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Spoken Language

Jennifer Greenald

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I thought it might be good to share some transcripts of spoken language here, especially as they take so long to create.

I have attached an rtf file with interviews, weather forecast , sport commentaries and monologues which I or my students have transcribed.

Maybe we could share ways of teaching spoken language on here too?

Jennifer Greenald.

Sorry - I did not realise that there were so many copyright restrictions, and have taken the file down. Does anyone have advice on what it is possible to share online? I'm scared now!

Edited by jennifergreenald
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I have attached an rtf file with interviews, weather forecast , sport commentaries and monologues which I or my students have transcribed. Maybe we could share ways of teaching spoken langauge on here too?

Careful! Make sure you abide by copyright.

1. If you transcribe something that is broadcast publicly, e.g. over radio or TV, you cannot disseminate it without getting the broadcast copyright owner's permission. It does not matter whether you offer the material for free or charge for it; copyright always applies.

2. If you make your own recordings, e.g. unscripted conversations with colleagues and/or students, with the intention of disseminating them, make sure that each participant signs a copyright waiver, including a reference to the dissemination of transcripts.

I write from years of experience as former director of a language centre. See the guidelines on copyright that I have written at the ICT4LT site:


Initially the owner of copyright in the words of a recording is the speaker, while the copyright in the recording belongs to the person(s) or organisation(s) which arranged for the recording to be made, e.g. the BBC.

Copyright in written transcripts of interviews, made either verbatim or subsequently from recordings, should be regarded as belonging to the owner of the copyright in the words transcribed.

Basically, you can make transcripts of other people’s recordings for your own use, but you may not disseminate them without their permission. Dissemination via email or via a public website constitutes dissemination.

See: http://www.oralhistory.org.uk/ethics/

There are some concessions for education, which I refer to in my document at the ICT4LT site.

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Jennifer, I just looked at your RTF document. You appear to be on very dodgy ground!

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Guest Andrew Moore

Hi, Jennifer

Copyright can work the other way. There is no need to be alarmed.

For instance, pretty well everything on my Web site is my own original work - and you can use it, adapt it, do anything you like with it.

There are restrictions on what you can do with broadcasts and recordings. But not if you make them and own them, and have the agreement of the participants (the speakers).

Technically the publisher of this forum will be Andy, since he does the stuff that keeps it alive.

The main test for fair use/fair dealing is the economic effect of your actions on the copyright owner. The likelihood of the BBC using effectively licence-payers' money, to sue a teacher or student making non-commercial use of a weather forecast for language study is zilch. They are not going to do it, since they could not show that it has had an adverse effect on something ephemeral that they cannot exploit for their own gain; and they could not recover sufficient damages from you to cover the costs of the action. The worst case scenario is that they would ask you not to do so. Even that is unlikely. Why not write to the relevant department head and ask if it's OK?

My student who made a study of broadcast commentaries for football did just that, and got the agreement/help of various commentators. See:


Another student contacted the broadcaster on a local radio show, and got his agreement to record and transcribe his stuff. Usually the subject is cooperative, enthusiastic and flattered. Don't trash the transcripts you've done already. That's valuable work. Send a copy to the broadcaster, so they can see what you are doing. And ask them to let you share it. They will say yes, in most cases.

Greg Dyke had a very interesting idea - that the BBC should not restrict any third party copying of its output (where this did not belong to someone else), as the person doing this would be effectively helping the BBC fulfil its charter aims, of reaching the maximum number of people.

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  • 2 months later...

Basically, the only safe material that you can share online is: (i) material that you have created yourself as an original work, (ii) printed material that is out of copyright, e.g. texts created by authors that have been dead for over 70 years, (iii) audio/video material created over 50 years ago, (iv) material that has been specifically declared to be in the public domain.

The are a number of copyright concessions for education, e.g. (i) allowing you to make off-air recordings and store them indefinitely, providing your school has bought an ERA licence, (ii) allowing you to make copies of extracts of printed works and use them for teaching purposes, providing your school has bought a CLA licence. See:


But the issue of dissemination is fraught with problems.

I am currently editing a document in collaboration with two colleagues that aims to provide guidance on managing and setting up a digital language lab or multimedia ICT suite. The target audience is mainly MFL heads of departments, school technicians and senior management teams. The document contains a substantial copyright section, spelling out in plain English what you are allowed and are not allowed to do. The document will be published by CILT later this autumn: http://www.cilt.org.uk

Basically, copyright boils down to the question of ownership. Any work that has been created is owned by someone, and they have the right to determine how it is used. You don’t have to register copyright when you create a work; copyright is automatic. What you are allowed to do under the terms of your school’s ERA or CLA licence in your classroom is quite different from what you are allowed to do in the context of a wider, “virtual” classroom, e.g. the Web. If you place materials on a public website then you are publishing them, i.e. making them available for onward distribution. Unless the original material is clearly stated to be free of copyright, or unless it is not covered by copyright legislation by virtue of its age, it is illegal to download, scan or otherwise copy materials for onward distribution, even if no financial gain takes place. It is a common misconception to think that there is an exemption for educational usage. In most countries no such exemption applies, other than certain specific arrangements for research. Nor is it the case that an item is “in the public domain” because it is published on the Web. A work is only in the public domain if it is specifically stated to be so.

The potential penalties in law for breach of copyright are draconian. A copyright owner may go to court to demand that all copies of all works in question are either destroyed or delivered to the copyright owner at the transgressor’s expense, and there are huge financial compensations which may be asked for. Ignorance of the law is never considered as an excuse, and if it could be proven that the transgressor knew that the item was in copyright and that the laws of copyright did not allow for copying, a criminal prosecution could also ensue against the person who did the copying. This is theoretical, however. I am not aware of many cases where draconian action has been taken. I do, however, recall the (true) story of a supply teacher turning up at a school where he was due to replace a teacher on sick leave. On his arrival he collected a pile of work for the sick teacher’s students from the secretary’s office, which he found to contain multiple copies of a substantial chunk from a coursebook that he had written. He left the school immediately, depositing this “evidence” at the local police station. A court case ensued and the school was fined 4000 pounds.

Just recently, two requests from teachers appeared in the Linguanet Forum, asking other teachers to make copies of published audiocassettes and books for them. This is quite clearly illegal, and I sent an email to the Forum indicating that they were on dodgy ground. Shortly afterwards, the author of the audiocassettes and the publisher of the books sent their own warnings to the Forum. Moral of this story: If you publish on the Web you never know who is watching you! There is a new profession, the copyright bounty hunter, that makes a living doing this, and there are software packages such as Cerberus and Eve2 that can scour the Web searching for plagiarised texts. See:

http://www.didascalia.be/cerberus.htm (bottom of the page)


A word of warning about “adaptation”. Adapting a work without permission, with or without acknowledgement, when it comprises something other than a quotation of a small part, may well infringe the copyright and “moral rights” of the owner. Finally, care should be taken about cross-referencing to other works, such as a website address with a hyperlink. This may not always be legal without permission.

As a general rule of thumb, always ASK the copyright owner for permission to disseminate their work. Many public bodies and publishers are quite generous, providing you make clear precisely what you intend to do with their material. I recently approached the BBC for permission to include a screenshot of one of their Web pages in an article I am writing for Elsevier. The BBC replied with an immediate "yes" and they do not require a fee, providing full acknowledgement of the source is given. Elsevier, in turn, insists on such permission being confirmed in writing.

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The main problem with broadcast material is that the broadcaster may not actually own the rights to it and therefore cannot give permission to someone else to disseminate it further. Two of my former colleagues, both teachers of English as a Foreign Language, thought it would be a good idea to produce a book on watching the news for EFL students, consisting of transcripts, worksheets, vocab lists, etc, accompanied by video recordings of authentic news broadcasts. They found a publisher who was willing to publish the book and set about taping news broadcasts and producing the materials that would be contained in the book. After they had been working on this project for some time, they sent the recordings and the first sections of the book to the publisher. The publisher immediately asked if they had sought permission from the appropriate sources to disseminate the video recordings, to make the transcripts, etc. They hadn’t, so they immediately set about this task. It wasn’t that easy, however. When they approached the TV companies they would often be referred to a news agency that sold them the rights to broadcast the material – and often for a limited period. The news agency would often refer them to a free-lance team that had produced the film – and so on. Finally, they gave up and just wrote to ITV asking them for a selection of broadcasts over which ITV had copyright and restricted themselves to these materials. In other words, it makes more sense to work the other way round: find out what you are allowed to use first rather than leaping in blindly and getting in a mess over copyright.

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  • 2 weeks later...

phew graham -

I dare say you have some interesting things to say - but my repsonse to your lengthy posts has started to be a "total blank" - to be frank - to totally ignore you -

which can't be the effect you are seeking!

Surely a man with your IT skills can find a way to write all of these issues up into a SEPERATE web page and then just post links to the relevant bits, so that ppl could CHOOSE to go to it - and browse through all the sections you feel are important, rather than throw your big fire-blanket over every discussion you enter?

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Surely a man with your IT skills can find a way to write all of these issues up into a SEPERATE web page and then just post links to the relevant bits

I did that a good while ago:


which was in response to numerous queries that arose in the course of producing and managing the ICT4LT site.

In addition, in collaboration with two colleagues I am writing a document that contains a substantial section on copyright (written not by me but by one of my colleagues). This will be published later this autumn, probably at the website of the Centre for Information on Language Teaching (CILT).

Sorry for the long rambles. It's not easy to be succinct when discussing this complex subject, and some of the anecdotes are not the kind of thing one posts at a website. Most of the rambles have been pasted in from the above two sources, which I thought would be more convenient. People tend not to follow up links to other sites in my experience.

I have been admonished elsewhere for being a bore, so I promise to shut up, take my dog for longer walks and play more golf!

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Chris writes:

You have a great deal to say which is interesting - but do you have to say it on every post?

Incipient senility, I guess, combined with trying to keep too many balls in the air at one time. I often forget what I have said and where I have said it. This worries me sometimes.

Chris writes:

You should learn from us women, I suspect. You men really do need to learn from us. After all, we have a whole history of being ignored by men...

I could never ignore my (loving) wife. You ignore a Belfast girl at your peril!

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