With the advent of the Internet, copyright has suffered. Students plagiarize papers, authors find their own work transcribed online so people can read it for free instead of buying their books. (Aforementioned author Harlan Ellison waged a multiyear battle with America Online because of a copyright violation in a Usenet group, which was settled in 2004.)
Michael A. Stackpole, who podcasts chapters from his novels, acknowledges that Internet piracy is a problem. "Piracy is always a threat," he says. "We see folks scanning and posting books all the time, and it's really tough to get them to stop. Some folks just don't regard copyrights as legitimate, so they violate them on purpose or out of ignorance."
There is the matter of "fair use," allowing you to quote a portion of a copyrighted work without permission for the purpose of commentary or criticism. The keys here are that the quote can't be a "substantial" part of the work, and you must attribute the source. The problem with this is people are often confused about exactly how much they can quote, and an author can take someone to court to challenge the use of their material. For more information, check out the following "copyright and fair use" site from Stanford University:
When it comes to podcasting the written word, keep plagiarism and copyright in mind. You cannot read something that belongs to someone else on a podcast without permission. It doesn't matter if you are honoring the author, if you're convinced that it will help the sales of the book, or if you're just trying to be a good fan. It's not yours to podcast, and you can get into trouble if you continue to do so. Even worse, if you attempt to make money through donations or advertising while releasing copyrighted material, you could get into more trouble.
It is never okay to violate copyright. We can't stress this enough. Always podcast work that falls under one of the following:
Serialized audiobooks and stories comprise a very popular section of podcasts, but this is also one of the more dangerous areas to deal with if you disregard copyright. If the stuff you're writing isn't yours, make sure it's in the public domain or published under the Creative Commons license, which we discuss in detail in Appendix B.