According To Author's Guild, You Cannot Read Books Out Loud

from the player-pianos-anyone? dept

As you may know, when player pianos were first introduced, there was a massive fear among musicians that it would be the death of the live music industry. With a player piano, why would anyone ever need to go see a live performance again? In fact, the roots of our rather draconian modern copyright law come, in part, from this dispute. You can see it time and time again, as each new technology comes along, someone freaks out, demands an extra layer of gov't granted rights (and often a compulsory license) and only later discovers that these "threats" were really opportunities all along.

The latest such example comes from an absolutely extraordinary statement from Paul Aitken, the executive director of the Authors Guild, upon hearing that the new Amazon Kindle has an experimental text-to-speech factor. Rather than think about how this feature might expand readership, he immediately insisted that it's illegal to use it:
"They don't have the right to read a book out loud. That's an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law."
By that reasoning pretty much any use of text-to-speech software is illegal, which would make for a fascinating legal case. And, actually, if you take that reasoning further, any reading outloud from a book that is not yours is also a violation of copyright law, according to Aitken. Read to your kids at night? Watch out for the Authors Guild police banging down your door. I would think that in purchasing a book, some of the associated rights that come along with it are the right to either read it aloud or have someone else read it aloud to you, but perhaps we'll soon be hearing about a special new "text-to-speech" right with a special compulsory license that will add a nice little extra charge to every book you buy. In the meantime, who put the Luddites in charge of the Authors Guild?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Ima Fish, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 10:51am

    "Read to your kids at night? Watch out for the Authors Guild police banging down your door."

    Shhhh! Don't give them any ideas!

     

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  2.  
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    JB, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 11:03am

    Day care centers already have to buy a license in order to show videos to the children, under the premise that it's a "public performance".

    If this guy is right then maybe he'll insist that day care centers buy a license if they want to read books to the children.

    Libraries hold book readings for children too.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    hesitations, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 11:08am

    "I would think that in purchasing a book, some of the associated rights"

    This is your mistake. "purchasing"

    You do not purchase a book. You acquire only a licensing right subject to the EULA printed in the front cover of the book.

    Sound famliar

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Paul Brinker, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 11:11am

    Amearicans with Dissablitys act

    Isent text to speech already covered with the ADA act? IE blind people? How do you take away a blind persons right to interact with the world and then offer to sell it back to them?

     

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  5.  
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    RD, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 11:21am

    WRONG

    Nope, wrong, FAIL. The rights he is referring to are audio RECORDING rights. Verbal speech is NOT covered under any contract or copyright law I have ever seen in regards to book publishing. Sorry, take your fascist, bootheel stamping garbage somewhere else.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Amearicans with Dissablitys act

    Copyright law.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 12:07pm

    Re: WRONG

    Why would the Authors Guild want to let an annoying little fact like that get in their way? They're taking their cues from the likes of the RIAA, MPAA, ASCAP, BMI, et al.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    sf suave, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 1:01pm

    Author book signings

    So, I was at a book signing the other day where the author sat and read extracts from the book.

    Is this guy actually suggesting that the author should pay himself for the right to read aloud his own work?

    Hmm...

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Teknossapien, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 2:18pm

    Crap

    One more thing I used to enjoy doing, reading to my kids is now illegal. hope the book reading police don't come knocking at my door.
    Seriously does this means that all the school and the libraries will have cease and desist letters sent in the event of story time ?

     

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  10.  
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    hegemon13, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 2:25pm

    Re: Author book signings

    No, but he better pay his publisher, who likely has an exclusive on, if not outright ownership of, the copyright. Damn those thieving writers for selling more copies of their books!

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    David Durand, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 2:25pm

    So kids books should have a ....

    shrink-wrap license for the performance rights, so that parents are not raising their kids to life of crime?

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Michael B, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 3:02pm

    Thanks for Ignoring the Visually Handicapperdf+

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Michael B, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 3:04pm

    Thanks for Ignoring the Visually Handicapped

    (I think this got submitted before I finished!)

    I was elated when I saw that Kindle 2 had text-to-speech built in. I am visually handicapped and thought that would be great, but now this nutjob comes along and says it's illegal. Thanks so much for your insight... you're an idiot.

     

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  14.  
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    LostSailor, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 3:07pm

    Audio rights is not "reading aloud"

    This is not about reading to your kids at night, it's about audio rights, part of the bundle of rights an author has in his/her book.

    What will be interesting, assuming it goes to court if it goes that far, is if by selling content for a dedicated devise that is designed to produce an audio version is considered actual "production" of an audio version under the terms of the copyright act.

    Text-to-Speech is permitted in producing books for the visually disabled, no matter who has the audio rights.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Aithne Jarretta, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 3:11pm

    Read Out Loud & Kindle

    Interesting that the Writer's Guild would come up with this. The Adobe program on my computer also has a 'Read Out Loud' aspect. I never use it because it is flawed with mispronounced words, emotionless diction and a male voice that sounds like a robot. Will Kindle have these features? As an author of both print and ebooks, I am not offended if someone purchases my book and chooses to listen to it. Infact, IMHO this opens my work to readers/listeners that may have missed it before. Aithne Jarretta Parnormal romance Author Feed Your Romantic Spirit ~ Indulge in the Magic! CONCENTRIC CIRCLES (available on Kindle & in print)

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Sandra Chung, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 3:46pm

    Meadow muffins!

    The DRM applies to digital reproduction. Voice isn't even analog.

    The 'read aloud' function for e-books was given the legal thumbs up for sight impaired people, so this Guild can go pound sand.

     

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  17.  
    icon
    Jason (profile), Feb 10th, 2009 @ 4:10pm

    Sorry kindle

    Sorry, Kindle, but you simply have to tell all your vision-impaired customers to suck it.

     

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  18.  
    icon
    Jason (profile), Feb 10th, 2009 @ 4:12pm

    Re: Author book signings

    No, in fact, he probably owes his publisher royalties.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Tess, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 5:17pm

    Someone's missing something...

    ...there is a world of difference between text-to-speech and an audiobook recording. The one does not actually replace the other, although it's certainly better than nothing.

    *sigh*

    Idiots.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    fastfinge, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 5:37pm

    In Fact, This Is Probably Legal

    As a completely blind person who purchases ebooks regularly from fictionwise.com, restricting the ability to have books produced in text to speech is both legal and done all the time. If you view any book on fictionwise.com, and scroll down the page a bit, you will sometimes see something like:
    "Microsoft Reader (LIT) Format: Printing DISABLED, Read-Aloud DISABLED
    Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Format:  Printing DISABLED, Read-Aloud DISABLED
    All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED"

    If you are a blind reader, in order to legally read your ebook, you must make sure that read-aloud is set to enabled on at least one format. Apparently, the DMCA/copyright law effectively trump the ADA. What I wonder is: by read-aloud, does fictionwise exclusively mean TTS software, or does it mean that anyone who purchases the ebook isn't allowed to read it? If I buy an ebook with read-aloud disabled, can I ask Mike to read it to me?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Vincent McBurney, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 11:42pm

    text to speech is not audio

    There should be a difference between text to speech programs and an audio of a book. An audio book has someone reading the text who knows how to read out loud and enhances the text. A text to speech is a programmed conversion of words to speech. If Amazon is employing James Earl Jones to sit in a room and read a book out loud every time someone makes a word to speech request they may be in trouble but since it's a souless computer program what's the fuss?

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Mr. Fresco, Feb 11th, 2009 @ 3:44am

    No need for copyright or IP laws

    The resource-based economy quickly goes to work on clean sources of energy. This is only possible when there are no more monetary limitations in the way of accomplishing or providing what’s needed. With the restrictions of profit, property, and scarcity eliminated, research labs would quickly begin working together and sharing information freely. There would be no need for patents or proprietary information since the end goal is not to make money in order to continue working, but to achieve results that are
    freely and quickly available to the planet’s entire population.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    W. Shanck, Feb 11th, 2009 @ 7:01am

    What about the rights of physically challenged people?

    If this does become an issue in the courts and the Author's Guild is triumphant, then what about disability laws? Are we supposed to tell a blind person that they can never again hear a book that doesn't have an associated "audio right." Instead of being about how much money you can squeeze from a creative work by never having anything drop into the public domain, maybe everyone needs to remember that the intended purpose of copyright law was supposed to protect the creator's creation for a LIMITED time and create and atmosphere where knowlege was eventually shared.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    LostSailor, Feb 11th, 2009 @ 7:12am

    Re: In Fact, This Is Probably Legal

    Copyright law specifically carves out an exception for producing books (braille, audio) for visually impaired readers.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    stop it now!, Feb 11th, 2009 @ 7:27am

    you realize that by REMEMBERING the book you just read quietly to yourself, technically you have RECORDED it in your neurons? you now owe the authors mafia..sorry i mean guild eleven squillion bazillion dollars...thats $1 per neuron......

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    SunKing, Feb 11th, 2009 @ 8:11am

    Suuuuurrreeee.....

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    nasch, Feb 11th, 2009 @ 1:37pm

    Re: WRONG

    Then why is he mentioning those rights? There is no audio recording involved. So this is either stupid, or dumb. Take your pick.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    abba12, Feb 11th, 2009 @ 3:50pm

    so, techdirt. I am blind. as a blind person, may i use text to speech to read your website? :P

    *sigh* politics.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 10:52am

    Re:

    Techdirt releases all articles into the public domain and deny any right to their work.

    do whatever the hell you want with it.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    www.audiobookrentals.net, Feb 13th, 2009 @ 9:12am

    Audio books have been around for years without problems who needs a kindle?

     

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  31.  
    icon
    Marilynn Byerly (profile), Feb 13th, 2009 @ 10:13am

    the difference between TTS and audio rights

    The real point of the Author Guild's comments is the legal issue of whether text-to-speech and audio rights are the same thing. This hasn't been clarified in court, and until it is, authors and publishers are afraid that by allowing TTS through the Kindle or any other reader, they are losing their audio rights.

    Right now, many of the major audio book companies won't touch a book that has TTS so publishers are blocking TTS via DRM.

    This situation is a good thing for the disabled and other readers because once this issue is settled, probably in favor of TTS and audio rights being different things, TTS will be allowed on all electronic books.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Dale, Feb 13th, 2009 @ 5:27pm

    Handicapped readers

    There are others who are handicapped by illiteracy and other mental maladies that make it difficult if not impossible to enjoy literature. Such idiodic ideas hender those in our society better themselves.
    But then, that's just my opinion...

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Joe, Feb 27th, 2009 @ 12:40pm

    Derivative, Recording and Performance, Oh My!

    There is no derivative. A derivative needs to be substantially different yet based upon the original work. Strike one.

    There isn't any physical copy of the audio before or after the book is being read. If the audio is not set in some type of medium, there can be no recording rights issue.
    Strike Two.

    Performance rights only come into play if it's performed in public. Listening to a kindle or reading a book out loud in a public park could be infringement if you have an audience. Even then it's not the kindle but you performing it for an audience in public that would be illegal.
    Strike Three.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    bookslinger, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 8:14am

    He he

    It's that new turning point for another industry isn't it! The publishing world are getting used to a new world with e-books and at the moment, for wont of a better phrase, they are bricking it.

    However, some are reacting, I've noticed one publisher has set up Book Army to bring authors and readers together, promote e-books and much more...it will be interesting to see if they kick off at all, and indeed how the e-book market develops. The whole notion of a kindle reading out stuff kind of disgusts me in someways - no. 1 you are no longer reading it, no. 2 it would be very annoying on public transport without headphones! Then again, is that any different to audiobooks? The answer is no.

    It's all very complicated!

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Jake, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 5:54pm

    replying to the right

    What a silly right Aitken had mentioned. If you stop people from ROL our futur education will be a mess. Reporter won't have any talking practice for there show, soon they will talk like a moron with a fade pronounsation. Talking is something needed and importantly a correct pronounsation. I hope you authorities rethink about this decision.

    P.S. My english is bad cause it is our lag of education from Bonaire. I hope you reader understand my point. Thanks alot :P Ciao

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2011 @ 7:13am

    huj n yjbh yi jjn nu

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Gendo Ikari, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 11:50am

    "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" - The Bard

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Gendo Ikari, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 11:54am

    Re: In Fact, This Is Probably Legal

    Piracy trumps both.

    Citizens are under a civil obligation to protest unjust laws by refusing to obey them. So get your books for free, in formats that work for you.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    bookreader, Apr 29th, 2013 @ 2:23am

    Get it right!

    Please go read copyright law before writing silly articles. Look at the definition of public performance and you will see that you can safely read to your own children.
    A lot of fuss about nothing. Text to speach though is a different matter and the AG are right to raise questions. It needs clarifying.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    Person, Jan 5th, 2014 @ 5:44pm

    Re: WRONG

    Actually, fascism would LOVE to make it illegal to read books aloud. They weren't fond of books, but they were quite fond of law. They burned books very often. Fascism is just another form of socialism, like communism. IT is centered around the state, rather than the feds, but still very central in its own way.

    The thing you are calling fascism (Libertarianism) promotes less law and the only resemblance to fascism it carries is the preference to state law over federal law. This is also different however, as state law in fascism is extremely strict, whereas in Libertarianism, state law is meant to be loose so that the smallest level of community can govern itself without interference, like city government, or even as small a unit as a family.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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