All About Ownership: How to Prove You Own Your Audiobooks!
If you write a bestseller and it traverses the world, finding its way into the hands of millions of readers, you will most likely choose to have an audiobook made, right? Right! Because how else will you be able to capitalize on the reach of your work in the age of podcasts?
Where the issue arises is similar to someone stealing the actual content of your manuscript. What happens if hundreds of people create an audiobook of your bestseller and sell it online? Is that audiobook copyright infringement? Do they need your permission?
There can be many reasons people decide to make an audiobook: Firstly, they didn’t need to spend any time writing the content, and speaking was just easier. Or they saw this as an opportunity to translate the content into another language and sell it publicly.
But no matter the reason you want to make an audiobook, you must follow a few legal steps and comply with the required documentation. That is, if you don’t want to risk being imprisoned and fined.
We are going to delve into who can create an audiobook for work that you have written, some of the legalities associated with it, as well as processes that need to be followed should someone want to make an audiobook of your work.
Proving Ownership of an Audiobook Through Audiobook Licensing
Proving ownership of an audiobook is very similar to proving ownership of an ebook. Most of the time, they use the same copyright protection laws, but there are different parts of those laws for ebooks and audiobooks.
Some ways you can show ownership are through documentation or a trail of dates showing communication between the voice of the audiobook and you as the author. Remember, you can never have too much evidence!
Before we jump into that, let’s discuss the topic of who can create an audiobook. In short, everyone can! This is to say if the content you're sharing is entirely your own. Otherwise, you will need permission from the original author.
You see, this is where the problem comes in. Many people who want to make a quick-ish buck or two will read a book into a microphone—call it an audiobook—and start selling it, thinking they own the rights to the audiobook because they voiced it.
This could not be farther from the truth!
It does not matter if more than 200 people have created an audiobook from the same piece of writing if they are not the author or have permission from the author to create the audiobook.
Let’s explain why the entire process is illegal:
When an author writes their own manuscript, they achieve copyright over its use in all shapes and forms, including audiobooks. This is written in Section 17 of the Copyright Act, which was passed in 1957.
Some similarities can be seen between proving ownership of a manuscript and an audiobook through this law and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), if needed.
Basically, because an audiobook is derived from the original set of literature, it cannot be presented as another person’s individual work! Thus, only individuals approved by the author to create an audiobook will be able to do so.
What Information Do I Need to Legalize an Audiobook Agreement?
If you have decided that you are going to partner with someone and have them create an audiobook for your masterpiece, that’s great! You want to ensure that the process of approving the third party to create the audiobook cannot be easily reproduced.
To deal with this, we suggest that you have a core set of copyright elements that are in all of your agreements. This can include, but is not limited to, the following ways to prove who wrote a book:
- A copyright symbol, which is either a generic use of the classic “©,” or a completely unique symbol that could even be your business's logo.
- Both the year of the original content’s publication as well as the expected date of audiobook publishing.
- The names of all the parties involved in solidifying the agreement. This will include the original author, their publishers, as well as the producers and performers of the audiobook.
- When recording the audiobook, the performers could include a rights statement either at the beginning or at the end. This statement could just say that permission was obtained for the publishing of the audiobook by the original author.
- Explicitly stating in the agreement that only the names of the performers will legally be able to voice the original content.
It is important that the original author keep a record of all the agreements made regarding having their content used in audiobooks, magazines, and any other short-form content. This event remains true when you find yourself proving ownership of a self-published book!
This way, you know exactly who you have given permission to and who is taking their chances, thinking you will not figure them out!
What if the Original Content Was an Audiobook?
If the audiobook is not based on a book that has already been published, and it is the first time the content has been heard in public, it will be protected as a sound recording.
No matter how the audiobook is made, the copyrights will stay with the producers and performers.
What happens if a second company wants to make an audiobook based on the same content? Well, they can buy the rights and have them legally transferred over. It is in this way that they can create a different version of the original audiobook.
What to Do When You Suspect Your Content Has Been Plagiarized?
Before we can figure out how to handle a case of plagiarism, we need to put a few things into context. The first is whether you have authorized the creation of an audiobook, and yet a lot more that you have not authorized begins to appear online.
The second concern is whether you have not authorized any performers or producers to generate an audiobook, and yet you have discovered your content narrated online. Not to mention that it isn't from the desired voice!
Confronting the Perpetrator and Instituting Legal Action
Proving ownership of an ebook or even dealing with copyright registration for books is a lot simpler than confronting a perpetrator who has illegally created an audiobook of your content.
For one, you need to confront them and state the legal infringements that they have committed. If you are lucky, they were just being oblivious and didn’t know the audiobook wouldn’t belong to them.
However, if they are seasoned thieves skilled in plagiarism in whatever form, a mere email may not be enough. Luckily, you are given the choice as to whether you want to remedy the situation by creating a civil or criminal charge.
Usually, one would start with a civil lawsuit and demand that not only should the content be removed but that you, as the original author, be given all the money that was made from its sales. After all, the content is yours, despite whose voice was used.
If you are still getting resistance from them, then opening a criminal case could be the next step. This will lead to fines being imposed on them and, depending on the extent of the plagiarism, a jail sentence!
There are many questions running amok on the internet. Some of these include, “Can I make an audiobook of someone else’s book?” and “Is making audiobooks illegal?”
These questions are all valid, especially for people who don’t necessarily have a background in law, politics, or legislative studies. Even if you don’t like what you find regarding publishing an audiobook, you will need to adhere to what the law says!
Simply put, with the permission of the original author, you can create the perfect audiobook. Without the permission of the author, the short answer is that it is definitely illegal!
Why not see this as an exciting opportunity to maybe write your own manuscript and create an audiobook for it? That is, if you stumbled across this blog wondering whether you would legally be able to voiceover another author’s work!