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Authors Guild President Wants To End Royalty-Free TTS On Kindle

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the is-it-just-me-or-does-guild-sound-medieval? dept.

Books 539

An anonymous reader writes "The president of the Authors Guild has launched a rant in the NY Times about how the Kindle 2 provides Text-to-Speech capabilities that, oh the horror, allow the user to have any text on the Kindle read to her. Roy Blunt, Jr. moans that this is copyright infringement of audio books, and that Kindle users should be forced to pay royalties on audio even though they've already paid for the text version of a book! Amazingly he harps on about how TTS technology has become so good that it may replace humans — and then uses this to argue that it's unfair for Kindle to provide TTS! I think the Authors Guild need a new president — someone less of a Luddite, and more familiar with copyright law." (See also the Guild's executive director's similar claims that reading aloud, royalty-free, is an illegal function of software.)

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not crazy, auditioning for a job w/ RIAA (4, Funny)

Uberbah (647458) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985395)

I'm sure the record labels pay much better for nutty speech than a bunch of writers.

Re:not crazy, auditioning for a job w/ RIAA (2, Interesting)

Moryath (553296) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985959)

No kidding.

Non-infringing use #1 I can think of: setting this thing to play in the car like a normal audiobook. I have a few other "audiobooks" loaded to my ipod that are the result of running scanned or otherwise digital copies through text-to-speech software and it works well enough when there is no alternative (e.g. no professional audiobook) available. I'd love to be able to get some more favorites/classics for times when I can't sit to "read" but can listen perfectly well.

It almost sounds like this asshole thinks he's the next Jack Valenti or something. I keep expecting to see a quote about the Boston Strangler.

Income from audio books helps not inconsiderably to keep authors, and publishers, afloat.

I won't deny it's a useful revenue stream but seriously, how about if you sell more copies of the books anyways? Of my collection of books, less than 2% have an audiobook version available. If I can buy the digital version for a fair price and then run it with text-to-speech, I'm happy. If you do not provide such an option, plenty of people will resort to less-than-legal means.

The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more consumers will slip through your fingers...

Anonymous Coward (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26985413)

OP needs to settle down and think about 10 years in the future when TTS *is* able to replace a human voice. Amazon is essentially licensing an e-book, and then turning it into an audio book, which has it's own licensing scheme. I for one actually agree that you should not be able to buy one and get the other for free - they are fundamentally different.

That said, what should happen is that each e-book has two flavors - TTS capable and not. The TTS capable version costs more to cover both licenses.

Let's do a reality check (5, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985487)

Some books have special editions in large typeface, intended for people with eyesight impairments. These books are more expensive, because more paper is used in printing them.

According to the Authors Guild logic, using a magnifying glass with a normal print book should be illegal, because then one gets large typeface for free?

Re:Let's do a reality check (4, Interesting)

Wooky_linuxer (685371) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985561)

According to the Authors Guild logic, if I read aloud a book to my 4 y.o. son, I should pay another license.

Nah, just kidding. I don't have a son.

Re:Let's do a reality check (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985735)

It's not so much reading to your own son, but should libraries now have to pay twice because, shockers, they often have reading programs for kids where a librarian will sit down and read a book to a dozen kids. Heck, what about the classroom, where teachers will read to twenty kids. What about book clubs?

The whole thing is nuts, and shows just how far mis-managed industries will go to preserve their sacred cows in the face not only of technology but of basic logic.

Re:Let's do a reality check (1, Insightful)

AdamWill (604569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985827)

"It's not so much reading to your own son, but should libraries now have to pay twice because, shockers, they often have reading programs for kids where a librarian will sit down and read a book to a dozen kids. Heck, what about the classroom, where teachers will read to twenty kids. What about book clubs?"

Given that this has been going on for years and the authors' guild hasn't made the smallest squeak of protest, I would say...no. The guy has a perfectly reasonable point. Decent TTS in a widely-used device will basically kill the audiobook market, and authors should be compensated in some way for the revenue lost there. What's wrong with that? All they need to do is increase the ebook licensing fee in respect of the problem, or something, and that's all the AG is asking for. They've never said at any point that they're going to go out and start suing people.

I think Engadget's write-up of this was far more sensible. The way this story was written here is ridiculous.

Re:Let's do a reality check (3, Insightful)

danlor (309557) | more than 5 years ago | (#26986041)

Decent TTS in a widely-used device will basically kill the audiobook market, and authors should be compensated in some way for the revenue lost there. What's wrong with that?

No. They should not. Society moves on. Those left behind need to ask themselves why. Maybe they were never needed in the first place?

I see no reason AT ALL to ever protect dead markets OR the people who steadfastly insist to keep working in them.

Let them go down with their ship. It's their ship after all. It's their choice.

Re:Let's do a reality check (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26986095)

Decent TTS in a widely-used device will basically kill the audiobook market, and authors should be compensated in some way for the revenue lost there.

Why? Nobody has a right to any specific revenue stream. If technology renders your business model obsolete, tough luck.

Re:Let's do a reality check (3, Insightful)

drquoz (1199407) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985753)

Actually, what he's saying is if you want to read aloud to your son, you're fine. But if you want to have your Kindle read to your son, you should pay a licensing fee. According to him, there's a difference, and that's where his logic fails.

No - Not at all (4, Insightful)

capt.Hij (318203) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985781)

I know it is not fashionable to read the article or look at this from a different perspective, but Mr. Blount explicitly brought this issue up in the article. He said that providing such services to sight impaired people is something they have done for a long time and have no desire to end.

He is also not saying that this is a copyright violation. What he explicitly said is that the kindle creates extra value for the work. In return the people who created the material should share in that extra value.

It is fine to disagree with this statement. I personally think that market forces should determine the worth of the product. If you want to argue, though, you should argue against the points that he brought up instead of changing the subject and using a "straw man" argument.

Re:No - Not at all (5, Insightful)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985935)

What he explicitly said is that the kindle creates extra value for the work. In return the people who created the material should share in that extra value.

Why? They played no part and incurred no expense in creating that extra value, and unless the Kindle's speech is being recorded, there's no derivative work being fixed in a tangible medium, which was my understanding of what was required for a copyright claim. I suppose they could stretch and try to call it a "performance", but these guys really need to get a grasp on how greedy it's making the entire content creation industry look to everyone not involved in it.

Re:No - Not at all (1)

DarKnyht (671407) | more than 5 years ago | (#26986055)

If you listen to half the audio books out there "performance" is a stretch for what you get on a $60 audio book.

Personally I think the TTS might be able to provide less of a monotone performance than some of the readers they hire.

Re:No - Not at all (1)

Sen.NullProcPntr (855073) | more than 5 years ago | (#26986083)

What he explicitly said is that the kindle creates extra value for the work. In return the people who created the material should share in that extra value.

Why should they share in the extra value? They had nothing to do with adding the value.

The fact that the Kindle has TTS makes it more popular. Isn't it enough that the more popular the Kindle is the more e-books will be sold over all?
The Guild should be doing everything they can to support their future medium.

Warped logic (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985811)

According to the Authors Guild logic, using a magnifying glass with a normal print book should be illegal, because then one gets large typeface for free?

No, their logic seems to be even more warped than this. If you used your own magnifying glass then it is fine, no problem. But if you sell a book with a bundled magnifying glass and advertize it as a cheap large print book then they would not be happy.

Re:Let's do a reality check (2, Funny)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985853)

According to the Authors Guild logic, using a magnifying glass with a normal print book should be illegal, because then one gets large typeface for free?

And be ready with a credit card every time you hit the magnifying glass button in Acrobat Reader.

yeah, but... (1)

dfm3 (830843) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985611)

I for one actually agree that you should not be able to buy one and get the other for free - they are fundamentally different.

When you buy an audio book on CD, you're paying for (among other things) the cost of production... hiring somebody to read the book, a sound studio to do the recording, the cost of mastering and pressing a set of CDs. That's how the higher price can be justified.

What the Kindle software does is essentially make the production cost of the audio zero (well, there's the cost of the software, but I'm simplifying things here).

What's to stop me as an individual from reading a book aloud and recording it for private use? Nothing. Selling such a recording, now that's another matter.

Re:Anonymous Coward (1)

hobbit (5915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985623)

AC needs to settle down and think about 0 years in the future when parents *are* able to read to their children. Parents are essentially licensing a book, and then turning it into an audio book, which has its own licensing scheme. I for one actually agree that you should not be able to buy one and get the other for free -- they are fundamentally different.

That said, what should happen is that each book has two flavors - read-to-your-children-capable and not. The read-to-your-children-capable version costs more to cover both licenses.

Won't somebody please think of the children, exposed to this evil pirating -- in the example of their own parents, no less -- from such a young age?

Re:Anonymous Coward (2, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985637)

You and your fellow Author's Guild members (and the RIAA) need stop thinking of 20 years in the past. You also ought to look at what copyright law says, and stop trying to nickle and dime everyone to death.

Licenses are for publishers, not end users. I don't licence a book, I buy a copy.

If I buy a paper book I can do any damned thing I want with it, including reading it aloud or putting it on a scanner and letting the scanner read it aloud.

Luddite cave men like you are the reason the major record labels and newspaper chains are going under. Adapt or die. Want my advice? Do everyone a favor and die, you are hindering freedom AND progress.

What an idiot (4, Funny)

avalys (221114) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985417)

What an idiot - doesn't he realize how wonderful it is that technology makes it possible for us to avoid paying the authors we like as much money as we used to?

Re:What an idiot (1)

sweatyboatman (457800) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985699)

if only i had mod points

Re:What an idiot (1)

Wandering Wombat (531833) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985763)

Yeah. Authors generally make SOOOO much money. Many authors I know make more than enough money to pay for groceries, with a little bit leftover to get new socks!

Re:What an idiot (1)

tsstahl (812393) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985861)

Socks?

Rich bass turd!

Re:What an idiot (5, Insightful)

arcmay (253138) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985791)

I'd argue the Kindle will make more money for authors because of an inability to sell e-books secondhand. If the secondhand book market is larger than the audiobook market, the author's guild is coming out ahead.

Re:What an idiot (2, Insightful)

javilon (99157) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985869)

I think what he is really scared off is that TTS will become so good that one day will replace writers.

He wants to stop it now!

Re:What an idiot (1, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26986031)

What an idiot - doesn't he realize how wonderful it is that technology makes it possible for us to avoid paying the authors we like as much money as we used to?

What an idiot indeed. He should be asking for assistance from society in keeping authors writing now that an after-market-service that used to generate income for them has been rendered obsolete. If he did, our greed for more written works would prompt us to attempt to help him.

Instead, he's asking that we be forced to pay a third party to provide a service to us that modern tools permit us to provide for ourselves. This causes our greed to prompt us to attack him, because complying with his request means needlessly throwing away our own resources for no benefit.

Here's a piece of advice to those representing creators: Focus your attention on the goal instead of attempting to treat the mechanism by which you historically met your goals as though they were the actual goal. We genuinely don't want you to stop writing, singing, painting, designing, filming, dancing and acting, and we genuinely don't want you to starve or freeze to death. It is your narrowmindedness that places you in conflict with us, and we outnumber you. So, grow up and lets deal with the realities of the situation like rational people, hey?

Re:What an idiot (2, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26986091)

We don't pay authors, we pay publishers. Publishers pay the authors.

Re:What an idiot (2, Interesting)

Reece400 (584378) | more than 5 years ago | (#26986093)

Do the authors really make much more from audio books? or does much of the extra revenue go to the reader, production and publisher?

Dicing us ever more finely... (2, Interesting)

Dracul (598944) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985421)

This nicely illustrates a subtle trap that copyright law has fallen into. By being a 'bundle of rights' it has encouraged an approach of ever finer division of intellectual works and their uses. An infinite series of new markets to be exploited - that's the legacy of the 'long tail.' I look forward to serving our new 'reading on saturday morning in bed' licence-owning overlords!

Re:Dicing us ever more finely... (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985647)

But the more they tighten their grip on copyright, the more copyright works will slip through their fingers.

Pirates! (2, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985427)

Does this mean screen readers are copyright violation machines? Damn those freeloading blind people!

Re:Pirates! (1)

NonUniqueNickname (1459477) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985601)

Does this mean screen readers are copyright violation machines?

Yes, it is. Also a copyright violation: reading out loud.
Damn those freeloading kids! I told you no bedtime stories or the Authors Guild will put your daddy in a bad, bad place.

Re:Pirates! (2, Insightful)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985727)

Don't forget us freeloading parents. Who knew that I was committing an act of copyright infringement while I read my son his bedtime story? I guess I be a pirate then. *ARRR* Where do I get my eye-patch?

Re:Pirates! (2, Insightful)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985603)

Indeed. President of the Authors Guild, meet the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Meet the rant (1)

drerwk (695572) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985695)

Indeed they have already met:

In fact, publishers, authors and American copyright laws have long provided for free audio availability to the blind and the guild is all for technologies that expand that availability.

Re:Pirates! (2)

drerwk (695572) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985665)

+5 for not reading his rant:

In fact, publishers, authors and American copyright laws have long provided for free audio availability to the blind and the guild is all for technologies that expand that availability.

Nah, he exempts assistive devices specifically (3, Insightful)

krog (25663) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985713)

It's us sighted people who are expected to bend over the barrel.

I hope he's comfortable with the fact that he just lost the goodwill of a few hundred thousand geeks (who are among the heaviest readers). Good luck with that, champ.

Yes, and the guild president has a point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26986011)

I'll tell you what. Our blind boys have taken up pirating ebooks! One of the worst and coolest of crimes.

Advocacy organizations (4, Insightful)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985431)

People who head advocacy organizations, such as the Authors Guild, have to have issues they can push so as to get members of their groups to pay dues. If there are no real issues, they need to invent them.

Re:Advocacy organizations (1)

TimothyDavis (1124707) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985843)

I don't think they are inventing an issue here. The issue is that this technology has potential to very much hurt the audio book business. This guy is just doing whatever he can to advocate protectionism (which is his job). It is simply unfortunate that he has little to work with here.

I hardly read print books anymore - I very much enjoy listening to audio books while doing something else (working out, driving, walking, etc). What I can tell you is that there is a huge gap between well read audio books, and the crap books that many authors decided to read themselves. I am very skeptical that the Kindle can even match the quality of current human read books of poor quality. Tone inflection, multiple character voices, etc all make up a quality audio book. I don't see a machine being capable of replicating a good reader for at least the next ten years.

Re: Advocacy organizations = trolls (1)

dstarfire (134200) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985919)

In other words, it's just offline trolling.

Since the first child was born, people have been saying and doing stupid sh*t solely for the attention they get. This is just more of the same.

Re:Advocacy organizations (4, Informative)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985923)

You're right that the Authors Guild relies on members. Which is precisely why, if you disagree with the statements of the Guild, you should put pressure on authors, either by boycotting any author who is a member of the Guild, or writing to them and asking them to signal their disapproval.

When the Authors Guild says these kinds of ridiculous things (and uses logic which, incidentally, implies that people with disabilities should not be allowed to convert media to a form they can use), it makes all members look like greedy idiots. Authors should speak up and tell the Guild that they do not want to be represented as such.

For a partial list of Guild members, see:

http://www.authorsguild.org/news/member_websites/a.html [authorsguild.org]

Contacting the Guild and mentioning that you plan to boycott authors associated with them might also get the message across.

Re:Advocacy organizations (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985927)

Mod this dude up, please. This behavior is exactly why unions should be ad hoc and problem-specific organizations, and be disbanded after the problem is resolved, not linger around for decades afterward like fat parasitic leeches.

Re:Advocacy organizations (2, Interesting)

Krater76 (810350) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985949)

People who head advocacy organizations, such as the Authors Guild, have to have issues they can push so as to get members of their groups to pay dues. If there are no real issues, they need to invent them.

This is more true then people realize.

Case in point: the city where I grew up is an industrial mill town where almost everyone is union. At some point in the late 70s/early 80s a union for barbers came through and unionized all the barbers there. And of course you pretty much had to join because the other union workers wouldn't go to a non-union barber shop. They were advocating for better pay, working conditions, etc. It sounded great to all those involved.

So what could possibly go wrong? Well for one, most barbers either owned, or co-owned, there own places so who were they protecting their jobs from? 'The man'? They were 'the man'. Secondly, the union tried to get uniform pricing across all barbers but this was a silly notion. A barber with experience had to charge the same as the new guy. Also, if someone was just plain better than another they still had to charge the same even though they could only see so many clients per day.

In the end the union failed because everyone realized they were paying dues for nothing. There are no longer any union barbers in the town and everyone sets their own prices to what the market will bear.

NOTE: As someone who comes from a family of union workers, I am not bashing unions. I am critical of the fact that in some places the market is better without them, especially in the case of skilled labor.

I own one (5, Informative)

blueforce (192332) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985449)

I got my Kindle 2.0 from the UPS driver yesterday.

I tried out this frightful technology and I can tell you - it sounds very much like Stephen Hawking reading to me.

If by "replace humans" he means Stephen Hawking doing book readings at the local Borders well then, yes, maybe he's right.

On the _other_ hand, I'd like my books read to me... "Once more, with feeling" (you dirty grubs).

Re:I own one (2, Funny)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985717)

"I am not going to say it again children, Now come closer!" - Kindel in Christopher Walken mode.

Re:I own one (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#26986009)

On a somewhat related note, Stephen King has a book out that is Kindle only. So it might work there...

Is it THAT good? (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985455)

How does the kindle TTS compare to say AT&T natural voice, or RealSpeak TTS engine. ...I still think it's much ado about nothing, but if the quality is indistinguishable from a human voice (which I doubt) then their argument might not be quite so feeble.

Re:Is it THAT good? (1)

hobbit (5915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985681)

Most audio books I've heard are read by celebrities, i.e., voices people recognize. I don't see TTS replacing celebrities anytime soon, considering that normal voice actors can't even do so.

Re:Is it THAT good? (1)

dreemernj (859414) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985921)

From the 2 or 3 sentences I've heard out of a Kindle 2, it didn't seem anywhere near indistinguishable from a human voice. It was still better than I expected, but I can't imagine it would replace a human reader. Even beyond simple voice synthesizing, the audio books I've listened to conveyed feelings, often did slightly different voices for different characters, stuff like that.

The audio books I have listened to are definately unique works. The way they are put together, the way they are read, background music on some of them, how they pick and prep the person reading...

TTS doesn't have any of that, it doesn't replace any of that actual work that went into the audio book version specifically. Its making use of the same source material, but thats there from purchasing the book itself.

Reading to Children a violation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26985461)

I used to read to my son, now I guess I need to just find a books on tape version of Good-Night Moon to avoid violating rights.

greed v. community spririt? (-1, Redundant)

Nomen Publicus (1150725) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985465)

Why does this man hate blind people? Why does he want to force the blind to rely on the limited availability of commercial and specialised works for the blind?

Re:greed v. community spririt? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985715)

I'll bet the bigger market is people driving their cars. I know I'd use it for that. (Or just lying on the beach, when holding up a book - or even my head - is just too much work :)

Sure, a human-read book will be better, but as you say, that's often not available.

Bed time (2, Insightful)

YayaY (837729) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985477)

Is reading a bed time story to its children copyright infringement? This world is really crazy.

Re:Bed time (1)

drquoz (1199407) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985649)

FTA: "For the record: no, the Authors Guild does not expect royalties from anybody doing non-commercial performances of 'Goodnight Moon.' If parents want to send their children off to bed with the voice of Kindle 2, however, it's another matter."

I, however, see no difference. Mr. Blount is a nut.

Re:Bed time (1)

YayaY (837729) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985883)

So, A baby sitter reading a bed time story to some children would constitute copyright infringement? or should she be part of the Authors Guild for it to be legal?

It seems to me that copyright infringement should only occurs when there is a public performance or when a 'copy' is made.

Disabilities (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26985479)

Is he seriously suggesting that a blind person who has legally purchased copyrighted text should have to pay extra to process that text into a usable format?

NYT? The irony... (4, Funny)

blueforce (192332) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985489)

The NYT is available on the Kindle. I wonder how many people are using TTS to listen to his rant. I know funny, and that's funny.

Re:NYT? The irony... (1)

lbft (950835) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985885)

The truth? Probably not many. Text to speech technology still has quite a way to go before it sounds human enough to not be jarring.

As for books, I'm not sure TTS will be able to express the emotion of a good book in my lifetime. If audiobooks were just about reading the text aloud then nobody except the blind would bother - and the preponderance audiobooks in real bookstores and even on torrent sites suggests to me that far more people than the blind are listening to books.

A whole new world! (1)

iamangry (1463943) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985499)

I for one am excited. Finally, an application for us illiterate people! And a new market for them...

just like instant coffee (1)

themib (315187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985501)

We've secretly replaced their regular Office software with a special software that only reads characters from the source code out loud instead of running the real executable. Let's see if they can tell the difference!

#include
#include /rolls eyes

In the words of the Author's Guild President (0, Redundant)

MasterOfMagic (151058) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985509)

"Fuck you if you're blind. Now bend over and take it."

You'd think he would be happy about this as it increases the reach of written works to a group of people that couldn't previously use them - the illiterate. 80% of the world's population is literate, according to the UN, meaning they can write and read in one language. Therefore, 20% of the world's population, about 1,340,000,000 people, can't read.

I thought the RIAA strategy of alienating customers through lawsuits was bad. Here's the president of a guild saying that 1.34 billion new potential customers aren't important to him.

Re:In the words of the Author's Guild President (2, Insightful)

adonoman (624929) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985591)

How many of those illiterate people do you think can afford a Kindle?

Re:In the words of the Author's Guild President (1)

Renegade88 (874837) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985657)

Bingo. My thoughts exactly.

Re:In the words of the Author's Guild President (1)

moranar (632206) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985729)

The superposition between the illiterate and those buying TTS devices seems to me a bit smaller than 100%. More like 0%.

Ludite? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26985547)

Hate to break the news, but performances of copyright works are protected by copyright as derivative works, which would include spoken word, unless the author gives a license. He seems to have some grasp of that, are you saying you are more knowledgeable about the statute? If so, please correct him.

Re:Ludite? (1)

Chaos Incarnate (772793) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985639)

The part that you're missing is that it's not a performance. (Well, if you went out and pumped the output over the PA of a stadium it would be. :p But not in most use conditions.)

In what sense is this a "performance"? (3, Insightful)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985873)

It's a rendering. Good God, are they going to try to charge if we choose to re-render it in a different font size? Are they missing out on millions in revenue by not charging for iTunes music visualizations, which are clearly "performances" of music in a different modality, and surely at least as deserving of copyright protection?

Well, he is a humorist. (1)

sabt-pestnu (967671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985569)

Perhaps this is just one of his less funny dead-pan jokes?

Great. What about Special Needs Kids? (1, Interesting)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985571)

You see them all the time on the (short) bus. They like to read, but they always re aloud to themselves. I wonder if the author's guild is going to jail a bunch of those kids. That'll make some GREAT TV.

HE WAS READING CAT IN THE HAT!!! ALOUD!!! OFF WITH HIS HEAD!!!

Or afternoon reading sessions at libraries...

Volunteer book reader: "OK Kids - today we're going to read one of my favourites... Ready? OK! It goes like this...

One fish
Two fish
Red fish
blue fish..."

(BLAMMO!!!! - the door is blasted off its hinges)

Stormtroopers barge in.

"OK LADY!!!! FACE ON THE FLOOR!!! EVERYBODY DOWN AND SHUT UP!!! YOU'RE UNDER ARREST FOR VIOLATING COPYRIGHT WITH THE AUTHORS GUILD!!! TAKE HER AWAY BOYS!!!!"

She is kept in a squatting position for days in a transport plane, shuttled between one hellhole outpost of the American empire to another. She is ordered to form a naked pyramid with the folks at EFF and Pirate Bay. Eventually she confesses and realises she truly loves Big Brother. By surrendering her autonomy to financial interests she doesn't care what she remembers...she's entertained...

RS

Where's the loss? (4, Insightful)

chill (34294) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985575)

While the audio-book business may be a billion dollar industry, how many people buy BOTH the print and audio versions of a book? I'm guessing the answer is "not very many".

When buying an e-book for the Kindle, the author and publishers both get their royalties. With what I am assuming to be a negligible amount of people purchasing BOTH, there really isn't a lot of lost royalty rights from non-e double-dipping. The people that might have a beef are the voice actors that are hired to read for audio books. THEY are in serious danger of being replaced by technology. Well, that's progress. Go commiserate with the slide-rule and buggy whip unions.

Having an artificial voice read an e-book really doesn't cut into any publisher or author profits. Instead of revenues shifting solely from paper books to e-books, there is also some shift from audio books to e-books. But the sum total shifting is still the same.

What it sounds like is the Author's Guild saw dollar signs in the potential to get paid twice for the same thing and doesn't like it that the rest of the world doesn't agree with them, hence the temper tantrum.

Re:Where's the loss? (2, Informative)

salemnic (244944) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985669)

I do. I've purchased about a dozen books in both electronic or dead tree and audio formats.

I usually get the audio ones first, then buy the text-based one if I really enjoyed the audio book (for re-reading).

Best argument I've seen in favor of piracy (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985577)

If this guy actually did represent authors, I would suddenly feel no desire to compensate authors. Some authors probably do feel that way, but l suppose paying for books is still the right thing to do. I don't mind paying for books, but of course the text to speech idea is silly. It is clear that in the next 20 years or so we will be getting some new copyright laws, as we transition from a society where the publisher is king to a society where we want to compensate people for what they've done. It's just a matter of time before it becomes settled what those laws look like. Some points of what we will probably want as a society:
  • To compensate fairly the creator of a work.
  • To compensate fairly the distributor and publicist of the work.
  • To preserve the right of the public to add on to, copy, and create new works based on the original.
  • To allow for the preservation and use of the work after the author has disappeared.

I'm sure there are more things that need to be considered, but I think these will have to be dealt with, but it will take a while. Government is not generally too quick on change (by design, really).

Re:Best argument I've seen in favor of piracy (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985931)

It is clear that in the next 20 years or so we will be getting some new copyright laws, as we transition from a society where the publisher is king to a society where we want to compensate people for what they've done.

I'm sorry, but short of some kind of massive socio-political revolution I don't see anything like that coming to pass. The *people* may see the logic and desire these changes, but as it's been apparent for decades, government cares little what the people want and shows no signs of changing direction.

Those in government only make empty promises and platitudes in order to be re-elected. They're real constituents aren't individual citizens, they are the special interests, PACs, and monied campaign contributors and organizers like George Soros.

Unless these interests see some benefit to themselves and their agendas it will only get worse.

Strat

Seems reasonable. (1)

elistan (578864) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985585)

AFAIK, an audiobook is a derivative work of a normal print book, just like a screenplay and a movie are derivative works. And is therefore protected by copyright law. Just because I own a paper copy of a book does not mean that I can walk out of a bookstore with a free version of the audio book, or go see the movie for free. The fact that it's produced by a computer algorithm rather than a person reading out loud doesn't really have any bearing on the issue.

Re:Seems reasonable. (2, Informative)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985757)

Copyright law, Chapter 6, Section 121 [copyright.gov] expressly allows for alternative versions to exist specifically for persons with disabilities. Also in the case of an audio book, you are paying for both the copy of the work and the voice actor's performance. In the case of the Kindle 2, the customer has already paid for the book.

Re:Seems reasonable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26985847)

Can I ROT13 the book? Why not? Is it a 'derivative work' then? Just because you own a paper copy of the book doesn't give you the right to steal derivative works. That'd be silly. But it does give you the right to do whatever you damn well please with your copy of the book, including ROT13ing it, burning it (in a fire), burning it (to a cd), or *gasp* running it through TTS. As long as you don't try to sell the derivative work (Kindle is not, they're selling TTS), and as long as it's not a public performance (which I'm not convinced is illegal anyway, since the reading IS a derivative work under its own copyrights, but that's a separate issue), then I don't see the problem.

On the contrary, this isn't a book (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#26986101)

Ah, but this is _not_ an audiobook. It is a e-book, which is neither book nor audiobook. The intent of an e-book is that the data is embedded in a file which is then rendered on an electronic device in a format which can be sensed by the purchaser of the e-book.

Here's a question: If you bought the e-book, and your reader only had TTS but no screen, would there be a problem? What about a braille version? A color version? Now, what if you combined a B&W reader with a braille stripe on the bottom of the reader.

If the e-book is only in digital form, than ANY rendering is a "derivative" work. Note that fair use is significant here. From wikipedia, the Galoob v Nintendo ruling of the 9th circuit stated: "a party who distributes a copyrighted work cannot dictate how that work is to be enjoyed". In other words, the end user can do (nearly) whatever her or she damned well pleases once purchased. To say that you can't have a book read to you - either by a friend, a relative, or your personal reading device, is simply absurd.

Pay for performance (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26985587)

If I buy an audio book, I'm paying for the literary work and the performance of the voice actor. Since no voice actor is involved with Kindle TTS, I see no reason to pay extra.

what it always boils down to: greed (4, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985597)

They just want to sell it to you on dead tree, then sell you the bits, then sell you the cassette, (excuse me, DRM-laden WMA files) all of the same work, and charge you each time for it, that's all. What's so wrong with that?

Put this in your Kindle and smoke it (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26985605)

FUCK OFF!

<after basic filter>
{beeep} OFF!

<after christian fundamentalist filter>
you poor misunderstood darling.

<after DRM filter>
go get em tiger - filthy pirates oughta be hung...

<after *AA filter>
let's do lunch.

<after /. filter>
first post!

Wait, wait..don't tell me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26985613)

Is he just pulling our collective leg with this article? He's been known to have a somewhat subversive sense of humor and is frequently on the NPR comedy show "Wait, wait..."

Voice Talent (2, Insightful)

gznork26 (1195943) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985625)

It seems to me that equating the output of a text-to-speech process to the product of a human reading the text as an audiobook debases the value of the people who provide the voices of so many audiobooks. Now, granted, at least some of the people who read for audiobooks are volunteers helping our libraries, but there are also audiobooks that are read by professional talent. Consequently, this claim equates professional actors, or professional voice actors, with a bit of technology. Shouldn't the actors' union get involved in this fight?

P. Orin Zack

- - -
I write pointed political and business short stories at http://klurgsheld.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com]

I don't understand his points (4, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985627)

On the National Federation of the Blind's Web site, the guild is accused of arguing that it is illegal for blind people to use âoereaders, either human or machine, to access books that are not available in alternative formats like Braille or audio." . . . In fact, publishers, authors and American copyright laws have long provided for free audio availability to the blind and the guild is all for technologies that expand that availability. (The federation, though, points out that blind readers can't independently use the Kindle 2's visual, on-screen controls.) But that doesn't mean Amazon should be able, without copyright-holders' participation, to pass that service on to everyone.

So his counterpoint to the argument that copyright laws allows the Kindle text-to-speech feature is that blind people can't use the Kindle? It didn't seem that he remotely addressed their point. For though blind people can't independently operate a Kindle, doesn't mean that they can't operate it all. i.e. "Sonny can you load up A Tale of Two Cities and play it for me". Also for those people who are not blind but visually impaired(dsylexic, far-sighted, glaucoma, etc. ), they may be able to operate the Kindle 2. I am not a copyright lawyer but aren't there organizations [rfbd.org] whose sole purpose is to record books on audiotape royalty-free for blind and visually impaired persons. I don't see how this feature is any different.

Those organizations are exempted from copyright (1)

Peter Simpson (112887) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985851)

As they are providing a service for the disabled. Postage is free, too.

"Under U.S. copyright law, NLS is authorized to reproduce and distribute talking books without copyright infringement as long as they are produced in a specialized format exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities."

Authors or Book Sellers: Which do you like more? (5, Insightful)

sweatyboatman (457800) | more than 5 years ago | (#26986007)

Yes, you do not understand his point. Let me help you.

His point is that Amazon.com would like to set this up as "Big Mean Author's Guild vs. Helpless Blind People". When it's really the far more neutral "The Authors Guild vs. Amazon.com".

Now, a kindle owner pays ~$10 to Amazon.com for an e-book, and some of that goes to the copyright holders (e.g. the authors). The Authors Guild's members get far more money for audio books than for e-books. And the distinction between an audio-book and an e-book is blurred by the TTS feature of the Kindle2. (Right now it sounds like a computer, but in five years, TTS may advance enough to make audio books a thing of the past.)

What's the difference to you, the Kindle owner?
Probably nothing. Amazon's price-point probably wont change much either way.

What's the difference to the authors and amazon?
Well if Amazon gets its way, it can make more money off of each e-book sale. If the author's get their way, they can make more money off each e-book sale.

So the question is: Which do you like more? The people that write the books or the people that sell you the books?

public v private (4, Interesting)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985703)

I don't get why I cant use the content I have purchased for personal use in any way I want to so long as I use it personally or among my small group of friends, just as I might read a book to my son at bed time (or is that illegal now ?).
I get that there should be an extra payment (and have made such license payments) if I want to display a DVD publicly, because a bunch of other people might not buy the movie if they can just go see it projected by me.
I have yet to see why Kindle reading a book takes bread from the mouths of authors and I don't see why celebrity audio-book readers should feel that they have any god-given monopoly on reading books aloud.

Re:public v private (1)

Fahrvergnuugen (700293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985889)

It's called Fair Use [wikipedia.org] .

Pay up please... (1)

arbies (1222718) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985705)

If you read my Slashdot entry out loud, please remit $0.50 to my Paypal account. Thank you.

The Blind have rights (1)

EEPROMS (889169) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985785)

If Amazons spin doctors were on the ball they could say that the writers guild are trying to deny the visually impaired the ability to purchase books and read/listen to them just like everyone else who has fully functional sight.

Re:The Blind have rights (1)

EEPROMS (889169) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985823)

sorry I meant Authors guild..

Luddite 100% (1)

Yath (6378) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985787)

I was going to be irritated by the one-sidedness of the summary, but after reading the article, it's apparent that the submitter is spot on. Blount's rant is one of the most ignorant tirades I've ever read, and the "Luddite" title fits him like a glove. He wants job protection for no other reason than some jobs are threatened:

- There is no copyright violation
- There is no patent violation
- There is no contractual violation
- There is no theft

There is basically no violation of the law or any ethical guideline.

To enact his suggestion would prevent a large number of people from benefiting from this technology. He would make readers into leeches at the expense of the public. He is an embarrassment.

Robotic Overlord (1)

AlHunt (982887) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985801)

Perhaps he could log in here and have Slashdot's "Robotic Overlord" read the comments to him. Except for this one. This one is only licensed for organo-retinal scanning. Also you must delete the memory engram in which it's stored if you don't agree to the license terms.

"... haling them into court" (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985809)

Next to last paragraph of his rant:

The guild is also accused of wanting to profiteer off family bedtime rituals. A lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation sarcastically warned that "parents everywhere should be on the lookout for legal papers haling them into court for reading to their kids."

Apparently Mr. Blunt is indeed a greedy bastard: he's too cheap to hire a decent proofreader and incapable of doing the job himself. Not only that, he butchered someone else's words, not his own, in the process. Since it was an EFF LAWYER whose words he butchered, I guess he can expect a response any day now. :-)

Any statement from the association for the blind? (1)

olddotter (638430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985855)

Disclaimer: I'm not trying to make fun of the blind.

Every time I hear this argument I wonder if the next step is to take on text-to-speech in Windows and OS X that is there primarily as an accessibility feature for the "visually impaired."

Hmmmm... now where is that..... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985941)

slashdot text to speech options... as I really think it appropriate to only read the article using TTS....

More Accessible to the Visually Impaired (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26985973)

First, I don't think that this technology is going to be any substitute to audio books. Comparing a good audio book to a text to speech reader are apples and oranges. Second, and more importantly, this seems like an excellent way to expand the number of titles available to visually impaired. Not all books are available in braille or as audio books, but all books distributed through the Kindle can be enjoyed by the visually impaired. Tell me again why this is a bad thing?

Maybe I don't use books the same as others, but I don't see myself buying more than one version of the same book. I'm either going to buy the printed version, the audio book, or the electronic version. I don't see how this cannibalizes any book sales.

Finally, didn't Target settle a lawsuit dealing with the accessibility of its website because it did not work well with text-to-speech? It seems as if this a a reasonable accommodation to the visually disabled. I wouldn't want to argue that, even though websites could violated the ADA by not working well with text-to-speech software, books stored in electronic form should somehow be unusable to the visually impaired because there might be a recording, now or in the future. What a bunch of baloney.

That shows quite a bit of ignorance (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985987)

I think they need to get the Writers' Guild head and the head of an Actors' Guild to have a discussion on how he thinks TTS could possibly replace the nuanced delivery of a skilled narrator.

I'm only picking actors because, ime, the best audio books are read by actors. Of course when they author is also an actor, it's nice, e.g. Stephen Fry. I love his audio books.

Aren't audio books and TTS completely different? (2, Insightful)

CHK6 (583097) | more than 5 years ago | (#26985999)

I understand audio books you pay not only for the reading, but also the reader of the book. So the person that used their voice for the audio book gets a piece of the pie and those that put together the audio get's a slice.

With TTS there is no personal reader and no one that needs to put together the audio package. Also the book is stored in text form and not in audio form on the Kindle. Plus the TTS is not a commercial performance, but rather a personal means of consumption of the material of the listner.

What I see is the Author's Guild is saying the means on which the material is consumed (visually, baille, or audio) they want to control the license of.

Also why is the author's Guild ok with a parent reading a bedtime story, versus a digital device reading the same bedtime story? Both come from the text medium of a book. There is no difference. What if the TTS sounded more like the child's mother or father reading the book, would that be ok then?

I understand the president's view on this. His job is to protect and find new ways to gain income for authors. What's disappointing is the lengths they wish to control how the content is consumed at such an individual and personal level for consumers. The tighter the grip the less air one can breath.

Pie tastes better unsullied. (2, Insightful)

Spacepup (695354) | more than 5 years ago | (#26986061)

Everybody wants their slice of the pie. They all poke their finger in to get "their fair share". What they fail to realize is that no one wants a slice of pie that has lots of finger holes. People will just find another pie that looks and tastes good.

For the metaphorically challenged...
They are ruining their medium by demanding we pay for something that is common sense. Their stories aren't great enough for people to want to pay twice for them (once for the text version, once for the text to speach license).

Being unreasonable with your customers used to mean you went out of business. Perhaps someone should remind this guy there is a recession going on and people are more likely to take their dollars elsewhere.

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