Showing posts with label text to speech. Show all posts
Showing posts with label text to speech. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A New Exception to eBook Copyright

On July 26th, The Librarian of Congress announced new exceptions to copyright laws. These exceptions involved, among others, allowing fair use, access for the blind, and other exceptions with motion pictures on DVD, iPhones, computer programs, video games, and ebooks.
Here is what the press statement said about ebooks:
  1. Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling either of the book’s read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format.
The complete statement specifies that this may only be done for access for the blind, not for those with normal vision.
What this means is that publishers must offer one version of an ebook that allows text-to-speech (TTS) to read the book aloud, or the blind user can legally remove the security software (DRM) from the ebook in order to use TTS.
On the surface, this ruling seems harmless, and it is the same ruling made three years ago, but it begs a major question.
As I mentioned in my article on TTS and the Kindle 2 controversy, (link below), TTS hasn't been defined as a right or a part of a right through a lawsuit or some other legal means. Right now, no one can say with legal certainty that TTS is a right on its own, a part of the audio rights, or part of the ebook rights.
This exception to copyright infers that TTS is part of the ebook rights since the publisher must allow TTS or allow DRM be broken, but does an inference define TTS as an ebook right?
I doubt the publishing industry or The Library of Congress will be in any hurry to clarify matters since TTS has little value at the moment.
The inference also gives publishers some justification for claiming TTS as part of the ebook rights they have acquired with the real possibility that TTS may prove to be a valuable right when TTS technology improves to the point that it sounds like a human reading. Writers of older contracts will have given away this valuable right for free because it wasn't included in ebook rights negotiations.
The only possible opponent I see to preventing TTS from becoming a part of ebook rights is a group like the Authors Guild who fought with Amazon over this issue with the Kindle 2.
This may prove interesting.

To read the complete Librarian of Congress press release, go here:
To read his complete statement, go here:
My article on TTS and the Kindle 2 controversy:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Amazon Backs Down on Kindle text-to-speech

Amazon has decided to back down on its text-to-speech feature for the Kindle 2. In a news release, it announced that it would allow publishers and authors to decide if their books will allow TTS or not.

More than likely, Amazon's lawyers decided that using TTS with the Kindle would require a court fight because it hasn't been clearly defined as a kind of right or not a right. TTS doesn't add enough value to an ebook to make it worth the expense of a lawsuit.

All in all, Amazon caving in to AG's demands is really bad because no one can say with clarity what kind of right TTS is so authors will be leery of allowing TTS because it may prevent them from selling audio rights, and the publishers don't know if they have the TTS right either.  We really needed a lawsuit to settle this.

As things stand now, TTS will be cut off on most books available for the Kindle, and that will hurt the visually impaired.

Many ebooks, however, not in Kindle format, will still be available to be read using computer TTS software.

Link to copy of press release:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lawsuits and Authors' Book Rights.

RIGHTS: In publishing, rights refer to the different types of format sales for a written work. Some of the rights that can be contracted from an author are the right to publish a massmarket paperback version, a hardcover version, an ebook version, and an audio version of a work.

The current controversy over whether text-to-speech is a right by itself, part of audiobook rights, or not a right at all isn't the first time that an author's right had to be defined.

In 2001, Rosetta e-Books contracted ebook rights to a number of books by famous authors including William Styron, Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Parker.

Random House who had these authors under contract for paper rights declared that if a book contract did not mention electronic/digital rights, the ebook rights were automatically part of the paper rights so Rosetta could not publish these authors' ebooks. They sued Rosetta.

The final results of the lawsuit said that control over ebook rights belonged to authors and their agents, not with the paper publisher, and that the author/agent had a right to sell those rights separately. In other words, ebook rights were a separate right, not included with paper rights.

As media continues to evolve, lawsuits such as this will be needed to protect the author's various rights.


ASK ME A QUESTION! I'm always open to writing and publishing questions. Please ask. Either contact me through my blog, website, or via email at marilynnbyerly (at)




THE WRITING LIFE How an author maintains her confidence and mental health in the hard world of publishing.

THE BUSINESS OF WRITING "How Does the Google Settlement Affect You?" An article by a copyright and entertainment lawyer. A must read.

THE BUSINESS OF WRITING: The Ten Commandments of Courtesy The agent/author/publisher relationship.

A QUERY WORKSHOP Jackie Kessler dissects her successful query.

PROMOTION: A list of freelance publicists courtesy of "The Book Publicity Blog."

PROMOTION: A very informative blog on Internet promotion.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Authors Guild versus the Amazon Kindle 2

Last week, Amazon announced the new Kindle 2, the second version of their extremely popular ebook reader. One of the new features is the ability to read the books aloud with a computer voice.

Immediately, the Authors Guild expressed its unhappiness with this feature and demanded that Amazon disable it. Amazon laughed in response, and the Authors Guild threatened a lawsuit. The Authors Guild has also told its members to hold off assigning ebook rights in their contracts until this matter is settled.

During the last week, no trade blog, press article, or the Authors Guild has clarified this situation or has really defined what this means to writers and readers so I've put this article together to do so.

First, some definitions.

TEXT-TO-SPEECH, TTS, OR VOICE-TO-SPEECH: A computer program that reads text aloud with a computerized voice, or the audio version of that reading. TTS programs are on all computers these days and on many PDAs, cell phones, etc.

AUDIOBOOK: A human verbal performance of a book that is recorded digitally. This performance may be by an individual or a group of actors. Audiobooks are created by companies who contract the audio rights of the book from the author or publisher.

COPYRIGHT: The legal protection of the ownership of intellectual property including writing. For a simple definition, go here: For a more complex discussion of copyright, particularly publishing and copyright, check out this site by publishing lawyer, Ivan Hoffman.

RIGHTS: In publishing, rights refer to the different types of format sales for a written work. Some of the rights that can be contracted from an author are the right to publish a paperback version, a hardcover version, an ebook version, and an audio version of a work.


The major legal problem with TTS is that it has never been clearly defined through a lawsuit or some other legal means. Right now, no one can say with legal certainty that TTS is a right on its own, a part of the audio rights, or part of the ebook rights.

Amazon's stance is that TTS is part of the ebook rights so the Kindle can use TTS on all ebooks.

The Authors Guild's stance is that TTS is part of the audio rights so Amazon can't use TTS without a contract for audio rights.

Some authors are saying that TTS is a right by itself, and that, unless publishers have contracted that right, neither they nor Amazon have any right to use TTS with an ebook.

Many of the major publishers are taking no stance because the issue is so unclear, and they use DRM (digital rights management) to prevent the ebook from being read with TTS because they don't know if they have that right.

Some audiobook publishers are so leery of the unclear legal status of TTS that they refuse to contract a book that allows TTS in ebook format.

With all these problems, it's easy to see why authors and the Authors Guild are so upset by Amazon's grab for TTS rights on books. If Amazon succeeds, many authors may lose their lucrative audio rights without payment. If TTS is a right on its own, then Amazon will be taking an author's right they haven't paid for.

Also, TTS has improved dramatically in the last years, and in the near future, TTS programs should improve their quality until they are almost equal to a human reading. If authors don't fight to retain TTS rights now, they may lose a valuable right in the future.

Where does this leave everyone? In a serious mess.

The best thing that can happen for all the parties involved is that TTS rights will be finally defined legally.


A remarkable amount of nonsense and grandstanding has appeared over the web on this subject, and I'd like to clarify some of these points.

* This will make reading to your kids illegal.

No, it won't. Reading aloud to your children or privately to someone else will never be illegal. What is illegal is reading someone else's work for profit without permission. In other words, you can read A CAT IN THE HAT to your kids or a group of kids, but if you do that and charge admission without the permission of the Dr. Seuss' estate or publisher, it is illegal. It is also illegal to sell a copy of your reading if you do so without permission.

* Publishers and authors are just being greedy.

Asking for payment for work done isn't greedy. Authors, with just a few exceptions, don't make much money, and publishing has a very low margin of profit so the industry needs fair profit just to stay afloat.

* This is will hurt those with visual disabilities.

The publishing industry, both authors and publishers, allowed free audiocopies of books and large print copies of books aimed at the visually impaired long before various disabilities acts were passed, and it has remained friendly and accessible to the visually impaired.

Right now, many ebooks have TTS cut off because of the confusion about TTS rights so a legal clarification will make more books available for TTS through the rightful contractor of those rights.

* I bought this ebook. I can do what I damn well please with it.

No, you can't. An ebook is intellectual property. When you buy a copy, you are allowed to read it, but you don't have the right to copy it and give it or sell it to others.

Authors or publishers, however, will not chase you down and brutalize you if you read that book with TTS or print out a copy for your own personal use.

This current controversy is about Amazon's grab for rights most publishers and authors don't believe they've contracted. It's not about individuals using TTS.

ABOUT MARILYNN: I am not a lawyer, nor am I member of the Authors Guild. I am, however, a published author who has been interested in electronic rights for over ten years, and I have researched the subject of text-to-speech over the last several years.


"Cory Doctorow on the Amazon Kindle controversy." Doctorow does his usual "free books are good" spiel with little regard for the complexities of this issue.

"Legal ruckus over the Kindle." A fairly reasonable statement of the general facts of the case.

"Amazon Releases the New Kindle 2." Includes some legal issues.

"Book publishers object to Kindle's text-to-voice feature." Covers some of the legal issues involved.

"E-Book Rights Alert: Amazon's Kindle 2 Adds 'Text to Speech' Function." Authors Guild statement.

Copyright lawyer, Ben Sheffner, blogs on the controversy.

"Kindle Text-to-speech is a lot of talk." One of the better overviews of the legal questions involved. It also includes two versions, one by a TTS program and one by a human, of some text to compare the two methods.

"Know Your Rights: Does the Kindle 2's text-to-speech infringe authors' copyrights?" Ex-copyright attorney talks about the issues involved. The best overview I've seen.

"DRM White Paper AAP/ALA White Paper: What Consumers Want in Digital Rights Management," Discusses the problems of TTS for publishers and audiobook companies because it isn't adequately defined in a legal sense. No longer available online.