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Amazon's Kindle in copyright kerfuffle

Amazon's Kindle in copyright kerfuffle

The newly-designed Kindle ebook reader from Amazon can read your books aloud - but should it be allowed to do so?

In what must surely rank as one of the most bizarre – and pathetic – applications of copyright law ever, Amazon has found itself in hot water over the text-to-speech functionality of its new Kindle ebook reader.

As reported over on CNet yesterday, copyright holders are kicking up a stink about the newly introduced speech synthesis capability added to the second-generation Kindle ebook reader from Amazon. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, the executive director of the Authors Guild, Paul Aitken, made the claim that by reading the book out loud Amazon was claiming “an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law.

Under the agreement Amazon has with publishers, it is given the right to produce electronic copies of books for sale to individuals for private use. The publishers often reserve the right to produce derivative works to be marketed separately, such as an audio book version of a popular work. These works are also not usually licensed for public performance – which is an entirely separate right, and one which Aitken is trying to claim the Kindle violates.

Despite this, parents often read copies of books to their children – an act which is encouraged by parenting guides. The introduction of text-to-speech capabilities into the Kindle is hardly designed as a realistic substitute for public performance – you'd feel a bit of a fool stood in front of a packed auditorium holding a Kindle and all listening to a Dalek-alike stumbling through the latest Stephen King – but rather an extension of the already-held right to enjoy a purchased book however you want in private.

Rather than punish Amazon for the introduction of the feature, as Aitken appears to be trying to do, the company should be lauded for introducing a useful accessibility feature for visually impaired readers – not to mention a useful tool for anyone who likes something a little more literary when they're in the car.

Despite Aitken's outbursts, the power rests in the hands of the publishers: it is they who will decide, or not, to renew their digital distribution agreements with Amazon.

Do you believe that the text-to-speech capability of the Kindle represents a public performance – and is something that Amazon should be paying publishers for – or is Aitken barking up the wrong tree? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

17 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
Bauul 12th February 2009, 10:54 Quote
Douchebag. Case closed.
Tyrmot 12th February 2009, 11:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bauul
Douchebag. Case closed.

+1
naokaji 12th February 2009, 11:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyrmot
+1

+33345325352
proxess 12th February 2009, 12:08 Quote
most pathetic patent... how many times have i heard/read this?
Cupboard 12th February 2009, 13:28 Quote
That is really silly. Does the "voice" even sound any good?
Flibblebot 12th February 2009, 13:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by proxess
most pathetic patent... how many times have i heard/read this?
Well, if the publishers have their way, you should only be able to read it. You'd need to pay extra to be able to hear it ;)
Drexial 12th February 2009, 19:44 Quote
With rediculous copyrights like this, no wonder the arts are dying. Technically it's illegal for me to barrow a book from a friend, theoretically the libraries are illegal as well. This is absolutely rediculous.
teh DG 12th February 2009, 22:18 Quote
I suspect this is down to one or both of two things:
1) they copyright holder has sold rights to a third party and is contractually bound to enforce the rights,
2) it's being used as a negotiating tool to increase royalties. Copyright holders may be inclined to agree one thing when a product's success is unknown, and then want something better once the product is a proven success (and the other company is in a poor bargaining position, to boot). Company A takes a risk and it pays off, company B starts thinking it "deserves" a bigger share of the spoils it never took any risk for. Well, companies are hardly unique in this.
Joeymac 12th February 2009, 22:29 Quote
This should set a legal precedent... Amazon's sole defence is telling them to **** off.
cyrilthefish 12th February 2009, 23:46 Quote
Random question:

Is it just me or is 99% of patent litigation nowadays nothing but sheer greed attempting to destroy innovation?

Pretty much every single thing patent related in the past few years has resulted in a urge to *facepalm* so far...
English patent law is bad enough, but at least we don't have software patents *yet*.

I just can't help thinking that the entire patent system is so broken now it should just be scrapped and started over, it seems it only exists to feed patent trolls nowadays :(
The Jambo 13th February 2009, 01:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by cyrilthefish

Is it just me or is 99% of patent litigation nowadays nothing but sheer greed attempting to destroy innovation?

Pretty much every single thing patent related in the past few years has resulted in a urge to *facepalm* so far...

Every patent related lawsuit anyway, yes. I havent really seen one that didnt result in a facepalm.
DXR_13KE 13th February 2009, 01:17 Quote
my patent troll detector has just exploded from the insane amount of stupidity of this act!!
Xir 13th February 2009, 09:45 Quote
Well...i can understand the part about "rights for audiobooks sold seperately"
Especially since audiobooks seem to be a growing market.

It's the only part that makes any kind of sense, though
azrael- 13th February 2009, 12:58 Quote
I was just wondering... If I read the through my glasses the letters will/might be distorted. SURELY that makes the information reaching my eyes derivative as well. Subsequently my glasses need to be "authorized" to do the reading process. At a fee, of course.
naokaji 13th February 2009, 13:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by azrael-
I was just wondering... If I read the through my glasses the letters will/might be distorted. SURELY that makes the information reaching my eyes derivative as well. Subsequently my glasses need to be "authorized" to do the reading process. At a fee, of course.

Worse, they could act as a mirror and someone else could see the text, since that would be too hard to enforce as a law I'd suggest going to jail 5 years before you purchase the product containing the information just to make sure.:D
nicae 26th February 2009, 21:36 Quote
I say sue the punk who's voice is replicated by the Kindle! He's the one distributing the content without a license to people's ears! :B
Farfalho 25th January 2010, 17:42 Quote
I guess human kind is getting a little bit too much addicted to law suits... Everything done is prone to be in court just because one little piggy tried to make a fuss out of it. Pretty much almost every news is about a court case that envolves some sort of jackassery rights violation...

Ok, he said that Amazon should be praised for having developed a tool for the visually impaired but would someone try to make this into a app you should buy if you want the book to be read out loud?

Jeez, that's why lawyers are getting fatter and rich
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