Kindle 2 Users Protest against Software Functionality Being Removed
Article by George Norman
On 09 Apr 2009
The visually impaired once again make the news, but unlike what we’ve grown accustomed to see in recent reports, it is not because a software developer has added some function to make it more accessible – it is the exact opposite. The Authors Guild has claimed that the text-to-speech feature in Amazon’s new Kindle 2 ebook device violates copyright laws and consequently has to be removed. Removing the feature has determined visually impaired as well as people with reading disabilities to organize a protest.

Earlier this week, hundreds of people gathered in front of the Authors Guild headquarters in New York and demanded that the text-to-speech feature be reinstated. Much to their chagrin, the Authors Guild decided to stick to its claim that the feature represents copyright infringement – point of view which they made very clear in the following statement.


“E-books do not come bundled with audio rights. We will not surrender our members' economic rights to Amazon or anyone else. The leap to digital has been brutal for print media generally, and the economics of the transition from print to e-books do not look as promising as many assume. Authors can't afford to start this transition to digital by abandoning rights. Today's protest is unfortunate and unnecessary. We stand by our offer, first made to the Federation's lawyer a month ago and repeated several times since, to negotiate in good faith to reach a solution for making in-print e-books accessible to everyone. We extend that same offer to any group representing the disabled,” said the Authors Guild.

One suggestion put forward by the Authors Guild is that Amazon maintain a database of verified blind and disabled people – these people would then get special permission to use the text-to-speech function, but the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) does not like the proposal one bit.

“The suggestion is of course ridiculous. Contrary to The Authors Guild's claims, the text-to-speech feature does not violate copyright law and does not pose any competitive threat to writers. The feature should be enabled for all Kindle customers, not just those with disabilities. The Authors Guild rightly laments "how difficult the road ahead is for the already fragile economics of authorship" — but this is exactly why it was nonsensical of them to force Amazon to adopt a system that has made it more difficult for blind and disabled customers to legally purchase and read authors' works,” says the EFF.

If you would like to show your support for the visually impaired (just like Facebook, G.P. Imports, and Google have done) you can sign The Right To Read campaign petition here.

Tags: Amazon, Kindle 2, Text-to-Speech, Authors Guild
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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