[Milton-L] Areopagitica audio reading on iTunes

David Ainsworth dainsworth at bama.ua.edu
Fri Sep 4 15:21:10 EDT 2009

Thanks for the warning, Jason.

The works themselves are in the public domain and readily available. 
Copyright will most limit the recording of Milton's Latin prose:  I 
doubt many students will benefit from hearing the text in Latin, and any 
translation will have rights issues unless it has passed out of 
copyright.  (De Doctrina Christiana, for instance, would need to be read 
in the Sumner translation unless I can win approval for a different 
edition.  I could offer any press 100% of the proceeds, which will be zero.)

I can't see much likelihood that any of us will want students to use the 
iTunes readings as a replacement for actual text, and unlike many of the 
books available in Kindle editions, there's no sign of a viable market 
for audio-book versions of these texts which would lose money to a free 

I am now, however, imagining an elaborate charade to convince some 
litigious press to generate their own variorum to Milton's prose simply 
so that they can establish which edition was used to generate a free 
reading in preparation for a lawsuit.

It might be interesting to swing a deal with the publisher of a specific 
edition of Milton's prose to use their edition, in the expectation that 
anyone teaching the prose and using the audio versions would find it 
most convenient to assign the edition matching the audio to students. 
I'll consider that once I have some numbers to offer a press about how 
popular audio versions would be with students (or with anyone).


Jason Kerr wrote:
> I also love this idea, and as it happens at least one venue exists for 
> making collaborative audio versions of works in the public domain: 
> librivox.org <http://librivox.org>. Some Milton materials, including 
> Areopagitica, are already available.
> The trick here will be navigating the "public domain" issue, which would 
> seem to preclude using the Columbia, Yale, or any subsequent editions 
> (unless they were licensed in a way that permitted the free [as in beer] 
> distribution of audio versions, which seems unlikely--even the Creative 
> Commons license for the Milton Reading Room at Dartmouth seems to 
> preclude this). The obvious solution is using a pre-1923 American 
> edition. (I don't pretend to know anything about the British or any 
> other system of public domain, not to mention the status of works 
> preserved in images on EEBO.)
> Of course, someone with a stronger legal head than mine will probably 
> have a clearer sense of the issues here. All I know is that the law in 
> this area is currently quite contentious--witness the flap about the 
> Kindle's capacity to read books out loud, on which see:
> http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/opinion/25blount.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=roy%20blount&st=cse 
> <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/opinion/25blount.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=roy%20blount&st=cse>
> I don't mean to suggest that this fine enterprise is doomed; I just want 
> to enjoin due legal caution, which, for all I know, David Ainsworth has 
> already exercised.
> In the spirit of the long legal tradition of ensuring that one's own 
> personal hindquarters are securely covered,
> Jason Kerr

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