Copyright collides with consumer rights and human rights

Random House’s decision to disable the text-to-speech feature on all their ebooks has been widely reported.  A visit to Random House’s FAQ page confirms the reports to be true.  This must be rather a disappointment to those who purchased Kindle 2 on the understanding that any ebook downloaded could be converted from text to speech.  Where do their consumer rights come in?

Perhaps of greater concern still is the setback for those with vision impairment or other print disabilities.  Text to speech technology offers the promise of evening up the balance to allow those with print disabilities equal access to literature.  In their early April statement, the Authors’ Guild espoused their commitment to making Kindle accessible to the print disabled but there is no evidence to date that  they have made any progress toward fulfilling this commitment.  In fact, KEI reports that the Authors’ Guild is actively campaign authors to ‘turn off’ text to speech.  

While the Kindle debacle continues the US Copyright Office has recently held a public meeting to consider the need for national law reform to ensure the needs of the blind are fairly represented in US copyright law.  This week in Geneva the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights  will consider, amongst other things, the whether there is a need for an international treaty to ensure member countries’ laws encompass a minimum standard of copyright exceptions and limitations to meet the needs of the visually impaired.

So where do you stand on the issue?  When economic rights and civil rights clash, which should prevail?  And to what extent can we rely on the market to get the balance right?

(Photo credit: madaise)

8 Comments on “Copyright collides with consumer rights and human rights

  1. The text-to-speech is simply a verbalizing using machine of the same content in the book. Thus, it is essentially the same content as the book and should be covered by the same copyright as the book. One may argue that books on tape or audio books would also fall under this opinion. However, this is not the case as the reader such as James Earl Jones is providing his distinct voice to the audio book.Of course, these are only my opinions…

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  2. The text-to-speech is simply a verbalizing using machine of the same content in the book. Thus, it is essentially the same content as the book and should be covered by the same copyright as the book. One may argue that books on tape or audio books would also fall under this opinion. However, this is not the case as the reader such as James Earl Jones is providing his distinct voice to the audio book.Of course, these are only my opinions…

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  3. Thanks GGF – there’s unfortunately a difference between what different groups would like the situation to be and the law as it stands today.  There is a separate performance right which is not covered by the right to reproduce a work in material form.

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  4. Thanks GGF – there’s unfortunately a difference between what different groups would like the situation to be and the law as it stands today.  There is a separate performance right which is not covered by the right to reproduce a work in material form.

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  5. Thanks. I never considered the separate performance right (I’m normally a patent guy, not a copyright expert). If each individual is determined to be the direct infringer by operating the device. I guess the issue would be determining if Amazon would be responsible for contributory infringement of copyright simply by supplying a text to speech engine. As this is probably the only way the publishers would obtain any usable income from the infringement. Unless the copyright owners want to do what the RIAA is doing and sue their customers.

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  6. Thanks. I never considered the separate performance right (I’m normally a patent guy, not a copyright expert). If each individual is determined to be the direct infringer by operating the device. I guess the issue would be determining if Amazon would be responsible for contributory infringement of copyright simply by supplying a text to speech engine. As this is probably the only way the publishers would obtain any usable income from the infringement. Unless the copyright owners want to do what the RIAA is doing and sue their customers.

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  7. Exactly GGF – or inducement (in its various forms depending on the jurisdiction…)

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  8. Exactly GGF – or inducement (in its various forms depending on the jurisdiction…)

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