Preexisting Audio Voice Recordings (non-Musical)

Yale has extensive holdings of taped interviews, oral histories, and performances.  As with artwork, the mere physical ownership of these materials does not imply ownership in such materials’ intellectual property.  It is important to keep in mind that, except in the instance where Yale is responsible for the recording and has cleared the appropriate rights at the time of the recording’s creation or Yale otherwise owns the copyright in the recording, you will need to determine the types of rights to be cleared and secure the necessary permission. 

There are generally two copyrights in audio voice recordings:  copyright in the underlying work recorded (such as a text or script) and copyright in the recording itself (the fixation of sounds).  Even seemingly minor reproductions or arrangements of the original sounds can violate the owner’s copyright in those sounds.

Precisely because there are two copyrights in audio voice recordings, you are free to create a new recording of independently fixed sounds, even if your recording sounds identical to a pre-existing recording.  You will still need to obtain permission, however, to use the underlying work.  For example, if you are fond of a recording of Oprah Winfrey reading a chapter of Alice Walker’s book The Color Purple, you can avoid infringing on Oprah’s copyright by generating a recording of yourself reading that chapter.  Nevertheless, you will still have to get permission from the author, Alice Walker (or her publisher), in order to use your own recording of that chapter in your web-based educational materials.

Summary:  Audio Voice Recordings – Potential Rights Holders/Required Rights

Publisher/Author/Author’s Agent/Author’s Estate (for permission to use the underlying work)

  • Generally, the author of the work (or his or her agent) grants rights to use unpublished text or rights relating to non-text uses of written material (e.g., adaptation, translation, performance).  A good initial first step, however, may be to first contact the publisher to see if it controls the rights in question.

Recording publisher, record company, or other holder of rights in the recording (for permission to use a particular recording)

  • Request written clearance from the entity that holds the copyright to the recording.