So, the Kindle 2 got announced this week. They made some nice additions, including a feature that will “read” the books out loud via text-to-speech software. Pretty cool, right? Well, not if according to Paul Aiken:
“They don’t have the right to read a book out loud,” said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. “That’s an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law.”
Wow. Does he really not see the difference between a recording of a performance of a human being and a machine-generated synthesis based on a text that someone has already purchased the rights to? I mean, if that were really the case, why has this guy not spoken up against screen readers for the blind? Oh wait, I know. Because screen readers for the blind aren’t likely to be a threat to audiobook sales. Now that this feature is bundled into a device designed for the mass market consumer, it’s time to break out the Copyright Law Hammer so “he” (meaning the group he represents) can get a cut of revenue that he has no legitimate claim to.
UPDATE: Engadget did a little piece asking an actual lawyer about this. He comes to approximately the same conclusion I did: The only reason they are getting uppity about this now is because the Kindle2 is the first device that represents a plausible threat to audiobook revenue, never mind that they’ve ignored text to speech technology for what… 20 years?