The impending release of the Kindle 2 wireless reading device has been all over the news this week, accompanied by many reviews and commentaries. One response to a new feature strikes me as extreme, however:
“Some publishers and agents expressed concern over a new, experimental feature that reads text aloud with a computer-generated voice.
“They don’t have the right to read a book out loud,” said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. “That’s an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law.”
An Amazon spokesman noted the text-reading feature depends on text-to-speech technology, and that listeners won’t confuse it with the audiobook experience. Amazon owns Audible, a leading audiobook provider.
Source: Wall Street Journal
On one level he is correct: the audio rights, like movies and other adaptations, are derivative and subject to negotiation. However, text reading features are considered an assistive technology, and to attempt to make the output a derivative under copyright law opens a nasty can of worms.
Imagine if reading Goodnight Moon to your two-year-old was considered a “performance” and required permission… that’s how nasty and worm-ridden this can is.
One example of a negative effect of this viewpoint basically involves any website that would sell audio books, including Amazon. How would someone with a visual impairment be able to order the audio book version of a title without using a screen reader? In addition, how would they know whether a website allows for the use, under copyright law, of their own website by someone with a screen reader?
Note that we aren’t discussing audio books, which are derivative works, and are mostly very professionally produced and are meant to enhance the experience of the book, not simply to allow the person to experience it at all.
The argument by the Author’s Guild representative is a nasty legal mess that we should not consider reasonable under copyright law.
found at Open Access News