Is it legal to start a business off of reading books or articles to clients or in public, that you didn’t write but that you bought from a store or read online?

I have some great old, new and obscure books that I know people would love to listen to. I’m just afraid of violating some sort of intellectual property law, copyright infringement law and or other law that I don’t know of and get sued for it. Is this a legal way to make a living; small to medium scale size business?

Asked on October 4, 2014 under Business Law, South Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, copyright includes the right to control derivative or adapted works as well as performances, so you could not perform another's copyright work for pay or compensation without the rights holder's permission; if you did perform it without permssion, you would be in breach of copyright and could potentially incur liability. Of course, certain old works may be in the public domain now (i.e. not copyrighted), and those you could perform in the manner you describe. For example, you could safely read many older editions of Poe, H.G. Wells, or Verne.

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