16 February 2024

Debunking myths about Audiobook Distribution in Spotify and Findaway Voices updated Terms and Conditions

As an author services company deeply invested in protecting creative rights, Paperback Model (PbM) understands the recent anxieties surrounding Spotify and Findaway Voices’ updated terms and conditions concerning Audiobook Distribution. Social media has been abuzz with claims that these platforms are attempting to “steal” content and exert undue control over creative works. This can be understandably distressing for authors, whose written works often hold deep emotional significance.

However, after conducting extensive legal reviews and consulting with IP lawyers, we at PbM believe the recent uproar stems more from misinformation than legitimate cause for concern. The core distribution licenses focus on technical aspects like reproducing and distributing the audiobook recording, not seizing ownership of underlying intellectual property. Authors retain full creative control over their characters, themes, and fictional worlds.

This blog post aims to set the record straight and provide accurate information to ease author anxieties. We’ll be addressing common concerns head-on, offering clear explanations based on the T&C language, and debunking the myths that have fuelled the online frenzy.

By the end of this post, you’ll have a clear understanding of your rights and the scope of the agreements involved in distributing your audiobook content through Spotify and Findaway Voices. So, take a deep breath, relax, and let’s navigate these T&C waters together.

No, the terms and conditions state that authors retain full ownership of their audiobook content even after distribution on Spotify. The specific language is:

“You retain ownership of your User Content when you post it to the Service.”

So authors maintain ownership of their underlying literary works and characters. Spotify receives licenses to reproduce, distribute, and promote the audiobook content, but the author is still the owner.

The terms do not allow Spotify to legally claim ownership over books or characters. The licenses granted are to the recorded audiobook as a piece of content, not the underlying creative IP. Authors also have the right to request Spotify cease distribution of their audiobooks.

So while the rights Spotify receives are broad in terms of distribution and promotion, authors should feel reassured they are not handing over ownership rights or giving up creative control over future book projects and characters. Let me know if any other questions come up!

No, the terms and conditions do not grant Spotify the right to create unauthorised derivative works like sequels without the author’s permission.

The relevant section states Spotify receives a license for:

“modify, create derivative works from (such as transcripts of User Content)”

While this allows Spotify to do things like create transcripts of the audiobook, it does not permit creating entirely new creative works like sequels to an author’s book. That kind of extensive derivative work that continues the author’s storyline would require separate authorisation outside this content distribution agreement.

So, authors maintain full control and ownership over any potential sequels, prequels, or other future creative projects related to their literary property. Unless the author signs over further rights, Spotify cannot produce new sequels or other books set in the author’s universe without permission.

Based on the terms and conditions, Spotify and Findaway do not have the right to freely use an author’s characters, themes, world-building elements or other creative IP for their own purposes. The license grant pertains specifically to distributing the audiobook recording as content, rather than the underlying literary work.

The relevant portion of the terms state that Spotify receives a license to:

“reproduce, distribute, publicly display/perform, modify and create derivative works from the author’s audiobook content.”

This allows them to share, promote and technically modify the recording. But it does not permit Spotify or Findaway to independently exploit an author’s creative IP and protected literary elements. Those intellectual property rights remain fully reserved by the author unless explicitly agreed otherwise.

Simply putting an audiobook on their distribution platform would not authorise Spotify or Findaway to take characters and freely incorporate them into their own stories, video games, movies, or other media. The author still retains full creative control and ownership over their IP.

So, in summary – no, the standard audiobook distribution terms do not allow those platforms to use protected literary IP at their own discretion without further permissions or licensing agreements.

Here’s a summary of what the terms and conditions allow Spotify/Findaway to do with an author’s audiobook content:

Permitted Uses:

  1. Reproduce and distribute the audiobook recording in order to make it available on Spotify’s platform and third party partner platforms
  2. Publicly display and perform the audiobook, such as streaming it for listeners
  3. Modify the recording itself (e.g. reformat, make technical edits) and create transcripts
  4. Use the audiobook in advertising and marketing materials to promote Spotify’s services
  5. Retain purchased content access for users even if the author later removes the title

Prohibited Without Further Approval:

  1. Claim outright ownership over the underlying literary work and protected IP (characters, world-building, etc.)
  2. Create derivative versions like audiobook sequels or spinoffs that substantively build on the author’s creations

In terms of trusting Findaway/Spotify with an author’s work – they are established distributors used widely in the audiobook industry. Many authors have successfully leveraged their platform to reach more readers without issues.

 

That said, some best practices for protecting one’s rights and mitigating risks include:

  1. Maintaining copyright registration over literary works
  2. Using written publishing agreements for any major licensing deals
  3. Monitoring content distribution and takedown procedures
  4. Securing errors & omissions media insurance

There is an element of business risk, like all partnerships. But Findaway and Spotify offer a major opportunity for monetisation and discovery that authors utilise.

 

Here’s a bitesize version of Spotify/Findaway’s terms and conditions in the Feb 15th update.

Rights Granted to Spotify
– Spotify receives a broad, irrevocable, royalty-free license to reproduce, distribute, publicly display/perform, modify, and create derivative works from the author’s audiobook content. This allows Spotify to distribute and promote the content widely.
– Spotify can continue providing access to purchased content even if the author later withdraws it from distribution.
– Spotify receives feedback and suggestions from authors as a type of User Content that it can use without restriction.

Reservations & Protections for Authors
– Authors retain ownership of their audiobook content.
– Authors can request Spotify cease distribution, but purchased content access continues. Full removal may take over 30 days.
– Spotify has no duty to monitor user content but may moderate or analyse it.
– Authors are solely responsible for the accuracy of their content.
– Pay-out details are covered separately in the Findaway Voices Payment Terms.

Some potential author concerns and questions:
– How much control is retained over distribution channels and business models for their content? Can an author limit geographic or platform distribution?
– How does the derivative works license impact creative control over future abridgements, translations, etc?
– What recourse exists if audiobook content is misrepresented or distributed in modified form without permission?
– How might the class action waiver and binding individual arbitration requirement limit author remedies?

You can find the full Terms of Use here.

At PbM, we understand the anxieties surrounding creative control intimately. After all, we pour our hearts into crafting beautiful cover art, just as authors do with their written works. The potential for misuse based on these T&C interpretations could pose similar threats to our own intellectual property. That’s why we’ve taken the initiative to investigate thoroughly and share our findings. Additionally, while safeguarding creative rights remains our primary focus, we’d also like to remind authors that PbM offers a diverse collection of stunning cover art solutions, meticulously designed to complement and elevate their audiobooks. Explore our extensive library and discover how captivating visuals can further enhance your storytelling journey.

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