 tape or 1 CD out of a collection, then the amount of work copied (which is one of the factors of fair use) may be in your favor. You'll need to do an actual fair use evaluation, though, looking at each of the four factors.
  • Section 108 of the law addresses replacements and the rules are pretty strict.
    If you can buy a copy to replace the original copy and the price for that replacement is fair, you have to buy the new replacement copy.

    If the original copy is in an obsolete format, you can make a copy to the newer format but again only if you cannot buy a copy in the new format for a fair price.

    Maybe (and this is a big maybe) you might want to replace one CD from a 10 CD set and the publisher refuses to sell you one CD and says you must buy the complete set again - some people might argue that this is unfair. Some people might argue that then you can get a copy of the particular CD from another library who has it and make a copy. It would have to be a pretty exceptional situation.

    Of course, you can also consider the four factors of fair use. In your described situation, I would lean towards the unfair side because of the 2nd and 4th factor. The analysis might be different if the item was out of print or in some other way, really hard to obtain.

    Some publishers give discounted replacement prices.
    -carrie r

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