Authors Guild Continues To Falsely Claim That Reading Aloud On A Kindle Violates Audio Rights

from the which-rights-exactly? dept

Roy Blount Jr. is a funny man. He appears regularly on the radio show Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me..., and is one of their funnier panelists. But, unfortunately, I don't think he was joking when he wrote a silly Op-Ed for the NY Times defending the Authors Guild's stance that having a Kindle use text-to-speech to read aloud is somehow a violation under copyright law. Blount, who's the President of the Guild, seem to be arguing not from a legal perspective, but from a "but this is how we want it to be" perspective. That's because he has almost no legal argument at all. Using text-to-speech to read text you legally own aloud is not copyright infringement. It's not a "fixed" version of the material, and it's not a public performance. So, rather than come up with a legal justification for such a ridiculous claim, Blount resorts to this: "audio books are a billion-dollar market."

This is the "but the old way of doing business made us so much money, so any innovation must be illegal" argument. You know what else was a big market at one time? Horse & buggies. And Gramophones. And 8-tracks. But technology made them all obsolete at some point or another, and that wasn't illegal. You don't get to cling to an old business model just because it made you lots of money. Sometimes new technologies come along, and they provide a better experience for people, and the market changes. Already it's a stretch to say that a TTS read-aloud of a book really "competes" with an audio book, but even if it did one day, that doesn't necessarily make it illegal just because Blount and the Authors Guild wishes it were so.

Finally, Blount responds to criticism that the Authors Guild's stance goes against readers for the blind or the ability to read aloud to your kid at night. He basically just says "no, that's not true." But he doesn't explain why. That's because there is no good explanation, based on what the Authors Guild has said concerning "audio rights." Basically, the Authors Guild is trying to pretend copyright says what it wants it to say, rather than what it actually says. And, when people have pointed out examples of how the Authors Guild's interpretation of copyright is bogus, their response is "well, we didn't mean it for that." They are, of course, missing the point. Those examples aren't to show the full impact of what the Authors Guild is claiming. They're to show that the Authors Guild is wrong in what it thinks copyright grants them. For a group of "Authors" they seem to have trouble with basic reading comprehension.

Update: John Paczkowski has a great post on this, comparing Blount's statements to those of John Philip Sousa a century ago, complaining about the introduction of "playing and talking machines" and how they would destroy music.
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Filed Under: audio rights, authors guild, books, copyright, kindle, roy blount jr., text-to-speech

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  1. identicon
    Politically Incorrect, 25 Feb 2009 @ 3:53pm

    This is just getting ridiculous

    I just don't know what to say anymore. Greed has played a role in every civilization know to man, but this is just getting ridiculous. My wife is a special education teacher, and by their terminology, she is violating copyright law everyday.

    She utilizes software that reads text aloud so that students can learn to read. It can help them sound out individual words if needed. It can also read web pages or practically anything on the screen for the blind. I guess she can't use that anymore. So much for her students being able to experience the required reading material because of course those were written by an author and we do not want to infringe on their rights.

    She reads aloud to her class from textbooks, novels, etc. and they read aloud to each other as part of group readings. I guess that is out the window now since all those come from authors. So, inorder to teach her students, I will have to create a device that will transfer the knowledge from her brain to her students' via the matrix. Oh but wait, does that constitute a public performance of her knowledge; that would be a violation of her rights. I can't do that either.

    Whats a guy to do?

    DISCLAIMER--Any reading aloud of this post constitutes a violation of my rights and is subject to litigation.

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