Copyright issues for Teddy Bear Automated Childrens Book Reader

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  • We had planned to donate some equipment to several public libraries, but we may have encountered a copyright issue.

    We have Teddy Bears that contain special electronics that enable them to recognize many of the most popular books for children. When a child brings a book to the Teddy Bear, it will say "I know that book, I can read it to you". It will then read the story, which has already been recorded by teachers.

    The Teddy Bears have been very successful at helping children learn to read, especially in classrooms where teachers are overloaded and class sizes have almost doubled. The children are able to use the Teddy Bears independently and have access to more reading activities than ever before.

    We have been told that in the classroom there is no copyright problem when a teacher reads a story to his/her class. We have also been told that the same teacher can use his/her voice in electronic devices such as Teddy Bears in the classroom.

    Our problem is that we are getting conflicting answers about donating these Teddy Bears readers to local public libraries. Since the library is not a classroom and there are no teachers, we are being told that the Teddy Bears may have a copyright problem. The children really want to use the Teddy Bears after school and on weekends. The public libraries seem like a perfect place. We have the extra equipment that we can donate to help the children read, so the cost would be zero, which everyone likes.

    Can anyone provide any advice?
  • This sounds like a creative and fun tool, and it would be great to find a way to make it more widely available. I go into copyright below, but I wonder if you could sidetrack the issue by using commercial audiobooks with the teddy bears? That might be easier and might make the schools and libraries more comfortable with participating. As I see it, you would need to do a fair use analysis. In my opinion only: The purpose would favor fair use in the classroom, but much less so in a public library. The amount (assuming the whole book) would oppose fair use. The nature could go either way, but I'm assuming that most of these books would be fiction, which would also oppose fair use. The effect of repeated, long term use would tend to oppose fair use. This might go the other way if you could demonstrate that you had tried to obtain a commercial audiobook or license, but you could lose that benefit if it later became available. That said, this is just one analysis. Others here may have a different take on this, and you will want to do your own analysis. You can find handy form to help at This is also linked from the Fair Use section of the wiki on this site.

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