Archive for February, 2009
The Kindle is the first real ebook reader. Not because of the technology, but because it has the Amazon name and power behind it. The technology is nice, but when you add the Amazon store to it, suddenly it’s the iPod of ebooks. But with the Kindle 2 (which I really want) the introduction of a text-to-speech mechanism puts it in murky copyright rules.
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 that’s what the Text-to-Speech mechanism does. Suddenly people are getting two copies of a product (one text, one spoken) for the price of one. The copyright holder loses out on a sale because Amazon decided to exceed the copyright afforded them.
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. The Authors Guild sets the precedent now to prevent loss tomorrow (or in 5 years with the Kindle IV with a Virtual Jim Dale reading an XML marked up version of “Harry Potter and the Contrived Plot Point” complete with different voices for different characters ). They are thinking long term and how it affects their rights.
I disagree with how copyright extensions have given creators (cough Disney cough) an unlimited copyright, but I do understand the line between granting copyright ad infinitum and the act of protecting a copyright.