Monday, March 02, 2009

Amazon retreats on Kindle text-to-speech

As Alana Semuels reports in The L.A. Times, following criticism by the US Authors' Guild over the 'text-to-speech' capability of the new Kindle 2 electronic reader, Amazon has given publishers and authors the power to disable the function.
Amazon made it clear Friday that its reversal didn't mean it agreed with that interpretation of copyright law.

"Kindle 2's experimental text-to-speech feature is legal: no copy is made, no derivative work is created and no performance is being given," the company said. "Nevertheless, we strongly believe many rights holders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver's seat."

Ben Sheffner, a Los Angeles copyright attorney and author of the blog Copyrights & Campaigns, said Amazon probably reversed course to maintain good relationships with authors, not because of legal concerns.

Sheffner said that Amazon probably wouldn't need different rights to sell an e-book with the text-to-speech function enabled, but that book contracts could differ dramatically so there was no way to know for sure.

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