Q: Cory Doctorow used to have a podcast where he would just read his books out loud. If a gang of enthusiastic fans just recorded themselves reading out the books and put the resulting mp3s online (not for profit, obviously), would we be breaking copyright? If a blind person purchases a book, do they have 'right' to have it read to them?
Publishing contracts often differentiate between recordings for the blind and commercially-produced audiobooks intended for the general market. And certainly nobody can object to a friend or family member reading aloud to a blind person. Just as, say, a parent is perfectly entitled to read a "Harry Potter" book to their kid. But if that parent starts posting recordings of his or her readings on-line, that could be a different story.
Fans producing and distributing their own audio versions seems a little dicey, legally, since, in theory, it could be seen as reducing the potential value of a book's audio rights. Even if those rights are not currently being exercised, the publisher still retains the option to do so at any time.
At least that's my take on it. But I'm no lawyer, nor, just to be clear, am I speaking for Pocket Books or CBS . . . .