FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Federation of the Blind Responds to Authors Guild Statement on the Amazon Kindle 2
Baltimore, Maryland (February 12, 2009): The National Federation of the Blind, the largest organization of blind people in the United States, today responded to a statement put out by the Authors Guild advising its members to consider negotiating contracts prohibiting e-books to be read aloud by the new Amazon Kindle 2, which incorporates text-to-speech technology. The Authors Guild argues that the reading of a book out loud by a machine is a copyright infringement unless the copyright holder has specifically granted permission for the book to be read aloud.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The National Federation of the Blind supports all technologies that allow blind people to have better access to the printed word, including the ability of devices like the Kindle 2 to read commercial e-books aloud using text-to-speech technology. Although the Authors Guild claims that it supports making books accessible to the blind, its position on the inclusion of text-to-speech technology in the Kindle 2 is harmful to blind people. The Authors Guild says that having a book read aloud by a machine in the privacy of one’s home or vehicle is a copyright infringement. But blind people routinely use readers, either human or machine, to access books that are not available in alternative formats like Braille or audio. Up until now, no one has argued that this is illegal, but now the Authors Guild says that it is. This is absolutely wrong. The blind and other readers have the right for books to be presented to us in the format that is most useful to us, and we are not violating copyright law as long as we use readers, either human or machine, for private rather than public listening. The key point is that reading aloud in private is the same whether done by a person or a machine, and reading aloud in private is never an infringement of copyright.
“Amazon has taken a step in the right direction by including text-to-speech technology for reading e-books aloud on its new Kindle 2,” Dr. Maurer continued. “We note, however, that the device itself cannot be used independently by a blind reader because the controls to download a book and begin reading it aloud are visual and therefore inaccessible to the blind. We urge Amazon to rectify this situation as soon as possible in order to make the Kindle 2 a device that truly can be used both by blind and sighted readers. By doing so, Amazon will make it possible for blind people to purchase a new book and begin reading it immediately, just as sighted people do.”