Linked by Jordan Spencer Cunningham on Wed 18th Feb 2009 00:00 UTC
Legal The Author's Guild has been having some trouble coping with the Kindle 2's Read to Me feature because it supposedly undermines author's rights. Their argument? "They don't have the right to read a book out loud." It sounds ridiculous; we've been reading out loud since we were wee little children, and text-to-speech has been in use since before the Google Empire (by hundreds of years technically, and by decades literally). However, after explanation by Engadget's very own pretentious ex-copyright attorney, the blurred lines of law and lawlessness gets even blurrier. Does the Author's Guild have a valid point, or are they splitting hairs?
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wha?
by helf on Wed 18th Feb 2009 00:25 UTC
helf
Member since:
2005-07-06

oh god. This is seriously just pathetic and sad at this point. I'm so sick of seeing new copyright infringement or patent infringement news articles daily, literally.

And, no, I have not read the article.

Reply Score: 5

RE: wha?
by Accident on Wed 18th Feb 2009 01:58 UTC in reply to "wha?"
Accident Member since:
2005-07-29

I agree, if they're not playing it in front of a crowed over a loud speaker, whats the problem. If they're not playing it over the radio, whats the problem.

Reply Score: 7

RE[2]: wha?
by Yamin on Wed 18th Feb 2009 03:37 UTC in reply to "RE: wha?"
Yamin Member since:
2006-01-10

It's not about the crowds or playing it in public.
It is about what they're selling you and 'lost sales' of audio books.

For example, let's say they sell a book for $1.00.
They also sell the audio book for $3.00.

If you have the kindle with text-to-speech then they have a lost profit opportunity.

That's their argument. I totally disagree with it ;)
It is probably the most insane EULA they are pushing here ;) As far as I'm concerned when you buy a book, you are purchasing a personal right to the content in the book. If a technology exists to transform it to speech, wonderful. You're not buying the words... but the content.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: wha?
by Fergy on Wed 18th Feb 2009 08:49 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: wha?"
Fergy Member since:
2006-04-10

It is about what they're selling you and 'lost sales' of audio books.

It would even be legal to buy the book and hire someone to read it and record it to mp3s so you can listen to it from your mp3 player.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: wha?
by steogede2 on Sun 22nd Feb 2009 14:28 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: wha?"
steogede2 Member since:
2007-08-17

It's not about the crowds or playing it in public.
It is about what they're selling you and 'lost sales' of audio books.

For example, let's say they sell a book for $1.00.
They also sell the audio book for $3.00.

If you have the kindle with text-to-speech then they have a lost profit opportunity.

That's their argument. I totally disagree with it ;)


I am glad you do, as there arguement is fundamentally flawed. If they sell the book for $1 and the audio book for $3 - then what is to stop them selling the e-book for $5 and making even more profit? After all, it's not as though Kindle can take the paper book, OCR it and then read it out with the emotion and drama of an audio book.

Reply Score: 1

Bring it on
by MechR on Wed 18th Feb 2009 01:03 UTC
MechR
Member since:
2006-01-11

I'd love to see them just try and push the issue. Unlike some copyright abuses, this one's easy to explain, and laughable even to the average person.

Reply Score: 1

Actually
by rexstuff on Wed 18th Feb 2009 01:14 UTC
rexstuff
Member since:
2007-04-06

It sure doesn't pass the sniff test, but they kind of have a point, from a certain perspective.

What's the difference between a sequence of (digital) words that get converted into speech and a sequence of (digital) numbers that get converted into a song?

Engadget does an excellent job at showing how the nuances of the case push the edges of current copyright law. More than anything, I like this shows the problem with applying conventional notions of property and copyright to the newest of digital medias.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Actually
by edwdig on Wed 18th Feb 2009 19:12 UTC in reply to "Actually"
edwdig Member since:
2005-08-22

What's the difference between a sequence of (digital) words that get converted into speech and a sequence of (digital) numbers that get converted into a song?

In the case of the song, the digital data is a direct representation of the song being reproduced. Other than the artifacts introduced by the chosen data compression method, the data is an exact replication of the song that gets produced in the end.

In the case of the book, the digital data is just a representation of printed characters. There is no audio there, and it's not a very data source to use for creating audio. Any audio you derive from it is based on combining that data with other data (voice samples) and a bunch of custom algorithms. You're creating something new from the text data. That's where the difference comes in.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Actually
by sbergman27 on Wed 18th Feb 2009 19:16 UTC in reply to "RE: Actually"
sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

You're creating something new from the text data. That's where the difference comes in.

So it's a derivative work?

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Actually
by Ressev on Wed 18th Feb 2009 22:51 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Actually"
Ressev Member since:
2005-07-18

"You're creating something new from the text data. That's where the difference comes in.
So it's a derivative work? "

It's as derivative as my own reading of the material aloud. Forget the source of the audio: human or electronic, it is what you do with it that counts. So if, regardless of purpose, money is to be derived from the audio for the author (read: Guild) if the source is electronic, then why not when from human? Why not from when I read a book to my children?

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Actually
by Soulbender on Wed 18th Feb 2009 19:31 UTC in reply to "RE: Actually"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

You're creating something new from the text data. That's where the difference comes in.


That is perfectly allowed by copyright laws as long as I do not redistribute what I have created.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Actually
by Delgarde on Wed 18th Feb 2009 20:19 UTC in reply to "RE: Actually"
Delgarde Member since:
2008-08-19

You're creating something new from the text data. That's where the difference comes in.


Even for a completely automated, completely reproducible process? I could understand the Author's Guild case if they were concerned about having a human reading things out - I can see that being a derivative work, even if it's a little silly.

But an audio version generated entirely by mechanical process from the original text? Seems to me that if that qualified as creating something new, then that audio version could itself be protected by copyright. Who would then own that derived copyright? And then if two Kindles read the same text, is one of them breaching copyright by performing a work previously created/performed by someone else?

No, I think that if something is derived by a purely mechanical process without human input, then it doesn't count as something new. Or shouldn't, at least - I don't know what the actual legal situation is.

Reply Score: 1

Simply
by shiny on Wed 18th Feb 2009 01:22 UTC
shiny
Member since:
2005-08-09

Well, if it really does, something's really wrong with this world.

Reply Score: 3

no
by nbensa on Wed 18th Feb 2009 02:07 UTC
nbensa
Member since:
2005-08-29

any other question?

Reply Score: 1

Good f**king God
by darknexus on Wed 18th Feb 2009 03:12 UTC
darknexus
Member since:
2008-07-15

What is there to say? This is something that's going to affect me, big time, if they win. Not that I expect them too, this is just bloody ridiculous.
Not only do they claim you can use Kindle II to make an illegal audio book (and anyone even remotely familiar with text-to-speech will know it wouldn't even come close to a flesh-and-blood reader), but they're also attempting to claim that having the device read constitutes a public performance of the work. Yeah freaking right, because me sitting on an airplane with my headphones over my head and listening to the Kindle II would be a really public performance.
This is pathetic, and I don't actually know why they're even bothering. Don't we waste enough money in legal bullshit here in this country?
I doubt they're really going to try and push this. Amazon is going to push back, hard, they've said as much already. And so, I might add, are others in the US government, in particular those involved with accessibility will counterpunch extremely hard if they try to press this issue.
I have the right to read whatever book I want as long as I buy it. I don't give a damn if it's in print, electronic, or a f--king audio book. I bought it, I have the right to read it. It's bad enough that most Ebook DRM locks me out (thank you Adobe for that), they're not going to take this away too. Add to that the precedent this would set for text to speech in general. No way.
Ok, I'm done now. Turns out there actually was a lot to say.
P.s. feel free to mod me down for language if you want, I don't really care. This seriously hacks me off.

Reply Score: 4

Their Rights vs. Our Rights
by benjamintm on Wed 18th Feb 2009 06:26 UTC
benjamintm
Member since:
2009-02-18

This isn't about our rights to own a book or read it aloud to our children, it's about Amazon's right to produce a derivative work from copyrighted material. Amazon has a right to sell the text of a book but they don't have the right to produce a spoken word version of it.

And it’s not that the Kindle can read text aloud poorly, it’s that technology improves over time. Today’s horrible text-to-speech conversion will be replaced with tomorrows "virtual actor" that makes it indistinguishable from a human reader. They set the precedent now to prevent loss tomorrow (or in 5 years with the Kindle IV). They are thinking long term and how it affects their rights.

Ben

Reply Score: 2

RE: Their Rights vs. Our Rights
by darknexus on Wed 18th Feb 2009 14:09 UTC in reply to "Their Rights vs. Our Rights"
darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

With respect, in my case, it is absolutely about the right to be able to read the book.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Their Rights vs. Our Rights
by steogede2 on Sun 22nd Feb 2009 14:37 UTC in reply to "Their Rights vs. Our Rights"
steogede2 Member since:
2007-08-17


And it’s not that the Kindle can read text aloud poorly, it’s that technology improves over time. Today’s horrible text-to-speech conversion will be replaced with tomorrows "virtual actor" that makes it indistinguishable from a human reader. They set the precedent now to prevent loss tomorrow (or in 5 years with the Kindle IV). They are thinking long term and how it affects their rights.

Ben


Not really Ben. A virtual actor would need to be able to take the raw text and use its intelligence, skill and experience to act out the text of the book - to give it the same emotion and drama as an audio book. If computers ever reach that level of intelligence, authors won't need to worry about unauthorised audio books, they will need to worry about losing their jobs to virtual authors.

Remember this is *text to speech* not *speech synthesis*. The input to TTS is pure Text, perhaps with underling/italicizing/emboldening for emphasis. Speech synthesis requires the text and cues relating to pitch, tone, speed etc. - however this information is not stored in e-books.

Reply Score: 1

Technically
by holizz on Wed 18th Feb 2009 06:57 UTC
holizz
Member since:
2006-08-21

"and text-to-speech has been in use since before the Google Empire (by hundreds of years technically, and by decades literally)."

The Wikipedia link describes speech synthesis, not text-to-speech. Don't let Wikipedia's redirects fool you, speech synthesis and TTS are not the same thing.

In regards to the article: if the Authors Guild were to actually win, it would cause terrible problems. Any TTS system could be argued to be assisting in copyright infringement and could become legally-questionable, or perhaps given a special tax like blank media in some countries. Also, I don't think the comparison to MIDI is correct as text doesn't specify exact timings and pitches (or, to make a better comparison, speech vectors or formants or coefficients).

Reply Score: 2

I blame women!
by alcibiades on Wed 18th Feb 2009 07:25 UTC
alcibiades
Member since:
2005-10-12

I think its something to do with the female brain. I tried to explain to my wife the other evening that I was very worried that she was conducting an unlicensed public performance of the Wind in the Willows, to our two children.

She stared at me like I was a lunatic.

I explained that we had two children, and that to read aloud to more than one was a public performance, and besides that, I was in the same room. That night I slept on the couch.

The following weekend, my mother in law came to visit, and settled down on the sofa as she usually does to read to the children. This time it was even worse, one of the neighbors kids came by, and they were reading, I am ashamed to admit, Thomas the Tank Engine. Oh dear. I was terrified that the postman might call and see what we were doing and denounce us to the Government, or perhaps the Performing Rights Society, or maybe the RIAA, or the Society of Authors, or the British Phonographic Society, or perhaps the Stasi. No, that was in another country, and besides they have been abolished, haven't they? Good, that is one less thing to worry about.

Anyway, as I say, it is all down to women who seem unable to understand the very reasonable desire of the Society of Authors to deliver reasonable rewards for their intellectual property to their members, and to have users of this intellectual property have an integrated and fulfilling experience.

As I was lying on the couch that evening, not sleeping, my wife opened the door and asked in a tone of total fury, had I thought of all that when I was making that Hackintosh for her? I did not know what to say. The door slammed shut.

Yes, it is all down to women.

Reply Score: 6

Correction
by Punktyras on Wed 18th Feb 2009 09:16 UTC
Punktyras
Member since:
2006-01-07

In title
Kinde -> Kindle

Reply Score: 2

dnm240
Member since:
2008-06-10

I would be interested to see this author's group tackle the issue of access for people with disabilities. If the text-to-speech capability provides access to somebody who cannot read (blind, cannot physically operate the book, reading disability, etc.) does that constitute a copyright infringement? There are already technologies available that read books aloud to address this exact need. Are those technologies also named in the suit? It is possible to scan, OCR, and print a book to braille, yet another medium. Does that infringe the publishers right to a separate revenue stream from the braille medium? It is the content, not the medium, that needs protection.

To the extent that a different medium represents a derivative work, don't both the original author and the author of the derivative work have rights in that work? Doesn't Amazon, as the "reader," have a claim to the "spoken" version?

It is disappointing that some in the publishing industry have the same attitude towards their audience as those in the music and tv/movie industries. This kind of inflexibility is suicidally stupid, and highlights a core problem in our current thinking about business. From the customer's perspective, a business's reason to exists is to serve the customer. From a business school/finance perspective the business exists solely to make money. It is a pity that this second perspective has dominated recently -- it leads to garbage lawsuits and the destruction of real wealth.

It is abundantly clear that intellectual property law needs a complete overhaul, in both the copyright and patent spaces.

Dave

Reply Score: 3

uh-huh
by Ressev on Wed 18th Feb 2009 18:54 UTC
Ressev
Member since:
2005-07-18

If the choice was:
A – listen to a machine recite a book
Or
B – listen to a person recite a book

I would pick B. The quality and clarity will be superior. Text to speech certainly may be convenient, but it is not something I would put in the realm of copy right infringement anymore than if my wife were reading the a passage to me while I was driving the car. The only difference is who or what is reading the passage. Secondly, Kindle2 will display more than just books so the text to speech Kindle2 employs has uses beyond just reading a work of literature: it can also read back your dissertation or latest love poem to your wife.

Now, if someone took the text to speech output from a work of literature and sold it, that would be infringement. But I think people would be more inclined to purchase the audio from a human vs. from a machine.

Reply Score: 2

goffster
Member since:
2007-11-24

The sale of audio books might be undermined.

i.e. selling a "print" book and selling an "audio"
book might be granted to different companies.

Reply Score: 1

Ressev Member since:
2005-07-18

It was also argued that libraries undermine the sale of books. That argument lost. It was also argued that photocopiers were infringing upon book sales. That lost.

As for this hurting the sales of audio books: highly unlikely. Again: I can get my wife to read a book outloud while I drive. This 'hurts' the sale of audio books. Therefore, something greater has to be at stake than the simple sales for this to be an issue.

Is the material redistributed so that actual (as opposed to theoretical) revenue is lost? Only if the person doing the copying/reading redistrubutes the material for a profit.

A library can lend a book without breaking the law since the book itself was purchased and they are not republishing the book for their own distribution. A photocopier in a library or at Kinkos does not break the law since the person making the copies is not very likely to sell the pages they copy (It is simply not cost effective for the seller or buyer) under fair use. A person reading a book aloud to their kids or someone else is not depriving an author (or the profesional reader) of revenue unless they then make an audio recording and sell it.

So, unless the person is redistributing the audio, there is no problem. The argument against the text to speech is against technology, which is neutral. It is the practical use of that technology that IS the issue.

Reply Score: 1

steogede2 Member since:
2007-08-17

Goffster, you are quite right, the sale of audio books *might* decline - however so might sales of printed books. However, it would likely only happen if sales of e-books improved.

A publisher is perfectly able to increase their charges for e-books to compensate for loss of audio and printed book sales; there is no reason for the author to lose out. The argument should be between the author and their publisher - it has nothing to do with Amazon.

Edited 2009-02-22 14:44 UTC

Reply Score: 1

Absurd
by fresch on Thu 19th Feb 2009 17:51 UTC
fresch
Member since:
2006-09-12

This is so absolutely, totally, insanely ABSURD. There is only one valid answer: No!

Reply Score: 1

pantheraleo
Member since:
2007-03-07

This is just the latest example of their draconian attempts at policy. There are plenty of other examples.

A few years ago The Author's Guild wanted to charge royalty fees to public libraries every time they loaned out a book. This would have forced thousands of libraries around the country to close because they would not have been able to afford this. Apparently the Author's Guild is more concerned about authors making a few extra dollars on royalties than they are about our children having access to books and learning to read.

Reply Score: 1