Authors Guild Digs Itself In Deeper Concerning Kindle Text-To-Speech
from the stop-digging dept
We were among many different sites that laughed at the ridiculous assertions by Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken’s attempt to rewrite copyright law concerning the “right” for people with a legally purchased ebook to have a Kindle ebook reader with text-to-speech read the book aloud. Aiken said:
“They don’t have the right to read a book out loud. That’s an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law.”
This is, of course, incorrect. To demonstrate how incorrect it was, we applied it to other scenarios: such as reading to your kids at night. This wasn’t to suggest that we actually thought Aiken meant you couldn’t read to your kids at night, but to show how wrong the original comment was. Amusingly, the Authors Guild seems to have thought we actually believed this, and has issued an attempted clarification, which only serves to make things worse.
First, the Authors Guild isn’t backing down — but says it’s “studying this matter closely.” Instead, it recommends that authors who haven’t already made ebook agreements avoid doing so. Because, you know, when you’re an author the best possible thing is to make it more difficult for people who want to read your book to get it. That doesn’t seem very smart. All because someone might listen to their Kindle read it aloud? I would think that the potential of lost readers would be a much bigger concern.
Furthermore, in clarifying that, yes, indeed, reading to your kids is legal, the Guild claims:
The remarks have been interpreted by some as suggesting that the Guild believes that private out-loud reading is protected by copyright. It isn’t, unless the reading is being done by a machine. And even out-loud reading by a machine is fine, of course, if it’s from an authorized audio copy.
I’m having trouble seeing how that’s correct, though, it would be great if the usual assortment of IP lawyers chimed in on this one. Having a machine read to you in the privacy of your own home isn’t a performance, so there’s no performance rights issues. Then if you go down the whole list of rights covered by copyright, none of them seem to apply. It seems that the Authors Guild is making up a new right (watch out, now the lobbyists will try to get it added): the “you can’t do anything innovative unless you pay extra” right.