What is Legal and What is Right?

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A couple of days ago someone asked a group I was in about a brilliant idea she had. Apparently she had purchased, or was going to purchase a recording of a lecture given by an outstanding genealogy lecturer, and had the bright idea that she could play this recording in full to her local genealogy group as part of a program. She wanted to know if there was a problem with this.

I responded that she should contact the speaker and ask permission first. Others contended that there was no need as there were provisions under copyright law that allowed for that. A great discussion ensued. Turns out a lot of us do not know much about copyright law, and broadcast law. But surpisingly, the law oriented people would not really acknowledge that is was an ethical issue more than a legal issue. Of course , I took the ethical approach to the problem, because American copyright law is a grat mystery to me.

My position is simple, if the speaker who created the lecture gives permission to play the lecture to the group, then its ok. And if you play it without asking permission its not ok. The lecture is something the speaker can give, it is not something for the group to take. The recordings were made for personal use, not public broadcast.

This time, you probably have an opinion. But this time, listen to your Uncle Ken. Ask, don't Take. Asking permission is the right thing to do.

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3 responses to “What is Legal and What is Right?

  1. Barbara Schenck

    Asking permission is always the right thing to do. And very often you get it. When I was setting up my website, my webmistress suggested we put some music on the homepage in the background. And I was supposed to come up with something the reflected the theme.

    My listening led me to a CD called Cowboy Celtic by David Wilkie that I own. I knew it was copyrighted and, as a writer I’m very copyright aware. So I prowled google until I found a site where he had material online, which gave his email address. I wrote him and asked if he would let me use it for background, and sent him a link to the site. He wrote back almost immediately, gave permission and was delighted that people would hear his music and, perhaps, buy his CD. There is a link to a place to do that where the permission is given.

    Worked out really well for both of us. I would imagine something similar could work for those who give lectures and have them recorded. To be asked for permission validates the importance of your work, says that people think it’s of value, and is properly respectful. To give permission if the circumstances warrant it, can benefit both the group hearing the lecture or part thereof, and also the speaker who may get clients or other paid speaking engagements.

    But it’s only polite to ask!

    check the music — and the permission! — at http://www.annemcallister.com or visit my blog at
    http://www.anne-mcallister.blogspot.com/ (no music there!)

  2. Hi Ken,

    I appreciate your simple yet profound advice – ASK! The discussion sure got bogged down, didn’t it? I learned something from it, too. It seems that experts, whether law, genealogy or some other profession, don’t want to give a “money” opinion sometimes…for fear of being wrong or being sued, I would guess.

    Your opinion is needed: Our society has a number of genealogy videos and CD’s that were collected by purchase or donation. It is evident that we can’t use them in a public group setting for ethical reasons. What about as a “lending library?” A person would check it out, view/listen it, and return it. Ethical? If a member checked it out and invited a few colleagues over to view a video – ethical?

    Many public libraries have videos and CDs that they check out in this manner. I guess I’ll go ask someone in charge if they have to get permission to lend them.

    Some libraries have them for use by patrons at the library – my favorite FHC has a tremendous CD collection. Is that ethical use by your standards, assuming they don’t have permissions?

    Thanks — Randy

  3. Agree with you wholeheartedly, Kenneth, about asking permission from speakers. This also applies in other situations, for example, in using articles for a discussion group.

    That’s another good topic in the last comment–about the library use of CDs/videos. Asking the publisher could be an answer. Some do have conditions for use listed right on their websites. Some give library licenses, if asked.

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