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?