Is Text to Speech Copyright Infringement or Accessibility?

Famously, the Kindle 2 debuted with Text to Speech enabled, only to see it yanked for many books after the publishing companies complained it violated audiobook copyrights. This debate is becoming an issue all over again because of devices like Intel’s Reader for the blind, which uses a scanner and text to speech to allow a visually impaired individual to “read” a written passage.

Essentially, the government is pushing for a copyright exemption for these types of devices that would allow a set fee to cover copyrights, instead of a per-property basis. With some devices, like the Kindle 2, the per-book licensing makes some degree of sense, since Amazon is selling the content and can negotiate for the rights. On the other hand, something like the Intel Reader would be in real trouble, since the whole concept is to be able to scan a book or passage that you physically have in front of you. It would be nearly impossible for Intel to negotiate for the text to speech rights for the entirety of the written word.

The publishers are concerned about “slippery slopes” that lead to them losing control of their copyrights. At the same time, they need to realize that technology moves forward, and with that comes new and innovative ways to consume media. They should be thrilled by devices that let someone who is visually impaired “read”; devices that could do that with accuracy were science fiction years ago. Instead, they get caught up in the mechanics, unable to see past their business models of years past to new opportunities.

I’m thrilled the government is using their influence to push a new perspective on this, especially since it can lead to more accessible technology in the future. What are your thoughts? Should the government be stepping in here, or should device makers restrict access to per-book rights? Share below!

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About the Author

Carly Z
Carly has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to her first PDA (a Palm M100). She quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. She loves writing about ebooks because they combine her two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?