Author’s Guild claims text-to-speech software is illegal

Kindle 2′s flagship feature is the reading of text out loud, in the same way as software that’s already built into desktop computers and Prof. Stephen Hawking’s famous voice box. This has caused a “stir.” Paul Aiken, executive director of the Author’s Guild, told the Wall Street Journal that you have no right to use this feature. It’s a free audiobook, see.

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.

Forget for a moment that text-to-speech doesn’t copy an existing work. And forget the odd notion that the artificial enunciation of plain text is equivalent to a person’s nuanced and emotive reading. The Guild’s claim is that even to read out loud is a production akin to an illegal copy, or a public performance.

If a machine reading a book creates a derivative work, why not a person reading a book?

Ideas grow to fill the containers they imply, and the problem with bad ideas is that their containers are leaky and misshapen. Even if you firmly believe in broad copyright laws, intellectual property is a bad idea because it recasts a legal device as its own philosophical justification. This journey from the utilitarian to the exalted creates a sublime monster that can’t help but govern not only the duplication of things, but every aspect of their expression and the culture that makes them meaningful.

[via]

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115 Responses to Author’s Guild claims text-to-speech software is illegal

  1. NickD says:

    As Techdirt would say, this is a classic “violation of a business model,” but not of the copyright.

  2. arkizzle says:

    where else will you get the full-texts of copyrighted works entered into a text-to-sound?

    Bililoquy, you are clearly missing the way this technology works. It is just a text file, available at many many vendors and resellers online.

    The kindle can read aloud ANY text, just like any computer can.

    They’re providing an exclusive service.

    NO. They are not.

    other ebook distributors have shied away from this function for precisely this reason

    No. The other “ebook distributers” don’t sell hardware.
    You can take ebooks (in formats other than DRM’d .lit, apparently) and have the same technology Kindle uses, on any computer.

    Are you getting this yet?

    But say several people pay you fifteen bucks, bring you their copies of the book, you enter the text, and then they come over to listen to it. That’s pretty plainly an illegal derivation.

    Obviously you are half getting it, but this is a huge strawman.
    1) There is no “service”, for turning texts into sound. In truth, it is as if those ‘several people’ own their own powermac, without the need to ask you to do it for $15.
    2) If I was a retailer, I could sell those people the book for $15, and also sell them the powermac. Now what?

  3. EscapingTheTrunk says:

    So Bradbury was right. Those people at the end of Fahrenheit 451? Totally breaking the law.

    I like Valerie’s points re: accessibility. Namely, that accessible features are supposed to be just that, and not involve extra work.

  4. bardfinn says:

    bililoquy:

    “whenever Amazon transforms these works for profit with their machine, Amazon is creating a derivative work.”

    And you’d be wrong. Amazon does not transform the text. They do not profit specially – they provide a generic text-to-speech synthesiser built in to hardware and software which is not specific to the texts they sell. It reads web pages. It reads email. It reads Word documents. They are not providing an exclusive service – The same software functionality is available on every Macintosh computer running OS X.

    Your analogy is flawed – in an accurate analogy, everyone has their own text file of whatever novel, their own PowerMac, and listen to their own PowerMac monotone itself. In your analogy, using the logic of liability for illegal derivation of a copyright protected work you are attempting to put forward, you would be holding Apple liable for selling the text-to-speech synthesis software because the DRM’d non-image text E-Book that you once-upon-a-time authorised and distributed /might/ be piped through the TTS synthesiser.

    Again: Amazon does nothing special to the e-books it sells. They’re text. JUST LIKE THE TEXT YOU ARE READING NOW. JUST LIKE THE TEXT YOU WROTE IN THE COMMENTS.

    If you don’t want Amazon to make money from Kindle sales by offering your written works as available to the TTS synthesis of the Kindle 2, contact your publisher and re-negotiate your contract or make it a stipulation of your future contracts that no textual digital distribution is made.

    You do not get to claim that Amazon is infringing your derivative rights to an audio performance of your written work because they sell a device capable of speech synthesis, any more than a musical artist gets to claim that Apple is infringing upon their derivative rights to a visual performance of their musical work because the Macintosh has the capability of displaying a screen-saver driven by the nuances of the music played, no more than a musical artist gets to claim that Apple is infringing upon their derivative rights to a written record of their musical performance because ProTools has a sheet music transcription plugin.

    The manufacturer of the tool is not responsible for infringing uses of the tool. The tool is not responsible for infringing uses of the tool. Guns do not kill people, neither do their manufacturers.

    Amazon does not transform the texts with their machines. The individual Kindle does not belong to Amazon. It belongs to the end-user whose hands it rests in. They’re not /even/ aiding and abetting – there are clear technological methods for rightsholders and publishers to lock out this functionality.

    It is /not what consumers want/.

  5. arkizzle says:

    If I charge a bunch of people to hear me read a Neil Gaiman story at the local bookstore, I am breaking the law. For a fee (you do buy the Kindle, remember) Amazon transforms copyrighted works in an unauthorized way. They are breaking the law.

    There is nothing I have said that contradicts this. In fact, you have gone to pains to reinforce what I said.. You are charging them (commercial use), and it is in public.

    Also, your powermac example contradicts your amazon example.

    There’s no question whatsoever that you’re free to enter “Old Man’s War” into your PowerMac and listen to the thing monotone at you.

    Just replace the powermac with the kindle and it works fine.

    Seriously, you are flailing now. You aren’t taking in the facts that people are giving you. Take a step back, have a deep breath.

  6. bardfinn says:

    Arkizzle: Clearly, as the retailer who sold them both the E-book and the powermac, you are responsible for the infringing use that occurs. You’re also responsible for the fifteen gazillion pirated .MP3 files worldwide. Infringer. Give me the money my business model seeks for lost potential sales.

  7. Skep says:

    Arkizzle @ 71

    If I charge a bunch of people to hear me read a Neil Gaiman story at the local bookstore, I am breaking the law. For a fee (you do buy the Kindle, remember) Amazon transforms copyrighted works in an unauthorized way. They are breaking the law.

    Love the way you equivocate, falsely comparing **public** performance right to the type of text output used by the Kindle. So, is changing the font from Times Roman to Helvetica a violation of the publisher’s e-Book copyright? How about enlarging the text??? Being able to enlarge the text would preclude publishers from selling Large Print e-books, yet, I suspect, even you are not so fatuous to claim that a separate font size right exist. Text to speech is another way to make the text understandable to visually impaired people–and you want to claim it is illegal to do so, and that it is a separate right. Text to speech isn’t a performance, let alone a public one.

  8. merreborn says:

    Rather than embrace the fact that Amazon has created a new market in which you can sell your products for $9.99 with near-zero distribution costs…

    …Let’s try to legislate it out of existence!

  9. bardfinn says:

    Bililoquy: I’m not misreading copyright law, I am basing my statement off the tenet in United States Copyright Law as embodied in the relevant case law that machines are incapable of copyrights violations — only that humans are; Manufacturers of machines are therefore not responsible for the copyrights violations that /may/ be produced by their end-users.

    Elsewise, Xerox corporation would be liable for massive quantities of copyright violations, every computer, keyboard, router manufacturer would be, every scanner manufacturer would be, every OCR software author would be.

    There would be no VCRs.

    If you have to be a human to legally be held liable for making an infringing copy, then you have to be a human to legally be held liable for making an infringing derivative work – rather than be a tool or a tools manufacturer.

    For your argument to hold legal merit — under US copyright law — you would need to successfully argue that the Kindle is capable of human judgement, as opposed to merely being capable of producing a passable facsimile of human speech.

    Amazon /might/ be liable for manufacturing and distributing a device that — under the DMCA — materially enables the circumvention of a copy-protection mechanism, because the DMCA does not care one whit about the possible legitimate uses of a given device.

    If they had made the Kindle’s speech capabilities to resemble the speech of some particular person, then that particular person might be able to have some action against them. I doubt it would be under copyright law.

  10. bardfinn says:

    We might also be able to demonstrate in a court of law that the ability to produce the phenomenon of intelligible speech artifacts and/or intelligible written artifacts does not constitute proof of humanity. What a lovely down-the-solipsism-rabbit-hole day that will be.

  11. mellon says:

    I’m a bit surprised that people are so interested in this argument. The bottom line is that the Kindle is a specialized device which fails to deliver value for the average reader, largely because of groups like the writers’ guild who feel that they must monetize it to the maximum degree possible.

    My mother has a Kindle because she doesn’t have the use of her left hand, and the Kindle adds value for her. I don’t have a Kindle, because the cost of a book on the Kindle is prohibitive – it is not adding value for *me*, and the value proposition sucks.

    The key issue here is that people like the writers’ guild are trying to make economies work that don’t work. In doing so, they are harming both writers and readers. Would you rather have a product on the shelf, unbought, for $10, or a product in someone’s hand, bought, for $2, when the marginal cost of the product is $0?

    Until they figure that out, there’s really no point in arguing over minutiae like this – we are not arguing over whether or not they should stab us, but whether it’s better that they stab us only once, or twice.

  12. shaynafay says:

    OMG! All those years I sat in those tiny chairs reading book after book to preschoolers – passing along my love of reading and literature. Do I need a lawyer?

    “What would you do if your mother asked you?”

    Dr. Suess
    Cat in the Hat

  13. arkizzle says:

    BILILOQUY

    The guild is sort of totally in the right here. Print rights and audio rights are discrete, sold separately. Amazon wants to distribute full-text audio for profit.

    The issue here is that Amazon is selling audio renditions.

    This is absolutely untrue, or mistaken. Amazon is selling ebooks and texts, the same as every other ebook vendor (and indeed, the same as every blog and website. It’s just text). The audio is rendered at the point of consumption, on the device.. The same as every other computer on the planet that has TTS software installed (including every Macintosh sold since the late nineties).

    So, why is every other e-text source not being taken to task? Why is every other text-to-speech application vendor not being clamped down on? Why now?

    The only consequence of this is that authors will need to be compensated for audio rights. That’s it. That’s not a bad thing.

    But why should authors get paid twice for one product? If they want to produce an audio version, we will see if anyone wants to buy it. If they produce one to the same quality as the Kindle reads, it is unlikely that they will shift a single copy.

    If they produce a version to exploit these precious ‘audio rights’ then they can reap all the benefits that they deserve, but right now, they are selling text, so that is what they should be paid for (eg. there is no extra revenue stream that they are being denied).

  14. Chris Schmidt says:

    @ MYCROFT

    Actually, the Kindle would be great for many “legally” blind people out there. Blind doesn’t always mean complete loss of vision. A device that doesn’t strain eyes, can enlarge fonts, and can read out loud if needed would be perfect for many sight-impaired people out there. Add in the fact that a computer isn’t required and you include a lot of elderly folks too.

    This is nuts.

  15. arkizzle says:

    Yikes, Barfinn’s mock attack and Skep’s inclusion of my name at the top of his diatribe felt like I was being jumped!

    Bardfinn, I’ll renegotiate the TTS contracts with you if you will cede Skep’s Large-Print rights. And we can all share the gold from our upcoming Non-Linear Skimming-mode Experienceâ„¢.

  16. Elvis Pelt says:

    Jeepers. I hope somebody tells Dr. Sbaitso not to speak the text I type into my freaking 286. Oh, wait…

    Also, Author’s Guild? Seriously? The horses have left the barn. You will never match the evil of the RIAA, no matter how furiously you shake your tiny fists.

  17. Anonymous says:

    #51 But the kindle DOESN’T “create a sound recording.” It’s not a recording (or a copy) until it is fixed, and unless you have a tape recorder recording it, it isn’t fixed. The only thing that is fixed here is the original text. The use of the text to speach feature may well constitute a performance, but unless it’s a “public perfromance,” that does not violate any of the rights enumerated in section 106. A private performance in one’s home is non-infringing. Publicly playing it loudly on a streetcorner is probably a violation, as well as rude. In classroom use is permitted under section 110, so there would be no need for a five factors “fair use,” analysis.

  18. arkizzle says:

    Mellon, for me it isn’t even about the Kindle. It’s about what this kind of thinking portends for the future of commercial ebook access.

    It’s just more lock-down bullshit that we all need to fight actively, by not playing with those who would so easily take their ball and go home, just because we were having more fun playing a loose game of catch instead of a rigid game of rules and points.

    Fuck ‘em.

  19. arkizzle says:

    And what if I never use the Read-to-me function. Should I have to pay extra for a regular text file that could potentially become audio at some point?

  20. bardfinn says:

    Skep:

    I would say that the use of the TTS feature of the Amazon Kindle is, in fact, a performance – a synthesised speech performance of a text, by a person, for that very same person, using a tool.

    The argument that the TTS feature of the Kindle, as applied to a copyrighted rights-reserved written text, is an infringing derivative work of the original – is no different than stating that for someone to read the text aloud to themselves is an infringing derivative work.

    The capabilities of the technology do not an infringement make. It is what the end-user /does/ with that technology (or lack thereof) that creates an infringement.

  21. Marcel says:

    I can see a renewed interest in pornografic literature because of the Kindle’s text to speech feature. Especialy for those traveling public transport. Have that monotonous, emotionless, synthetic voice describe a hot, steamy sex-scene on the subway.

    Take that! Annoying iPod speaker music dude!

  22. Anonymous says:

    So now not only do I have to buy the book, I also have to buy the “privledge” to read the book?

    I call Shenanigans.

  23. Mycroft says:

    I don’t get why anyone would want that feature on a kindle anyway. A blind person isn’t going to spend that much money on a fancy screen they can’t read, and who wants a robot who mispronounces words to read to them?

  24. arkizzle says:

    Can we burn these fuckers down?

    I think I have a box of matches here somewhere, and if not, I’m fine to walk to the shops. If someone else wants to chip-in for some gasoline or something flammable..

  25. arkizzle says:

    Waffles, how is that any better?
    It doesn’t matter if apubisher bought the audio-rights, you should still be allowed to read your book aloud or have your computer do the same.. c’mon.

  26. Skep says:

    #81 posted by mellon , February 11, 2009 12:25 PM

    I’m a bit surprised that people are so interested in this argument. The bottom line is that the Kindle is a specialized device which fails to deliver value for the average reader, largely because of groups like the writers’ guild who feel that they must monetize it to the maximum degree possible.

    The reason people are so riled up is because this isn’t about the Kindle. It is about the Author’s Guild trying to claim a new right and trying to claim that it has veto power over new technology.

    The Author’s Guild is doing the same thing the RIAA did when it tried to have ***all*** portable mp3 players declared to be illegal. The RIAA only saw piracy, not a new market for sales. The Author’s guild may sell a bunch more e-Books if the text to speech function in the Kindle proves popular. It is a function that home computers **already have**. But the Guild can’t see the forest for the trees and and wants to dictate how people can enjoy their purchases. Perhaps next they’ll want to have iris scanners to make sure that nobody is reading an e-book over someone’s shoulder?

  27. funkyderek says:

    They may have a point. Text-to-speech software, no matter how numerous the flaws, has to be better that the torrents of shit Audible make you wade through if you want to actually listen to an audiobook you’ve purchased from them. Let’s see, do I burn it onto ten CDs (which requires disabling the perfectly functional CD-burning software I own and installing a time-limited version of Nero) and then rip it to MP3s? Or do I download several potentially dodgy third-party applications and convert it to one long unbroken MP3?
    Or, in future, do I just get a pirated version that I can listen to immediately on any device? Shouldn’t doing things legally be less hassle?
    (Apologies for the slightly off-topic rant, I’m just really pissed off with Audible at the moment.)

  28. bililoquy says:

    Arkizzle @ 75:

    Well, one thing I didn’t know, and that I’ll happily admit to being wrong about: Acrobat will read non-image, non-secured files. So, it’s possible to have a presently copyrighted work read to you somewhere other than Kindle. (I was aware that there’s no additional audio encoding in the files read by the Kindle, but I was somewhat clumsily arguing that the book-read-by-the-Kindle was a unique, derivative work being distributed by Amazon. Which, legally speaking, I contend is still the case — just maybe not so unique.) But here’s the thing: it’s possible for the author to secure her audio rights in that format.

    The foundational point here is that an author is not wrong or acting outside the legitimate purview of the law to secure her rights to audio transformations of her work. We could debate for some time about the implications of this, but at very least I think we could agree that, if the author wants her work to be unavailable for text-to-sound, that’s her right.

    I suspect I was wrong in blaming Amazon earlier. Authors concerned about this would need to take it up with their publishers; the publishers are the ones producing and selling the ebooks, and therefore distributing audible copies.

  29. lecti says:

    @11
    I would use the software to listen to the book when I am doing chores or riding in the bus, then get back to reading it when I can give it full attention or won’t get motion sickness. I probably won’t use it to have it read an entire book, though.

    I think the guild’s attitude is exactly the kind that will drive a media to extinction.

  30. urshrew says:

    This is just another example of people who don’t understand how computers or digital technology work, at all. Everything is copied. All the time. You can’t control that if your media is made digital. Its copied from the hard drive to the RAM, from one hard drive to another, from one location on the same drive, so forth and so on.

    This will change in the next two decades only when the people at the top who’s understanding of computers is: “its how I get my email” die off.

    The laws will eventually have to be something other then: that’s a copy, that’s illegal.

  31. Anonymous says:

    “Absolutely not. But you can’t sell that recording you made.”

    And neither is Amazon.

  32. Anonymous says:

    To ingest any media is a process of copying
    that media into one’s mind.

    The process of spoken reading is a process of
    translation, and of output of what is copied
    into the mind, so that the ears can see the
    words as well.

    Copyright and translation are different things.

  33. stratosfyr says:

    @11 — I can see the appeal, say if you’re learning a language, or if you get fatigued after reading a lot… I used to like listening to my computer read (sometimes epic) poetry for literature classes. After a few dozen poems I didn’t have the strength to read them aloud myself but they’re not the same silent.

    Or you could listen while driving, or doing other activities — then when you’re less occupied, switch back to reading.

    A human reader is so much better, of course… although newer text-to-speech engines are a long way from Microsoft Sam.

    A note: Samsung’s P2 handles text-to-speech but does it by pre-converting it to audio on your PC; then it displays the text as the audio is read out. It’s a slightly obscure and clumsy process that I don’t quite understand and never use. Offloading to the device makes mountains of sense as the processors get faster.

    A dedicated TTS reader the size of a smaller mp3 player or cell phone is in the cards.

  34. workergnome says:

    What about this way of looking at it?

    Amazon ships you two streams of bytes designed to be able to be played back as audio files. One is compressed with MP3, one is compressed with UNICODE-TTS, a revolutionary new compression scheme. The fact that UNICODE-TTS compression happens to create human-readable bits is a pleasant side-effect.

    The audio quality for the second is significantly worse, but you can’t give Amazon a free pass just ’cause they’re selling crappy audiobooks—They’re selling a hardware device designed to play back their UNICODE-TTS files.

  35. Anonymous says:

    I am concerned with my Avatar reading off chunks of Internet propaganda that negates certain events – say, between 1939-1945 – followed by audacious pings and evil code attacking my computer. What if I trained my TTS Avatar to simply ignore certain (Historical) transatlantic voyages that ended in savagery, doom and the systemic alienation of fundamental human rights, particularly during 1863-1968. What if it read and mispronounced “heil” with “heel”, or if it read only the Bible’s misspellings and inaccuracies, rather than any truth. What if someone overheard my TTS engine read any any truth it found? Who will I hold liable for my beliefs and doubts? Who will compensate me for my pain and sorrow? The Avatar, the writer, the database, Intel, Bill Gates, the computer salesman, the cab that took me to the retail outlet?

  36. arkizzle says:

    Bililoquy,

    Thanks for that, I appreciate your honesty and am happy to talk about the other issues seperately.

    The foundational point here is that an author is not wrong or acting outside the legitimate purview of the law to secure her rights to audio transformations of her work. We could debate for some time about the implications of this, but at very least I think we could agree that, if the author wants her work to be unavailable for text-to-sound, that’s her right.

    I’m not sure I agree :)

    There may be an ability to lock certain functionality of an ebook, depending on the format you choose to release your book in, but that doesn’t make it an inplicit ‘right’.

    I’m not sure I think this kind of right-restrictions is any less dispicable than saying I must buy the CD as well as the ipod version of a song, instead of letting me legally transfer my CD to my ipod, at my discretion.

    I don’t know why one one want to restrict TTS. It will never replace an audiobook version, and if you decide not to release an audiobook (mostly true) it will only prevent certain people (sight impaired for example) enjoying the book they’ve legally bought.

  37. phoomp says:

    oh man … I just read a book out loud to my daughter last night. Now I’m waiting on pins-and-needles for the book-police to show up at my door …

  38. macemoneta says:

    You aren’t reading that book with both eyes are you? You were only authorized for single copy use!

    Seriously, I think that absurd claims like this are a good start. It’s the only way that people will realize how broken copyright (and IP in general) has become.

  39. jjasper says:

    Bookleggers!

  40. Agies says:

    Arkizzle, it has nothing to do with what you do with the book. No one is saying you can’t read the book aloud. The issue is publishers putting books out in the Kindle (2) format with the explicit knowledge that it can be read aloud via the device. Essentially that by publishing in the format they are also publishing in an audio format at the same time. It may seem silly but it’s something they have to protect, or at least come to an agreement about.

    Realize that they aren’t trying to screw you, they are trying to protect the rights of writers.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Resolved that:
    1. A TTS reading is a performance, not a copy.
    2. Copyright law grants creators exclusive rights to the “public performance” of their works; therefore other (non-public) performances do NOT infringe on their rights.
    3. Just as VCR was used primarily for “time shifting” (a non-infringing use) and not bootlegging (an infringing use), the vast majority of Kindlers using the TTS feature will be using it for a private performance, not a public one. So just as Sony was found to NOT to be liable in the Betamax case, Amazon should be found not liable in this one.
    4. Just because heretofore, the technology has made it easy for authors to sell rights in discrete bundles does not mean that always and forever those particular groupings make sense. As the technology changes, which rights are bundled and which are segregated and sold seprately should change too.

  42. RedShirt77 says:

    First Paper cuts, now this.

    Am I allowed to think about the book without paying an extra copyright thinking fee.

  43. Anonymous says:

    umm…..NO. This is not a copy, (although if you recorded it…) it is a performance. And only “public performance,” is covered by copyright. Courts have tended to construe the term “copy,” very broadly indeed, but congress obviously only meant to protect public, not private performances. Exception probat regulam

  44. Russell Letson says:

    I *think* this is a relevant question: Does the TTS function of the new Kindle require any additional processing of the underlying text file (e.g., some sort of TTS performance markup language)? If so, that processed file might be considered a derivative work. But if the TTS function is completely a function of the same device/processing engine that produces the text display, then it’s no more a distinct “work” than, say, font changes or other processing functions needed to change the bits into something human-accessible.

    Now, if one plugged the Kindle into a PA and invited the public in to listen to its rendering of a text, that might generate some interesting questions–especially if there were a charge for this “performance.” (Analogous to the limitations placed on showing the DVD you bought at Target.)

  45. styrofoam says:

    Oh my god. I’ve considered to be relatively balanced in the needs of the consumers and the producers.. but this is absolutely off the charts insane. If I were to pipe my kindle sound output into a mic line, record it to an MP3, and then spread it on bittorrent…

    I fail to see that as collapsing the audiobook market. Really.

  46. Anonymous says:

    I just wanted to let everyone in this thread know that they can now sue me. I used a screen reader to access this web page. It’s a sin, I know…

    I think it’s funny that these pro-copyright people already get whatever they want (see Dominate/Manipulate Consumer Act), and yet they still push for more control. Hey, you conspired with a third party hardware/software vendor to make your “content” exclusively available through them. Did you forget to make them sign a contract stating that they can’t make the content accessible for us blind users? I guess you can always remotely revoke the licenses to all the books you sold people. (nothing wrong with that)

  47. Pasketti says:

    So I can’t read bedtime stories to my kids anymore?

    I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to hear that.

  48. Grenoire says:

    Their heads are really going to explode when they realize that a sophisticated program could absorb every work but one of an author, then infer the final work based on synopsis or descriptions.

    Granted, it will read like a machine translation, but that wouldn’t stop an attempt to remove all mention of a work from public media

  49. grimc says:

    That’s what the executive director says. I am going to wait for official word from the Author’s Guild Guildmaster. Preferably on a parchment scroll.

  50. therevengor says:

    And the winner for most clueless media industry is publishing! Thanks film and music, you made it interesting there for a while…

    Perhaps the publishing industry should hire thugs to bop the reader on the head upon completion of a book, lest they keep an illicit copy IN THEIR MINDS!

  51. Anonymous says:

    Lol, why does the Authors Guild hate books so much? I read this story and thought, “Gosh, is it April 1st already??”

    Sheesh.

    Kelly
    http://BotScout.com

  52. fuelafire says:

    Kindergartners are going to be really surprised when men in uniforms come and haul their classroom teachers off to jail! Everyone is trying to get their digital-piece-of-the-pie, and it’s becoming a comic showdown.

  53. shaynafay says:

    What about the parents who have their kids in private schools and pay to have the teachers read to their children. Are they then guilty of purchasing an audio performance of a book?

  54. bililoquy says:

    Bard Finn @ 53 & Arkizzle @ 56:

    This is absolutely untrue, or mistaken. Amazon is selling ebooks and texts, the same as every other ebook vendor (and indeed, the same as every blog and website. It’s just text). The audio is rendered at the point of consumption, on the device.. The same as every other computer on the planet that has TTS software installed (including every Macintosh sold since the late nineties)…why is every other e-text source not being taken to task? Why is every other text-to-speech application vendor not being clamped down on? Why now?

    This is a bit messy, but the problem is that a Kindle2book includes a transformed, recast full-text by virtue of its being, specifically, a book for Kindle. This is not comparable to your buying a dead-tree book and entering it into a text-to-sound on your computer, because it’s already entered. That’s the new product. How else would you buy a new, copyrighted book-fully-entered-into-a-text-to-sound except by the Kindle store?

    But why should authors get paid twice for one product?…If they produce a version to exploit these precious ‘audio rights’ then they can reap all the benefits that they deserve, but right now, they are selling text, so that is what they should be paid for (eg. there is no extra revenue stream that they are being denied).

    Well, an example. There’s a wonderful SF podcast called EscapePod. Writers (not the rare few wealthy ones, I assure you) sell the audio rights to their short stories to EscapePod, then EscapePod hires a reader, they make an the podcast, etc. Those are the sorts of intellectual property rights these laws protect, and that’s a good example of normal people earning money (twice) for what they’ve created.

    And what if I never use the Read-to-me function. Should I have to pay extra for a regular text file that could potentially become audio at some point?

    That’s Amazon’s choice to make.

  55. Cory Doctorow says:

    Agies, do you think the rights of authors are abridged by text-to-speech in PDF readers? If not, why not?

    And if this is an infringement, then how about this: if Amazon is a contributory infringer for disseminating a technology that can be used to commit infringement, then why isn’t the Mozilla foundation? There’s plenty of ways to infringe copyright with Firefox. Should the Author’s Guild (and the RIAA, MPAA, association of needlepoint pattern makers, crossword puzzle designers, etc) “come to an agreement” with Mozilla about this?

  56. bililoquy says:

    Arkizzle:

    What can I say? I’m a little flail-y sometimes.

    Over at his blog, John Scalzi sort of shrugs off the whole issue, noting that the money at stake here is negligible to non-existent. And that’s probably the sanest reaction. But, always aware that folks like the RIAA have done some heinous crap with it, I still feel pretty strongly about intellectual property law. If you want to be JoCo or Doctorow and put your work out there for everyone to play with, I think that’s awesome. But your work is your work, and if you want to very closely and shrewdly control its distribution, I think that’s your right as well. Legally, at least, and IMHO, ethically.

    When I look at this situation, those are the only stakes I see — a creator’s right to control distribution of her work. I suppose others are seeing consumer rights issues, which are equally important, but some of those reactions seem a little kneejerk to me; no one was ever going to gag parents and haul them to the black vans for reading to their kids. Like you, I don’t think it’d necessarily make a whole lot of sense for an author to demand her ebook be TTS-disabled. But the reading is a protected derivation, and I believe in her right to tell the publisher, “Look, you’re distributing my work in a particularly malleable format; I feel this needs to be acknowledged in our contract.”

  57. Russell Letson says:

    I saw it more as an example of incompetent product-name creation–too clever by half. (“Naw, “perma-tent” is obvious. Let’s put an ‘n’ in the middle. Be easier to trademark that way, too.”)

    And wouldn’t a “per-man tent” be like a no-dogs-allowed pup tent?

    It’s also a relief not to have an odd number of parethesis segments in the jar.

  58. Skep says:

    Take a look at this
    #87 posted by bililoquy , February 11, 2009 12:49 PM

    The foundational point here is that an author is not wrong or acting outside the legitimate purview of the law to secure her rights to audio transformations of her work. We could debate for some time about the implications of this, but at very least I think we could agree that, if the author wants her work to be unavailable for text-to-sound, that’s her right

    Actually, authors do not have unlimited rights over their works once sold. Copyright is a limited right, not an all encompassing one. When I buy a book, I’m free to tear it into separate pages and sell each page individually. I can even sell the books with an an optical character recognition scanner that does text to speech, as are available to blind people, and there is **nothing** the author can legally do about it. That’s the same think the Kindle does. It takes text and outputs it, whether to a visible screen to to a speaker, it does not matter. Both are a form of “display device.”

  59. TreacleMiner says:

    I wonder if they also believe that reading song lyrics violates copyright…

  60. Anonymous says:

    “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.”

    Pretty soon it’ll be illegal to read it at all, under any circumstances, even if you don’t move your lips whilst doing so. You’ll be allowed to buy the book, take it home, and put it on the shelf to be admired. But you won’t be allowed to read it, because that would, you know, be wrong.

    Mike
    http://quicktrivia.com

  61. GeekMan says:

    There’s only one way to fight defensive, special-interest groups: with OTHER defensive, special-interest groups!

    Get the American Foundation for the Blind involved. I’m sure they’ll love to hear the Author Guild’s point of view on this matter.

  62. valerieintoronto says:

    Exceptions or no, it still sounds like the Author’s Guild is ignorant of people who are vision-impaired, working on literacy or are for some reason unable to look at words at the time by choice or design.

    Mycroft, a blind person might want a Kindle because it carries multiple books on one device, or is sharing the device with a sighted person in their family. Part of the idea in all accessibility features is that everyone should be able to use and share the same media on the same devices (internet, tv, etc.) without going, “oh, you have to get that special thing over there to find out what they’re talking about,” separating people out, making them feel more marginalized than they may feel already.

    The more this kind of technology is out there, basic as it may seem, the more it becomes a piece of everyday life to the point even sighted people or people with full literacy can use it from time-to-time (like muting the tv and looking at closed-captioning while you’re on the phone or something…uh-oh, there’s another can of worms), the more inclusive the world is, like we’re all in this together.

  63. zuzu says:

    Kindle 2′s flagship feature is the reading of text out loud, in the same way as software that’s already built into desktop computers and Prof. Stephen Hawking’s famous voice box.

    Speaking of which, has anyone gotten Festival to actually build and work?

    Oralux Linux had great integration of Festival with EMACS, but development has been left fallow for years now.

    Ideally I’d love Festival support included in Aquamacs.

    The problem with OSX is that the included voices suck, and commercial voices such as Cepstral have draconian licenses demanding royalties for all works created using them.

  64. nprnncbl says:

    Monopole:

    Now we must cut out the tongue’s of all literate people, just in case!

    Will there be exemption’s for the semiliterate?

  65. nprnncbl says:

    Rob- the last two sentences of your post are I think the most eloquent description of the golem of IP that I’ve read. Thanks for that.

  66. Anonymous says:

    DRM 2018 : If you sing, hum or whistle a song, even only a couple of bars, the RIAA Squad will arrest you on the spot, drag you to their headquarters and give you the choice of a) paying a $1000 fine for each infringement or b) brainwash you out of the offending material…

  67. arkizzle says:

    Agies, first of all I was referring to this assertion, from the OP: “The Guild’s claim is that even to read out loud is a production akin to an illegal copy, or a public performance.”.

    Second, no matter how you dress it up (yep, you. You are defending this bullshit) it is a knee-jerk, control-freak reaction to something which has been possible for decades, and only an issue now that there is more money to be made (and an infrastructure and thriving marketplace) and claw back more rights from the consumer.

    The issue is publishers putting books out in the Kindle (2) format with the explicit knowledge that it can be read aloud via the device. Essentially that by publishing in the format they are also publishing in an audio format at the same time.

    No. No it isn’t and no they aren’t. You can put out any format, txt, doc, pdf and a computer will read it aloud – this is not new, and not dependent on the Kindle or its format.

    If I’ve bought the file from you, who is to say how I read it? How is my computer reading the book aloud any different to my partner reading the book aloud, to me? Or me reading it to my children?

    Are you actually suggesting that because a revenue stream exists or potentially exists that everyone should kowtow to it and relinquish their rights and abilities?
    If the Author’s Guild starts a human read-aloud service, should we stop reading to our children because otherwise the authors are losing out on some arbitrary income?

    The myth (as promoted by RIAA and MPAA, among others) that unsold product == lost revenue is bullshit. You aren’t guaranteed a sale until the exchange of goods and money has taken place. The problem is that they take projections as facts. But the real world doesn’t work like that, people will or won’t buy stuff, that’s all. Business is risk.

    Audiobooks, proper ones with a humans reading them, represent two things: 1) the actual book, written by the author, 2) the performance of the professional reader. The value of the audiobook vs the written book, is the person who has read the book; their talent, their time, the studio costs.

    When I buy a book, and read it aloud I am not depriving them of this revenue because I have paid for the book (1), and employed my own time and talent to read it (2). Ditto if my computer reads it.

    Just because a revenue stream exists doesn’t mean anyone is entitled to it or that we have to pay to exercise our rights to a free version of it.

  68. williamsacott says:

    I have been too busy to write part 2 of my series on copyright law. Part 2 will be about the exciting legal case American Geophysical Union v pittsburgh mortgage loans. Texaco so you will all want to stay tuned for that.

    Instead today I link to a bOING bOING post by Rob Beschizza mocking a claim by the Authors Guild that text-to-speech software infringes copyright bank account. The scenario: a reader pays to download a Kindle book and activates the Kindle’s read-out-loud feature causing a transient copy of the work to manifest as vibrations in nearby air molecules.

  69. arkizzle says:

    Oh, I see most of my points were made by Cory and others while I was writing that out.

    DoublePlusGood.

  70. Anonymous says:

    If a robot reads a book out loud, has it committed copyright infringement? The future of literature hangs in the balance.

  71. Newman says:

    @ Bililoquy:
    But your work is your work, and if you want to very closely and shrewdly control its distribution, I think that’s your right as well. Legally, at least, and IMHO, ethically…. But the reading is a protected derivation, and I believe in her right to tell the publisher, “Look, you’re distributing my work in a particularly malleable format; I feel this needs to be acknowledged in our contract.”

    Agreed. However, I think what people are getting up in arms about is the fact that, from the statements made in public, it seems that the guild is trying to say that either TTS, as a feature, shouldn’t exist on the Kindle.

    It’s my belief that, as a content creator, you can’t control what people do with your product. Your only choice is to sell or to not sell. If you actually believe that TTS is costing you more money (in lost AudioBook sales) than you make in Kindle sales, then by all means – STOP SELLING FOR THE KINDLE. But don’t allow your book to be sold in Kindle format, knowing that it can be TTS’ed, and then bitch and moan about it after the fact. That’s just stupid.

  72. Ian70 says:

    @3 I hope that all those people who read books to the blind understand that THEY MUST buy an extra copy of the book they are reading: one for the blind person and one for themself. If anybody walks by and overhears them reading the book then they must buy another license again for Public Performance (just like in England when the thugs shake down people for playing their radio in a shop).

    @20 I like the enlarged font argument too. Anything that allows a disabled person to enjoy a book like an abled person is counterproductive to the business model.

    what I’m trying to say is YOU’RE ALL CRIMINALS UNLESS YOU GIVE ALL OF YOUR MONEY TO THESE THUGS.. I mean THESE ENTREPRENEURS. Resistance is useless.

  73. rainlion says:

    This has got to be one of the stupidest things I’ve heard in quite some time… WTF were they thinking?

  74. timcullen says:

    I’m surprised no one in this discussion investigated what the law actually is.

    A brief look here:
    http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/usc_sec_17_00000106—-000-.html

    will show that the Author’s Guild director misspoke–using the Kindle’s text-to-speech software does not create a derivative work (unless you really really stretch the definition).

    He was probably referring to the public performance right–in section (4) in the link above. The problem is that he’s stretching that definition too. In all likelihood, most uses of this feature are probably don’t meet the definition.

    Definitions of public performance and derivative works can be found here:

    http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/usc_sec_17_00000101—-000-.html

    Bottom line: Aiken still should have kept his mouth shut.

  75. dculberson says:

    bililoquy, even if you accept that a machine reading the text out loud is a derivative work, Amazon themselves isn’t creating the work. How do you account for that?

    Amazon produces a machine. Amazon produces an eBook file. The audio is generated from that eBook file, at the point of consumption, not sold to the consumer as a completed audio product. They do not store the audio file separately and provide it in addition to the text.

    At no point is a derivative work made and sold or transferred. It is made and consumed at the same time, by the consumer.

    As an aside, I would argue that a machine reading a book to the purchaser of that book is not a derivative work.

  76. bililoquy says:

    Skep @ 90:

    You can resell the book in any configuration you like, sure. And authors’ rights certainly aren’t unlimited. But skip back upthread and look at the definition of “derivative works.”

    There’s no question that selling a recording of a TTS would be illegal. The messiness here arises out of the TTS process being dynamic, ebooks’ being only potentially audible, the vagaries of file-formatting, and the fact of this all being entirely commercial.

    From where I stand, a derivative transformation is clearly being created for commercial purposes. Beyond that, I’m not certain I have the answers.

  77. Skep says:

    Ha! That’s nothing. Clearly just being able to enlarge the font is an un-authorized derivative work! How are publishers going to sell their Large Print e-books if Amazon just lets users enlarge the font on their own? Time for a lawsuit!!!

  78. cmacis says:

    @3 More or less my thought exactly. Blind rights are going to have a *field day* with this one.

  79. bililoquy says:

    Sigh. Look, I belong to Creative Commons like everyone else. I know copyright enforcement is always icky and eee-vil, but some of the responses here suggest a profound misunderstanding of the issue. No one will be carried away for reading aloud to their kids or classroom.

    The guild is sort of totally in the right here. Print rights and audio rights are discrete, sold separately. Amazon wants to distribute full-text audio for profit. Of course text-to-speech isn’t the same as an itty bitty Morgan Freeman in your ear, but that’s irrelevant. It’s unquestionably an audio rendition, and more to the point, Amazon believes it has market value. I’m not so sure I agree, but comments like the one @13 make the case for them.

    The only consequence of this is that authors will need to be compensated for audio rights. That’s it. That’s not a bad thing.

    Valerieintoronto @35:

    Frankly, that all seems much more expensive, much less convenient, and maybe less user-friendly than downloading audiobooks to an mp3 player.

    But in any case, anti-copyright folks’ attempt to use blind/vision-impaired rights here is…a bit suspect at best. Re: disabled rights, it’s immaterial whether or not authors get paid.

  80. Russell Letson says:

    Damn. Now I’ve got a spare “n.”

  81. bardfinn says:

    I can only hope for them to bring suit against me for reading while my lips move.

    It would appear that the Author’s Guild needs to get to work negotiating with the Scrivener’s Guild, the Cantor’s Guild, the Spotsman’s Guild and the Tanner’s Guild. They may yet save the economy by employing thousands of skilled craftsmen to produce fine works!

  82. Rob Beschizza says:

    I think that might be a dead end, as disabled people already have an established exemption from any audio rights stuff.

  83. bardfinn says:

    Skep: in the United States, there’s nothing the author or rights-holder can do regarding what someone does with their work after the first sale, so long as no copying of the work is performed. I can burn a novel in my front yard, or wrecking-ball someone’s delicate sculpture and videotape it happening, then post that onto youTube.

    Some jurisdictions (some EU states, and others) have what are known as Moral Rights as well, which prevent someone from /publicly/ using their work in a way that the original artist finds objectionable. This prevents someone from, for example, cherry-picking a Nazi researcher’s words and twisting them out-of-context to make it seem as if they support the Nazis’ actions. It might also be employed to prevent or hold liable someone from publicly reading aloud a work meant to be only written, or from the public viewing of a videotape of the defacement of their delicate sculpture.

    bililoquy: I’m glad you could come quite some way towards a good understanding of what’s going on here. Amazon has these ebooks in a textual (as opposed to image) format because it cuts down the transfer bandwidth, storage space, and processing power (and battery usage) by being available in that format, and allows people to search the text. They’re DRM’d to prevent unauthorised transfer. Publishers make them available because it allows them to sell more copies, make a larger profit from those copies, and the number of actual infringements they can technologically prevent by distributing image-only doesn’t justify the expense – If you had to triple your costs on a tiny margin to prevent someone’s computer from speaking the text aloud, when the person could themselves do so and infringe anyway – do you choose inconvenience for the enduser and all of your profits disappearing, or do you choose profits and wash your hands of trying to treat your customers as criminals?

  84. Waffles says:

    He says that it doesn’t have the right. I’d like to think that he doesn’t mean to refer to the DRM crap, put rather publisher rights. Like, the publisher may have bought the rights to electronic format, but not to audio, making the audio-part of the deal illegal.

    That’s how I’d like to see it, anyway.

  85. Gemma says:

    I note that when I buy secure ebooks (in Microsoft Reader/ .lit format at least) the Read Aloud function is always disabled. Utterly stupid of course.

  86. MrC says:

    As Rob pointed out, the blind/vision impaired crowd have done a good job protecting their rights.

    Even the odious DMCA provides provisions to crack DRM in order to use a machine reader.

  87. Russell Letson says:

    Bardfinn @94: “A derivative transformation is clearly being created.”

    Isn’t there something in copyright law about a work being in a fixed form? I’d think that the transitory nature of a TTS “reading” keeps it from being a “work,” and absent either a recording (which would fix a particular reading and thus qualify for “work” status) or conditions that would make the reading a “public performance,” the mechanical reading remains simply an alternative to eyeball reading, whether silent or not. I suppose these distinctions could be argued in court–whether TTS is simply an output mode or the creation of an entity that can be metered and monetized (a vile word, a very vile word.

    My understanding is a layman’s, but I would think that between statutory language and case law, notions such as “private,” “public,” “performance,” “permantent,” “fixed,” and so on were pretty well defined, at least well enough for reasonable people to see where and how they might be extended. But then, law, like art, is what you can get away with.

    By the way, anybody who thinks that a TTS “reading” is even close to the experience of a good audio book performance should listen to recordings of George MacDonald Fraser and Patrick O’Brian by David Case or Patrick Tull (both deceased). There’s a definite value-add there. (Another vile phrase.)

  88. Robbo says:

    So when Bush was reading to those kids on 9/11 – he was breaking the law? At last! A charge that will stick.

    Seriously – this is so totally lame and ignorant – I hope the Author’s Guild crumples up in embarrassment and blows away upon the winds of change so we may turn to a new page of civilized discourse.

    What a bunch of tards.

    Cheers.

  89. Anonymous says:

    Even if reading aloud a book were infringement of the copyright of the text (which is doubtable) the Kindle’s feature to do so would certainly NOT be liable under a theory of contributory liability – the betamax decision would seem to apply.

  90. Talia says:

    “text-to-speech isn’t the same as an itty bitty Morgan Freeman in your ear, but that’s irrelevant.”

    Erm, no, it really, really isnt.

    Audio fiction is a bit of an art form in and of itself. As I understand it, the folks who read for audiobooks even have their own awards.

    Anyone who fails to detect a serious, serious difference betwixt the two has some serious problems (or is completely deaf).

    This is stupid. No one who would normally purchase an audiobook would prefer text to speech. Its a completely different experience.

  91. bardfinn says:

    bililoquy: It is possible to use the TTS on your own, non-purchased-through-the-kindle-store, ebooks loaded onto the Kindle. There are no “kindle2books”. There are just textual e-books; Texts. The speech synthesiser reads the text, irrespective of whether the e-book was purchased through Amazon’s store and downloaded over the whisperNet or is someone’s blog or is a .TXT file or HTML file loaded on via the USB connection – not some separate datastream synthesised by Amazon before it is sent to the device /just for the Kindle2/.

    ALL texts are potentially readable and transformable to speech synthesised by this device – whether DRM’d, non-DRM’d, encrypted, cleartext, all rights reserved, creative-commons licensed, or lapsed or released into the public domain.

    There exists a technological method for creating e-books that cannot be automatically transformed by this technology – textless PDF files or other image-based E-book formats, where the page is merely an image of the page without an accompanying set of text. IF those load onto the Kindle, it would do so through the desktop conversion software, and the Kindle would (very likely, for I doubt it performs magically delicious over-and-above state-of-the-art OCR on converted images) be unable to narrate the product so converted.

    Amazon doesn’t sell those on the Kindle store for delivery over the whispernet, because the file size is un-necessarily large. Most books do not need the typographical conventions of House of Leaves to convey their message.

  92. bardfinn says:

    As an aside: I would like to, at this time, apply for a membership to the Creative Commons – so I may belong to that fine association.

    Anyone? Little Help? *cough*

  93. bardfinn says:

    #42 bililoquy:

    You would be right, if only the Kindle were actually capable of performing. Only humans–under US law–are capable of copyright violations, and only humans are capable of performance. Law has set precedent that machines are not legal entities.

    The best they have is arguing that the feature enables individual end-users to violate their derivative-works rights and also that–under the DMCA–the text-to-speech feature is a device whose function is an ability for circumventing copy protections (TTS -> Speech Recognition -> Unencrypted Text). It is arguably thus.

  94. arkizzle says:

    BILILOQUY

    ..the problem is that a Kindle2book includes a transformed, recast full-text by virtue of its being, specifically, a book for Kindle.

    It is an ebook. Same as any other, perhaps reformatted for Kindle, but Amazon have clearly got distribution deals in place with publishers that deal with the format they choose. That has nothing to do with the TTS.

    The TTS capabilities DO NOT use any specific markup. The TTS relies on plain text, so there is no new ‘audio’-ness about the books.

    From the Kindle2 page on Amazon*:
    “”
    Read-to-Me: With the new Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read every book, blog, magazine, and newspaper out loud to you..

    Now Kindle can read to you. With the new Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read every book, blog, magazine, and newspaper out loud to you. You can switch back and forth between reading and listening, and your spot is automatically saved. Pages automatically turn while the content is being read, so you can listen hands-free. You can choose from both male and female voices which can be sped up or slowed down to suit your preference. Anything you can read on Kindle, Kindle can read to you, including books, newspapers, magazines, blogs and even personal documents. In the middle of a great book or article but have to jump in the car? Simply turn on Text-to-Speech and listen on the go.
    “”

    If you could show me where you have read about Amazon reformatting or using a special markup specifically to achieve TTS, I would be grateful. Otherwise, please accept that these are run-of-the-mill ebooks, being read by a TTS app, like all the other instances of the same in the world.

    *http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Amazons-Wireless-Reading-Generation/dp/B00154JDAI
    __

    Those are the sorts of intellectual property rights these laws protect, and that’s a good example of normal people earning money (twice) for what they’ve created.

    Duh, of course people should get paid for the public or commercial use of their work, but that’s two uses. The book, and the public/commercial podcast.

    In the case we are talking about, the book is sold as text, and mechanically voiced in private. No public or commercial use.
    __

    That’s Amazon’s choice to make.

    Are you insane? I said that as a kind of, “see the fallacy?”.

    First it wasn’t about Amazon, it was about the Author’s Guild, eg. should we have to pay them for the same text file twice?

    And second: it’s just a text file either way. Do you honestly think (beyond, “they can do what they like”) that today’s text-file should be sold tomorrow for more money, because in the meantime someone invents a machine that can do something new with it?

  95. Tensegrity says:

    What if an android reads a book to its cyber-offspring?

    Is that a protected derivative work?

  96. Anonymous says:

    This is an example of the corporate American greed machine at it’s finest. Always pushing for more ways to exploit people and tie them in to one vendor’s products. So Paul, which screen reader will you permit us to access the material on? How much more will it have to cost to pay your **** license fee? Most screen readers cost at least $600. (some over $900)

    I have a better idea. I will keep using free/open source screen reading solutions, and boycott infected products that are tied to your organisation in the hopes that your organisation folds. I’m just doing my part to make the world a better place.

    As someone with more than five brain cells, I also know how to convert text-to-speech to audio files, so I can listen to them on my Ogg Vorbis Player. I have no need to listen to some washed-up celebrity butcher the English language to take in the material.

  97. BastardNamban says:

    It should absolutely go without saying this is a total crock of SH*T.

    Let’s use this for a second in a new way- think MAFFIA’s tactics with file sharing = stealing (you aren’t depriving anyone of the original work, so no!). For some reason, the MAFIAA’s logistics of this have become fact for a lot of mainstreet Americans, out of fear, confusion, and repetition.

    But what if you went up to someone and denied them to read a passage from a book to their kid, or even an adult learning English, as a way to TEACH LANGUAGE, like, I don’t know, every parent has ever done since bedtime stories were invented? You would criminalize learning itself! Surely any layman can see that? Cut and dry, no?

    A step further- what if I were a genius, and found a way to synthesize my own voice, or create one, using free open source software I wrote, and have it read outloud via an OCR system I designed (imagine any software engineer). Are you really going to tell me I can’t use it to read a book I paid for? With my synthesized voice especially, it’s basically the equivalent of me myself reading the book to myself. That’s illegal now? WTF?

    Do people this fantastically and brutally stupid actually think about what they say before they say it? Ever? Ignore these bloated morons- they are trying to literally (HA!) outlaw the right to speak. What’s next, copyrighted quotes?

  98. bardfinn says:

    bililoquy: A derivative transformation is clearly being created. Unless the end-user of the Kindle sells to others the opportunity to experience that derivative work (by using it in a public performance or recording the audio and selling or trading for it), it’s not for commercial purposes.

    Once the e-book has been purchased (in the US), commerce has occurred and is /over with/. The transaction is fulfilled, and the reseller’s control over the marketed product is finished. Until goods, services, or money changes hands again in conjunction with that particular product, none of the consequent purposes after the fact of the sale may be said to be commercial.

    Most people are going to create the derivative work for their own /private/ non-commercial purposes, which is clearly allowed under United States Copyright Law. Amazon doesn’t make money off that derivative work. They only made money off reselling the original work and selling a device which can read digital text.

    The existence of a VCR, a broadcast movie signal, and the existence of video bootleggers allows one to posit that somewhere, somehow, someone is probably making a derivative transformation of a particular movie (bootleg VHS cassette). It does not mean that the manufacturer of the VCR nor the rightful media broadcaster are engaged in piracy.

  99. arkizzle says:

    Bil,

    There’s no question that selling a recording of a TTS would be illegal.

    Nobody is suggesting selling the TTS audio, of course that would be illegal. That would be, essentially, the same as selling the book itself. Really, there is no inherent messiness as you see it. Only within the idea of DRM that has suddenly cropped up to stop us doing things with the new digital stuff, that we’ve previously been able to do.

    I think you have fallen for it in some ways. You seem to think everybody is trying to tear down copyright and burn author’s profits (of course, some are). But really, its more about defending the personal use ‘rights’ we’d naturally have in a standard money/object exchange.

    Everything is as it was, public performance has always required licensing. That won’t change. It has always been illegal to re-release copyrighted work without permission. That won’t change. Artists and authors have always gotten screwed out of their royalties by their publishing houses and record labels. That won’t change.

    The things that are changing are all the things we do with our products in private. They are being divided up into revenue streams, and instead of selling us a thing, now we are invited to licence small discrete experiences, that cost far more singularly than we previously thought the whole was worth.

  100. bardfinn says:

    It occurs to me that their legal theory under US copyright law regarding a violation of their derivative rights works, comes down to whether someone can be held liable for performing a work for themselves (The Kindle doesn’t perform; It is a tool used by the Kindle’s holder to produce their own performance.)

    Time-shifting.
    Format-shifting.

    adeeb-adeeb-adeeb-adeeb

  101. Russell Letson says:

    Anyone thinking that “permantent” in my post #100 above is a typo should be advised that it actually refers to a new type of reinforced-canvas shelter, intended for perhaps-indefinitely long-term use in the new Hoovervilles that will be springing up outside many abandoned and half-completed subdivisions any day now.

    The post is, however, missing a close-parenthesis, which I tardily supply below:

    )

  102. valerieintoronto says:

    Re: #42 bililoquy:

    I’m not anti-copyright folk (btw, Creative Commons doesn’t = anti-copyright), and I’m not pulling vision-impaired rights out of my back pocket to further an anti-copyright agenda.

    I’ve been with fellow coworkers and friends who have vision impairments, and have heard from them that they just want a chance to consume as much as possible the same media that everyone else does while they have it without having to go buy an extra separate thing. It’s kind of a matter of whatever they can get with the least amount of trouble, as is the case for everyone, really. Also, I mentioned sharing a Kindle with friends and family who are sighted (uh-oh, sharing might be another problem…). It’s just that if they already have an e-book, it’s bought, they should be able to consume it without having to buy an extra audiobook unless they want to and feel like waiting for it to be produced if they must (not to mention having an audiobook produced so it can be played on any mp3 player, since converting it to play might be yet another can of worms). And accessibility can get people who need it to buy books maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise. Maybe that contributes to authors getting paid more.

    I’ve also observed people learning to read who use text-to-speech or otherwise-read text while they follow along on a hard copy. There are initiatives in place working on that with newspapers. There’s great potential there.

    The initial statement was about the Kindle, but this is kind of a precedent-setter, which is why I’m bothering to say anything.

    It’s not Us vs. Them here. That’s part of the point of accessibility.

  103. Newman says:

    @ Bardfinn:
    They only made money off reselling the original work and selling a device which can read digital text. The existence of a VCR, a broadcast movie signal, and the existence of video bootleggers allows one to posit that somewhere, somehow, someone is probably making a derivative transformation of a particular movie (bootleg VHS cassette). It does not mean that the manufacturer of the VCR nor the rightful media broadcaster are engaged in piracy.

    Yes, exactly… you said what I was trying to say much more clearly, so thank you.

    I think what’s confusing to our friend Bililoquy is that, in this case Amazon is both the “manufacturer of the VCR” AND the “rightful media broadcaster”, and so he thinks that they have a higher responsibility to the original creators of the works.

    Needless to say, I disagree.

  104. bardfinn says:

    Clearly all the Author’s Guild need do to protect what they feel is their right to an audible interpretation of their works is to require their publishers to refrain from publishing E-Books of their works, or to publish image-only DRM’d e-books of their work, so the TTS accessibility feature cannot be applied.

    Which it is Amazon’s choice whether to carry on their store.

    All you blind and vision-impaired people can just wait for the ramp to be installed on the south side of the building.

  105. bililoquy says:

    Dculberson @ 63:

    I ask again: where else will you get the full-texts of copyrighted works entered into a text-to-sound? That’s the unique product Amazon is creating and profiting from here.

    Bard Finn @ 66:

    That’s the finest and most problematizing argument on the pro-Amazon side. The whole issue is unquestionably muddled by the transformation’s taking place at the end-level, but it seems fairly clear to me that whenever Amazon transforms these works for profit with their machine, Amazon is creating a derivative work. They’re providing an exclusive service. As pointed out above, other ebook distributors have shied away from this function for precisely this reason; it’s not as if nobody recognized that there were, at very least, serious legal questions to be considered.

    By analogy: there’s no question whatsoever that you’re free to enter “Old Man’s War” into your PowerMac and listen to the thing monotone at you. But say several people pay you fifteen bucks, bring you their copies of the book, you enter the text, and then they come over to listen to it. That’s pretty plainly an illegal derivation.

  106. PatrickHall says:

    Wave To Text – powerful English speech recognition software

    A useful English speech recognition software ‘Wave To Text v5.2′. Help you convert your voice to text in real-time, while the program’s wizard enables you to convert your Windows Audio WAV files (speech recorded) offline.

    http://www.111download.com/product/wave-to-text-v.html

  107. bililoquy says:

    What struck me (and to some extent still strikes me) as messy was Amazon’s selling all the tools for the enduser to make a protected derivation, with that toolbox being a “flagship feature.” I’m fairly persuaded now that, messy or no, Amazon’s on safe legal and moral ground. It’s not quite the same as a VCR or DVD burner, but close enough for government work.

    I believe I’ve come to the revised conclusion that although the guild’s motivation is not illegitimate (and I’m still eye-roll-y over a lot of outsized kneejerk reactions here, while aware that my own knee isn’t exactly immune from wobbles) they ought to take this up privately with publishers and, as Neil Gaiman suggested, bear in mind that they’re liable to blow money and goodwill in the wrong place.

    My best stab at a common-sense solution is for publishers to include clauses acknowledging, in very precise language, the “secure” or “insecure” status of their ebooks during the purchase of electronic rights, and for authors not to worry overmuch about getting paid for “insecure” files.
    Legally speaking it ought to be entirely clear what the author is selling. And yeah, common-sensically speaking, the author shouldn’t be a jackass.

  108. dculberson says:

    Russell, I picture a permantent being a single-person tent usually used in groups. You know, one tent per man? A per-man tent?

  109. dculberson says:

    “the fact of this all being entirely commercial.” That’s another place I would argue with you; the entire thing isn’t commercial. Yes, the eBook file itself and the Kindle are commercial. But the text-to-speech is not. It is a built-in non-exclusive feature of the hardware that does not charge you to use it and you do not resell it. It would be commercial if you recorded it and distributed it or charged other people to hear it.

  110. monopole says:

    Of course reading out loud is a crime:
    http://www.boingboing.net/2004/02/15/james-joyces-descend.html

    Now we must cut out the tongue’s of all literate people, just in case!

  111. Takuan says:

    if you want to be around tomorrow, you better learn to read that damn handwriting on the wall. Somethings are so stupid there is no need to fight them, they will fail by Darwin if everyone just keeps on trying to live a common sense life.

    Who knows? Things might be so bad in a year that there will plummy voiced doctorate holders lining up to read books aloud for food. The rich will keep a Household Reader in place of armed chauffeur.

  112. bililoquy says:

    BardFinn @ 45:

    You’re misreading copyright law there. It’s not the performative aspect that renders an audio reading derivative. “A ‘derivative work’ is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted.

    The bold is mine, obviously.

    Talia @ 44:

    Audio fiction is a bit of an art form in and of itself. As I understand it, the folks who read for audiobooks even have their own awards.

    You’re absolutely right. And legally speaking, that’s absolutely irrelevant. The issue here is that Amazon is selling audio renditions. (Several people have quite rightly pointed out that Amazon may have covered their asses in the back of a contract somewhere, in which case, cool. Authors should have read their contracts more closely. I’m going to assume this is not the case until proven otherwise, however.)

    Bastardnamban @ 48:

    Are you really going to tell me I can’t use it to read a book I paid for?

    Absolutely not. But you can’t sell that recording you made.

    Valerie @ 50:

    A couple caveats…I might have used a better descriptor than “anti-copyright.” I’m simultaneously very pro-Creative Commons and largely content with U.S. copyright law as it stands. (So I love JoCo’s model but fully support an artist’s right to protect her work as vigorously as she likes.) Also, your argument was sensitive and well-made, and I shouldn’t have allowed it to seem that I was accusing you of underhandedness.

    One of my close friends is legally blind — able to see well enough to walk unaided or tell people apart by obvious cues, but not to read without significant hardware. She’s actually the precise demographic I could see the Kindle2 being useful for: she’d use fonts on their largest setting and text-to-sound for backup. (That said, there’s not a chance she’ll buy one — she likes paper books, already has a reading device, and uses her iPod for audiobooks.) I don’t necessarily disagree with what you’re saying, but none of it is an argument against authors being compensated for the sale of a derivative work.

    To go off on a wild tangent for a moment, one of the main reasons I’ll probably never buy a Kindle is that it sort of impedes sharing. If I buy a book on Kindle, I can’t loan it to a friend without loaning him the Kindle, right? I love giving “Old Man’s War” to one person and having it come back to me dog-eared from someone totally different two months later. Nevermind that if we were doing the bulk of our book-buying on Kindle, my wife and I would need two of the things, given our reading habits.

    Amazon is the wealthy company here, arguably violating individual authors’ rights as they peddle DRM-laced products. I’m sort of stunned they’re the ones being defended here.

  113. bililoquy says:

    Arkizzle @ 71

    If I charge a bunch of people to hear me read a Neil Gaiman story at the local bookstore, I am breaking the law. For a fee (you do buy the Kindle, remember) Amazon transforms copyrighted works in an unauthorized way. They are breaking the law.

    The whole thing is a commercial enterprise. The Kindle itself is a commercial enterprise. Of course it’s commercial use.

    Do you honestly think (beyond, “they can do what they like”) that today’s text-file should be sold tomorrow for more money, because in the meantime someone invents a machine that can do something new with it?

    Not in those terms. Do I think authors have the right to demand more from Amazon knowing that, when their work is distributed via Kindle, it will be cast by Amazon in additional forms protected under copyright law? Of course.

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