Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Converting Textbooks to Audio Books and Copyright Issues

I have been showing folks how to scan textbooks and other materials into text files and use a text reader to allow students with print disabilities access to the text with audio support. Steven Timmer of Premier Literacy and also a representative from Kurzweil 3000, both demonstrating products that scan text and read, have developed their products based on allowing students to access the textbook. They have told me that if a book has been purchased for a student and you are scanning a section of it for digital access by that student only, you are fine. You have a one-to-one connection between the book and the student it was intended for. But is that true? How do I know? I guess the fact that they are both still working and their companies have not been closed and the developers have stayed out of jail means something!
In a similar vein, I have been told that if the above-mentioned selection is posted on the Internet for a student and the access is password protected for the student it was intended for only, you are not in violation of copyright and are protected under education and fair use.

When we identify and get documentation of a medically certifiable disability, then we most definitely have an allowance for the adaptability of copyrighted text for that student, but with those that are borderline or just have struggles with reading their books, what can we safely do?
I took it one step further with the Odiogo text to speech reader and Mp3 download tool. Odiogo works great for getting my blog posts out there for folks to read or to download like a podcast to listen to - but what about copyrighted text? And Odiogo has emailed me and told me that when a blog is closed, their feed doesn't work - this means in order to use the scanned text files with Odiogo, I have to open up the blog to anyone - and then I am in risky territory.

I found a great article from UC Berkley that contains links to sites with explanations about copyrighted teaching materials in the classroom. They share "Four Factors" regarding fair use in U.S. copyright law:
1.) The purpose and character of the use; 2.) The nature of the copyrighted work; 3.) The amount and significance of the portion copied; 4.) The impact of use on the potential market.

The article states:
"No guidelines have been established nationally or at the University for fair use in electronic media. The University adopted guidelines in 1986 for the reproduction (photocopying) of copyrighted works for teaching and research purposes, and these could be consulted for general parameters."
I read through their information and would recommend their piece on fair use on the web and web rules of thumb.

I am trying to be careful that I am not teaching anyone to do anything that violates copyright. This means that I need to research and know what I am doing. My understanding of the guidelines seems to allow for a section of the text to be behind a password protected area or firewall for teacher and student access only. UC Berkley said in the report above: "If access is limited through passwords or firewalls to only faculty and students, your fair use argument will be stronger."

I have been shown a way to convert Mp3 files of e text without publishing it on the Internet to do the conversion where it would violate copyright. I have also been able to use tools to do it where it is free as well. I will be sharing this in a tutorial/post as we continue to explore fair use, web use of text and copyright issues. I will also be including this process in a workshop I will be presenting in Minneapolis, MN for Closing the Gap on October 17, 12:30 to 1:30 PM. If any of you are going to be attendinig, come say hello and give me some moral support - my first national conference presentation!

All the best to you!


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Susabelle said...

As an adaptive technology specialist whose main work is to produce alternate format, I use my favorite phrase:

"Equal access trumps copyright any day."

We use good-faith attempts to get publisher permission, but even if we don't get it, we go ahead and produce the alternate format.

I will be discussing our policies and methods at the Accessing Higher Ground conference in Boulder, Colorado, in November of this year.

Lon said...

Thanks for your comment. I would love to hear your presentation. Any chance of sharing it after the fact -a link to your notes or a summary of it with us? Sounds great. Good philosophy!

Susabelle said...

I believe that most of the presentations will be at least audio-taped, if not video-taped, and be available on the Accessing Higher Ground website after the conference.

Also, I'm producing a manual regarding how we do things here, it will be available to anyone who wants it after the presentation; I may even consider offering it online for free as an eBook (still working on that).

Ant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ant said...

If I may be a bit duplicitous in my comments here.
I work in Australia sourcing material to be converted for students with a print disability.
For us in the Higher Education sector, we are completely covered by our Copyright law.
I can't say I entirely agree with Susabelle's view of "Equal access trumps copyright," because the thing to bare in mind is that someone put time and effort into writing the texts and by unfairly copying the material, you are potentially depriving the author of income.
However, one of my colleagues points out that the rest of the student cohort can walk into a library and borrow the book, whereas a blind student may not be able to.
Unfortunately, supporting anyone with a disability cannot be reduced to such a finite ethos as "Equal access trumps copyright," because inequality will stem from that, too.
Now, to flip back to being in support of Susabelle, we too aim for good-faith from publishers within a reasonable amount of time. We will still format the text with or without their support, however. Although, often the book is purchased by the student or by us.

Lon said...

It seems that we must serve our students with disabilities and do our best to juggle needs and issues like copyright. I know if I have a student with a certified medical disability I am covered - the Chaffee admendment takes care of that - my concern is for all the students that struggle in school and need the supports too.
Thanks for your perspectives. They give us important ideas to ponder.

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