Storytime Online: Copyright Infringement?

Reading to the children during Gardening Storytime.“Reading to the children during Gardening Storytime.” by San José Public Library is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

With the emergence of covid-19 and social distancing, many libraries have been forced into virtual programming in order to provide library services as their doors remain closed. For most, this means Storytime has moved online, whether through Facebook Live, Zoom meetings, or YouTube videos. While virtual may prove to be great for reaching the community, it seems there may be some issues with copyright infringement. 

Copyright infringement is the use of intellectual property without permission from the creator/copyright owner. Although fair use does allow use of original work without permission under certain circumstances, online Storytime could go against the guidelines for fair use defense. The guidelines, although vague, state that there are four factors considered when determining fair use. These factors are purpose, nature, amount and effect. 

What purpose is the work used for? In this case, online Storytime serves to provide educational services, which is allowed under fair use. Storytime programs are not used for monetary gain since the library’s do not charge for the service. However, nature, amount and the effect are questionable. The nature of the work is typically that of fictional, the amount is obviously the whole work, and if posted online that work can be watched by viewers multiple times thus having a significant effect on the market value of the book being used. After all, many people won’t want to purchase the book if they can read or view it online for free. According to a guest contributor at ALSC Blog, many publishers have given temporary permissions to use their books during Storytime with some limitations amidst the covid-19 pandemic (2020). 

Other things to consider for Storytime is the use of music which may be copyrighted as well. Sarah Ostman at the ALA Public Programs Office says adding music to Storytime could violate the rights of other copyright holders (2020). Finding music that is licensed for use, is public domain, or obtaining permission is best for avoiding copyright infringement. 

So, as you can see, it can be a bit challenging for librarians to ensure they’re following copyright’s fair use. In order to follow the guidelines for fair use, Libraries should obtain permission for fictional books and limit the timeframe that videos are available for Storytime after posted online for viewing.

ALSC Blog. (2020, May 2) Pausing to talk about copyright and virtual storytimes. https://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2020/05/pausing-to-talk-about-copyright-and-virtual-storytimes/

Ostman, S. (2020, March 24). News: Online story time & coronavirus: It’s fair use folks. Programming Librarian. https://programminglibrarian.org/articles/online-story-time-coronavirus-it’s-fair-use-folks

Author: BookaholicBrittany

Hi my name is Brittany and I’m a Bookaholic. I read about 300 books a year! I’m also a nature lover and environmental science enthusiast. I’m a full-time student earning my degree in Library Science, a mommy of four, and a proud military spouse. My life can be chaotic, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. ❤️

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